Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Crime on the rise as politics grabs the attention


Crime on the rise as politics grabs the attention


Like it or not, the ongoing political predicament could cause a hiccup in the bid to form a coalition government under the People Power party. Puea Paendin and Chart Thai may drag their feet a little bit more before each eventually utters ''I do'' to the proposal of PPP, the largest winning party with the highest number of yellow- and red-carded politicians. The red cards for the party amounted to six at press time yesterday.

Those issued with red cards have threatened a ferocious fight against the Election Commission by submitting their case to court. Mass rallies may also occur.

Even if the trip to Thailand of Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, wife of ousted prime minister Thaksin, to fight corruption charges has yet to trigger turmoil, the political mercury is rising and there exists a struggle by the ''old power'' clique to escape from the clutches of the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC).

Typically, fears have arisen over the impact of this political uncertainty on the country's economy, should things eventually get out of control. After all, it is economic matters that are gaining urgent priority, with the strong baht and rising oil prices posing major problems. Just look at each party's election campaign; each has boasted about its own economic team.

But apart from those figures and numbers, there is also the social impact from uncertain politics and its magnitude should never be overlooked. Yet the issue has received little public attention.

Actually, we have already begun to feel the pinch of the political power vacuum that is occurring while the ''old ginger'' government under Gen Surayud Chulanont starts packing its things, leaving important matters to blundering bureaucrats. It is evident the social malaise is worsening, with crime fast on the rise.

To start with, stone-throwing _ which causes injuries and sometimes death _ has become a fad with young people in many provinces, while the concerned authorities can do nothing to curb or prevent it.

The latest stone-throwing case involved a group of kids aged 5-12 years. They were arrested in Trang after they threw stones and an empty water bottle at a passing train. This unruly act resulted in a male passenger receiving a nasty cut on his forehead.

The high road death toll has become part of the New Year holiday. A total of 401 people died during the festive season and the causes are the same old ones: drunk driving and speeding.

The so-called social order campaign concerning zoning _ that drink shops must be located at a certain distance from temples and educational institutes _ has totally vanished in many areas in Bangkok and also in the provinces, as a result of weak law enforcement.

Coyote dancing has become a familiar sight in temples. Recently, a group of patrons for a big temple in the heart of Bangkok celebrated the bestowing of a royal decoration on the abbot, with such a morals-challenging dance!

There have been complaints about narcotic drugs, yaa baa and yaa ice, that have made a comeback to society. Even though a heavy-handed approach (as that of the previous government) is not acceptable, we still do need efficient drug suppression measures.

Despite stronger laws, on-line game addiction among kids is giving parents a headache.

Violence in the South continues to rock the restive region, with daily insurgent attacks.

And a lot more. Although some crimes are not reported in the media, this does not necessarily mean that they are not happening.

Perhaps the Surayud government is too weary to do anything now and we should no longer count on it.

Can we pin our hopes on the new government, then? Hardly.

It seems we do not have a choice. To tackle these social ills more efficiently, we need a government with vision and strong determination. Even if the most stable administration comes to power, its attention will go to economic problems first.

Not to mention that the PPP-led coalition has its own agenda _ to clear the way for Mr Thaksin and Co to come back.

Ploenpote Atthakor is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.

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