Much of Bangkok is under water. Vast swathes of the countryside have been flooded. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. There’s a severe shortage of food, drinking water and (more importantly) beer. Virtually every industrial estates in Thailand’s economic heartland has been inundated. So what is the government’s top priority?

At yesterday’s cabinet meeting it appears an unscheduled item was raised; officials were ordered to leave the room whilst it was discussed. It was a resolution concerning amnesty for prisoners. Prime Minister Yingluck was conveniently absent*. She was probably visiting some flooded site looking as if she was about to break into tears – it’s seems it’s about all she does these days. Still, it lets her claim the decision was nothing to do with her. (And to be honest, it probably wasn’t. After all, we know who really runs the government – “Thaksin thinks; Pheu Thai acts” and all that.)

There’s a tradition of a royal amnesty on the King’s birthday, 5th December, every twelve years as well as on other special occasions. However, this time is going to be a bit of a break with tradition. In the past the amnesty has been for those convicted who have served part of their prison terms and who have expressed remorse for their crimes. This time these conditions have been dropped – you just need to be over 60 and have been sentenced to imprisonment for less than 3 years. So Thaksin will be allowed to return to Thailand without ever having spent even a minute incarcerated for his criminal abuse of power. He’s probably be Thailand’s first prisoner to be released from behind bars without ever actually having been behind them.

And the timing is oh-so-convenient, with his eldest daughter getting married on the 12th next month.

There are some things in Thailand that stink worse than the flood waters.

* The Prime Minister was in Singburi. She claimed that she couldn’t get back for the cabinet meeting because neither her helicopter nor the backup helicopter could fly in the dark. The army has flatly contradicted her on this. And anyway, she still could have returned to Bangkok by road in time for the meeting. Furthermore she claims to have no knowledge of what was discussed at the cabinet meeting. Perhaps the battery in her mobile ‘phone was flat. Who knows?


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