Published: 26/06/2009

Bolstered by the Sakhon Nakhon by-election triumph last Sunday, Thaksin Shinawatra has renewed his phone-ins with an appeal for his supporters bring him home to manage the ailing economy.

Meanwhile, the Democrats appear to be further isolated by their coalition partners as relations get worse.

In a recent phone-in to his supporters at a rally held in Pattaya by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Thaksin talked about his hardship in Dubai, where he is currently residing, and pleaded with his supporters to bring him home - saying that he doesnít want to die in the desert.

Thaksin had kept a low profile since the Songkran festival riot in Bangkok by the red-shirts, but that changed shortly before the Sakhon Nakhon by-election when he phoned-in to plead with northeastern people to vote for the Puea Thai candidate. Many followers expect him to make a video address to Saturday night's anti-government rally at Sanam Luang.

The Puea Thaiís by-election triumph in Sakhon Nakhon seemed to dent the confidence of the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party, which goes up against Puea Thai in Sunday's by-election in Si Sa Ket. Puea Thai which has mobilised all the resources available, including several former MPs of the banned Thai Rak Thai party, to campaign for its candidate.

Should Puea Thai triumph again this Sunday, it will reinforce the notion that the opposition party will be a hard cut to crack in future elections in the Northeast, and that Thaksin still commands widespread respect and loyalty among the Isan people despite being a fugitive in exile.

While Thaksin remains a thorn in the flesh of rival parties attempting to breach Puea Thaiís northeastern fortress, relations between the Democrats and their coalition partners seem to have soured even further.

The Democrats were excluded from a get-together of coalition party leaders at the Oriental Hotel on Monday. All key members of Chart Thai Pattana, Bhumjaithai, Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana and Puea Pandin attended the dinner hosted by Suwat Liptapallop.

Just coincidentally, the gathering was scheduled for the same day Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban left for a pre-announced official visit to Singapore.

It was reported the meeting was meant to show the coalition partners' dissatisfaction with the Democrat Party's foot-dragging on constitutional amendments, particularly regarding the provisions which would allow the returned of banned party executive members from the political wilderness.

The government was was dealt another blow to its reputation when an opinion poll by Bangkok University showed that public confidence in the government had dropped. Literally, the government has failed in its performance rating for its first six months in office.

The governmentís stability appears to be at risk with at least 30 government MPs being investigated by the Election Commission for alleged breaches of the constitution for holding stocks in media firms or in companies granted state concessions of a monopolistic nature.

Should these MPs be disqualified, the government will be wobbling.

The EC has decided to extend the investigation for another 15 days to give MPs a brief breathing space. The government is hoping the Constitution Court, the final arbiter, will see things differently from the EC.

Catching the State Railway of Thailand management totally unprepared, the railway union staged a snap strike on Monday morning in protest against what they alleged is a government plan to privatise the state enterprise. The work stoppage stranded tens of thousands of passengers at train stations across the country.

The flustered government assigned Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart to negotiate with the union leaders. It was finally agreed that the government would revise the restructuring plan plan, and union representatives would have a say in the review. The government iknsisted there never was any intention to privatise the SRT, just to set up two subsidiary companies to manage it.

Rail services resumed in the evening the following day, but the puiblic wasn't at all happy with the labour union.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia appeared to have improved somewhat following the visit to Cambodia by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjjajiva last week, but rapidly turned sour again after Thailand demanded the Preah Vihear temple be jointly developed as a world heritage site by the two countries. The World Heritage Committee last year accepted Phnom Penh's application to register the site, which is on Cambodian soil although entry is through Thailand and some disputed land.

The situation along the border suddenly became tense again, as both sides rushed in troop reinforcements.

In an attempt to cool down the situation, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban will leave for Phnom Penh on Saturday for talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mr Suthep will take along some mangos and sticky rice, a favourite of Mr Hun Sen.

Mr Hun Sen has said quite strongly the Preah Vihear issue will not be on the table for discussion.

Will mangos and sticky rice be enough to sweeten his somewhat gruff disposition?