News & Current Affairs

September 8, 2008

Thai leader in court over TV show

Thai leader in court over TV show

Thai PM Samak Sundaravej. File photo

Mr Samak was a TV chef before becoming prime minister

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has defended himself in court for appearing on a TV cooking program.

In the latest of a series of problems to beset Mr Samak, he is accused of violating the constitution by working for a private company.

Protesters have now spent nearly two weeks occupying Mr Samak’s office complex, demanding his resignation.

Mr Samak will have to quit if found guilty in this case, which might indirectly end the impasse.

Possible way forward?

Before taking office seven months ago, Mr Samak hosted a popular TV cooking show called Tasting, Grumbling.

He continued to make a few appearances on the show after becoming prime minister.

BANGKOK PROTESTS
26 Aug: Protesters occupy government buildings, demand the government step down
28 Aug: PM Samak promises no use of force against the protesters
29 Aug: Police try to evict protesters but pull back; crowds blockade two regional airports
30 Aug: Samak rules out resignation, following a meeting with Thailand’s king
1 Sep: A late-night clash between pro- and anti-government groups leaves one dead. Samak declares a state of emergency
3 Sept: Thai FM Tej Bunnag resigns
4 Sept: Samak proposes a national referendum

A group of senators filed a petition against Mr Samak, saying that a prime minister is barred by the constitution from working for private companies.

Mr Samak told the Constitutional Court on Monday that he had been paid for his appearances on the TV show, but was not actually employed by the television company.

The court is due to give its verdict on Tuesday.

Local newspapers have speculated about the case being a possible short-term solution to the current political stalemate in Thailand – although some analysts point out that even if Mr Samak stepped down, his party could always vote him back in again.

For the past two weeks, protesters have been camping outside Government House, refusing to leave until Mr Samak quits, but despite pressure from several military leaders the prime minister has refused to go.

Late last week, Mr Samak proposed to hold a referendum on his rule, but the opposition has rejected the offer.

The demonstrators, from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), say Mr Samak is merely a proxy for former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in an army coup in 2006.

One man was killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government groups in Bangkok last week, prompting the government to impose emergency rule in the capital.

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August 5, 2008

Pietersen named England captain

Kevin Pietersen has succeeded Michael Vaughan as England cricket captain.

Courtesy BBC

Following Vaughan’s shock resignation on Sunday, the 28-year-old’s appointment was confirmed by national selector Geoff Miller at Lord’s.

Pietersen will captain both the Test and one-day sides and will lead England in the final Test against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday.

He said: “I’m very thrilled and excited to have been given the opportunity to captain England.”

The South Africa-born batsman, who becomes England’s 74th Test captain, had been widely tipped to take over from Vaughan and one-day captain Paul Collingwood, who also stood down on Sunday following England’s Test series defeat to South Africa.

Pietersen, who has played 40 Tests for England and burst onto the international stage in the famous Ashes win over Australia in 2005, added: “It’s a huge honour and a terrific challenge for me at this stage of my international career.

“I have learned a great deal about leadership from playing under both Michael and Paul and fully appreciate the level of responsibility that comes with the job of captaining your country.

“My immediate priority will be this week’s fourth npower Test and I will be devoting all my energies to ensuring that the team are properly prepared and play to their full potential, starting on Thursday.”

Pietersen has captained England before, in the recent final one-day match against New Zealand, which England lost.

Miller, together with selectors Ashley Giles and James Whittaker and England coach Peter Moores, sat down on Sunday to decide on Vaughan’s successor.

Other potential captains whose names were in the frame were Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kent skipper Rob Key.

Miller said: “In choosing a new captain, we were keen to identify a player who could lead the team in all three forms of cricket and bring fresh enthusiasm and ideas to the role of captain.

“Kevin is a world-class player who will command the respect of the dressing room and I am sure he will be looking to lead from the front and work closely with both the players and the coaching staff to bring England success in the future.”

With Vaughan deciding not to play in the final Test, England have made one change to the squad with Essex’s Ravi Bopara replacing him.

England also announced the squad for five one-day internationals with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff returning in place of Hampshire’s Dimitri Mascarenhas.

Sussex wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior has earned a recall as a replacement for Tim Ambrose while uncapped Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel is included for the first time.

Pietersen started his tenure as England captain praising his predecessor Vaughan.

“What a great man he was as a skipper – They are huge boots to fill and I’ll try to give it the best possible go I can,” said the new captain.

“He was a great leader, he brought me into the side and I always tried to the best I could for a great man.”

Pietersen said he would look to the senior players for advice but wanted to stamp his own captaincy style on the national team and he did not believe his own form would suffer because of the extra burden.

“I will always respect what has happened in the past and I will always respect what Michael did and what my predecessors did,” he said.

“I will always look for advice because I’m new in this job and I’ve had calls and messages from the senior players in the squad.

“Once you have the support of the lads around you, you can’t ask for any more.

“But I’ll have my own ways and it’s very exciting. It’s a brand new test and a bright new challenge for me.”

There have been suggestions Pietersen has had a strained relationship with coach Moores but he insisted they would have no trouble working as a team.

“I don’t think I would be sitting here today if I wasn’t 100% confident that everything is going to be perfectly fine,” said Pietersen.

“Yesterday I sat down with Peter and we had a really good discussion on how we want to take this team forward.

“My position as a player to becoming captain is now totally different and we need to unite and get onto the same hymn sheet and we need to get this team going forward.”

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said that once the selectors had decided to appoint one captain for all forms of the international game, Pietersen was the logical choice.

“He was the only real candidate once the selectors decided there was only going to be one captain – that was the big decision,” said Agnew.

“From what I’m hearing (Kent captain) Rob Key was in second place, if you like. I’m not saying it was a close contest between Pietersen and Key at all, I don’t think it was.

“But because they wanted that starting point of a unified captain, Key was higher up the pecking order, I think, even than Andrew Strauss.”

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