When the big red shirt rally began in Bangkok in March 2010, one of the first events was the “caravan” around the city. This parade was chilling for the establishment and for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government because it showed that the red shirts had huge support in the city. The mainstream media estimated the caravan and supporters in the tens of thousands. At the time, PPT had a report, and while we didn’t nominate a figure, we reckon there must have been hundreds of thousands throughout the city. We had another post of the fallout from the caravan.
Now the Democrat Party has had a micro-caravan in the city. The Bangkok Post reports that the aim of this parade, which included Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, was to remind “voters of last year’s political violence in a bid to stem the Pheu Thai Party’s fast-rising popularity.”
On the morning of the event, the Bangkok Post had an op-ed that also sought to remind Bangkok’s English-language readers of 19 May. Its title was “Do we remember the burning of Thailand?” No coincidence there as the Post has become, like its elite brethren, increasingly panicked by the polls that appear to show Puea Thai taking a lead even in Bangkok.
This op-ed begins, explaining the surprise of “many” – PPT assumes that author Voranai Vanijaka means those he knows, and many of these are likely to be establishment figures: “Many people have expressed bewilderment. How is it that Pheu Thai Party’s popularity is at a high? How is it that they are leading the Democrat Party in poll after poll? Sure, Yingluck Shinawatra is a hot item right now, but that can’t be the sole reason, can it?” It goes on to admonish the Democrat Party for not reminding people of these “heinous and treasonous” acts.
Astonished, he asks: “How many of us actually remember the burning of Thailand? How many of us still talk about it? Is the atrocity still alive and vibrant in the consciousness of the Thai Kingdom? From what I’ve observed, most people have pretty much forgotten.” Perhaps with Army urging, or Newin Chidchob’s base political instincts at work, or even with the urging of others who compare this arson to the sacking of Ayudhya, the Democrat Party has responded.
Voranai makes some pretty basic errors. Take this as an example: when referring to the arson in Bangkok and provinces he says: “Of course, no one has been found guilty of any crimes, as yet.” Doesn’t he read the press or the blogs? Doesn’t he know that there are plenty of red shirts still locked up over these events?
But back to the Democrat Party micro-caravan.
The Democrat Party’s strategist Korbsak Sabhavasu is not as negative as Voranai. He believes that “the majority of the public still have bitter memories of the unrest and the burning of Bangkok.” The Post helpfully explains that the Democrat Party is “changing election campaign tactics to cut the ground from under Pheu Thai by reminding voters that key figures of the red shirt movement who are now running for the general election under the party’s banner, are alleged to be involved.”
Korbsak explained that “the violence in April and May last year stemmed from the red shirt movement led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, which is aligned with Pheu Thai…. [M]any top figures of the red shirt UDD are now running for the election on Pheu Thai’s party list and some of them are likely to be given cabinet portfolios if Pheu Thai wins the election and forms the government…. The public should be able to imagine what kind of government they would get…”.
How was the micro-caravan received? There’s not a lot in the report, but the accompanying photos tell a story. In Samrong, Puea Thai supporters held up anti-government and pro-Puea Thai placards and lifted their index fingers to signify their support for Puea Thai. Maybe the Democrat Party was lucky to avoid a different finger. Suthep had to avoid eggs thrown at him.
In a related move, Abhisit has gone back to Facebook to defend “his government’s crackdown on red shirt protesters in April and May last year.” This is something also seen in Voranai’s op-ed, where he claims that the red shirts are always reminding people of “their” deaths. He urges Abhisit to do the same. And he does.
Abhisit apparently claims that “persistent efforts have been made to raise the issue of the 91 deaths to step up a hate campaign against him ahead of the general election.” As in our earlier posts, here and here, Abhisit is again self-serving and self-centered.
In fact, there has been a consistent effort to raise these deaths – and the actual figure now seems to be 93 – since May 2010. There’s nothing new. Indeed, even the panel Abhisit himself appointed has not been able to resolve anything because state officials and agencies are blocked from providing evidence.
Abhisit’s post refers to “mysterious armed groups who mingled freely among the protesters.” Indeed, they do seem mysterious for none seem to have been arrested and charged.
The premier promised to post more comments soon “to explain top red shirt figures could have prevented the deaths.” He says that “they opted for more deaths so they can press the charge of killing people against me…”. Now PPT thinks this is a new take. Again, very self-centered, but Abhisit is claiming that the red shirt leadership decided to “sacrifice” its supporters. This is an arrogant claim and by preventing independent investigation of events, Abhisit can pretty much make up any story he wants. As he does so, it is me, me, me. In fact, those who recall the last hours of the rally will know that those defiant demonstrators who remained wanted no capitulation and even jeered the leadership when it surrendered.
PPT agrees that the election is not over yet and that predictions are pretty much useless. What we do know is that Army-commanded Internal Security Operations Command has deployed 17,000 of its spies throughout the country to collect “evidence” of Puea Thai misdeeds for changing any narrow election victory by that party. We also know that the Election Commission is considering issuing red cards even before the election day. If we were betting people, we’d be wagering that, if this comes about, these cards will overwhelmingly target Puea Thai.
Why are we confident on this? Just look at what happened in 2007. Almost all the disqualifications were of People’s Power Party victors. Even if Puea Thai scrape in, we don’t think that a judicial coup is out of the question. And even if Yingluck has been “cleared” by the SEC, PPT expects this “perjury” allegation to be pursued further. And, we believe that the establishment is up for another party dissolution case.