Saturday May 5, 2007
THAI TAKES; BY PHILIP GOLINGAI
IN a wooden boat, a man with a square face is fishing using a worm
covered with a Manchester City football club emblem as bait.
Surrounding the worm, which is wearing a football boot, is a school of
salivating fish wearing press tags and equipped with tape recorders,
pens and a cameras.
“C’mon! Talk about me! Talk about me! Me! Me! Me!!!” the fisherman, who
resembles former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, yells at the
fish, which are individually marked Thai Rath, Matichon, Daily News, The Nation and Bangkok Post – the names of Thailand’s leading newspapers.
What’s his handicap?: Thais are wondering just
what Thaksin’s game plan is after he was named
PGAT chief this month. — AFP
That’s The Nation’s editorial cartoonist
Stephff’s take on the report of Thaksin’s £100mil (RM680mil) bid for
English football club Manchester City.
Whether Stephff, a
French cartoonist whose real name is Stephane Peray, is correct in his
interpretation of the billionaire businessman’s motive, he is as spot
on as a Liverpool football club penalty taker that the bid has hooked
the Thai media.
On Wednesday, The Nation’s
front-page headline screamed: “Thaksin ‘in box seat’ for football
club.” It reported that the former Prime Minister, who was deposed last
September in a coup, had emerged as the frontrunner in the takeover bid
after being given Manchester City’s accounts on Monday.
Wednesday night, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand
clubhouse in Bangkok, among the topics of discussion was Thaksin’s
foray into sports.
“Do you think that Thaksin’s bid for Manchester City is similar to his
bid for Liverpool?” I asked a historian who had told me that Thaksin’s
failed effort three years ago to buy Liverpool for £65mil (RM442mil)
was to divert attention from his political woes.
The historian nodded, indicating that the Maine Road bid was a
publicity stunt to put Thaksin back in the Thai centre spot. And he
whispered: “I don’t know whether he has the money for it.”
“Why not?” I asked, as financial magazine Forbes has estimated Thaksin’s worth at US$2.2bil (RM7.5bil).
“I believe most of his money is at home (in Thailand),” he responded,
referring to the request by Thaksin’s wife to the Thai government to
take 400 million baht (RM41mil) abroad to finance the purchase of a
property in England.
The other sport the billionaire is using as bait to get the media’s
attention is golf. On Monday, Thaksin, who is living in exile in
London, was elected president of the Professional Golf Association of
“Golf is the sport of executives who are now not happy with the way
this government is running the country; while most Thais are crazy
about English soccer,” advertising expert and political campaigner Seri
“By running both sports, he will have both local and international
media exposure,” he said. “Thaksin is doing everything he can to take
up media space to ensure the spotlight stays on him.”
Popular Campaign for Democracy secretary-general Suriyasai Katasila
notes that “politicians and golf courses can’t be divided”.
“When Thaksin was PM, he made decisions about many projects on the golf
course,” he said. “Golf or football, it’s all linked to a network of
politically influential groups.”
General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the army chief who spear-headed the coup
against Thaksin, is not amused with the former Thai Rak Thai (TRT)
party leader’s election as PGAT president.
“It’s ridiculous. I think Thais are in a confused condition. Some may
not be able to separate what is good from what is bad. Perhaps we
should ask a psychiatrist to help them,” Gen Sonthi said.
The general added that the appointment must have a hidden agenda and might be a fighting call to gain popularity.
Jatuporn Prompan, a former TRT deputy spokesman, replied Thaksin became
the association’s president through an election, not by seizing power,
in an obvious dig at Gen Sonthi.
Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin’s legal adviser, insists the billionaire has
hung up his “politics boots” and is now concentrating on sports and
Tonight, as Thais watch the Manchester City versus Manchester United
English Premiership derby live on television, they can ponder what game
Thaksin is playing.