Update 1: For another take on these events, see Ji Ungpakorn’s new post “Two Faces of Thailand” at his Political Writings on Thailand. If readers tell us the link and URL is blocked in Thailand, we will post in full. Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Update 2: Apparently Ji’s site is blocked, so we include his full text below PPT’s original post.
PPT’s post: At the end of an earlier post, PPT stated that because of its embedded support for PAD, the government that is led by the Democrat Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva is compromised.By this we do not mean that every member in the Democrat Party is a PAD supporter. Rather, we recognize debates in that party about PAD, most especially now that it claims to have its own New Politics Party while the Democrat Party remains home to PAD leaders. In that post we pointed out that one telling indicator of the government’s compromised position is its determination to maintain troops and the ISA in Bangkok, where there was no clash and where demonstrators dispersed and went home as promised. Meanwhile, the government was concerned to deal ever so softly with PAD demonstrators in Srisaket.
The Nation (21 September 2009: “Red shirts say they will protest again next month”) has more reports that relate to this perspective. It is reported that police have stated “that the security measures over the Dusit district remain in force until tomorrow, regardless of the voluntary crowd dispersal.” Some 4,500 policemen will “continue to keep peace in Dusit,” said Metropolitan Police spokesman Colonel Piya Utayo.
Why? Because there are still fears of violence: “[p]olice patrols will continue in 176 areas around the capital as a preventive measure to deter violence…”. There hasn’t been any (except in Srisaket). Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Major-General Amnuay Nimmano “said the rally was peaceful and there was no violence erupted as feared.”
So why does the ISA continue and why do police continue to conduct patrols in certain areas. This is little more than the government intimidating people they think support red shirts. And it goes further, for the ” police will begin checking taped speeches by rally organisers to see whether they made any inflammatory remarks in violation of their conditions for temporary release, pending trial.” This refers to the Songkhran Uprising and is another form of intimidation.
In a related report, The Nation (21 September 2009: “PAD vows to uphold Thai sovereignty over disputed area”), PAD seems “victorious” in Srisaket. “Yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid … vowed to uphold Thai sovereignty over 4.6 square kilometres of terrain near Preah Vihear Temple claimed by Cambodia. Veera also threatened to take legal action against officials condoning the encroachment.”
Prime Minister Abhisit pleaded that “his government was trying to resolve border problems via the legal process and not force.” His authorities also allowed the yellow-shirted monarchists to get close to the disputed area and make nationalist statements in order to “pacify” the situation. Veera proclaimed: “We Thai patriots want to declare our intent to form a people’s network to restore Thai sovereignty to the surrounding areas of Prasat Phra Wiharn…” and urged the “Thai military to take action under martial law to repel the [alleged Cambodian] transgression.”
While there were claims that the core PAD leaders were distancing themselves from Veera, it is reported that the “five co-leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy have remained in close contact with Veera and the people’s network over the temple issue, PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila said.”
Presumably that includes Democrat Party member Somkiat Pongpaiboon.
Suriyasai proclaimed that “PAD fully backed the attempts to protect Thai territorial integrity and was not back-pedalling from Veera as alleged…”. He also claimed that the “scuffle” with local villagers was instigated by the government, presumably criticizing Suthep Thaugsuban, who was in charge of security, and perhaps also Army chief Anupong Paojinda. But, aligning with Abhisit, and Foreign Minister and PAD supporter Kasit Piromya, he added: “We agree with the option for a negotiated settlement of the border dispute…”. He called for a clear timetable.
Abhisit showed his preparedness to deal with PAD when he admitted “that several border issues were too sensitive to bring up in public, so interested parties should hold discreet discussions with the government in order to update themselves on the status.”
So PAD remain insiders, at least as far as the premier is concerned. They are treated with kid gloves while intimidation is used against perceived opponents. Such a compromised position may seem politically expedient but the government’s lack of even-handedness in dealing with the two groups is hardly likely to be identified as anything other than repaying political debts and it does nothing for the rule of law and human rights.
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Two faces of Thailand
Giles Ji Ungpakorn
On the 19th September this year, the 3rd anniversary of the military coup that wrecked Thai Democracy, two demonstrations took place. They sum up the two faces of Thailand.
One demonstration, by tens of thousands of Red Shirts in Bangkok, was organised in order to continue the demand for full Democracy. It was a peaceful and friendly demonstration. Yet the military-backed Democrat Party government, headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, declared a State of Emergency and lined up thousands of police and soldiers to deal with the demonstrators. Previously, back in April, Abhisit had urged soldiers to fire on the Red Shirts. Two people were subsequently killed and 70 injured by government soldiers.
The other demonstration was organised by PAD fascist thugs. The PAD are the Yellow Shirt royalists. The aim of this demonstration was to attack Cambodian villagers living and working at the ancient Kao Prawiharn temple inside Cambodia. Since last year the PAD have been trying to cause a war with Cambodia by whipping up extreme nationalism. The temple was built by the ancient Khmers and clearly belongs to Cambodia, both from a legal and historical point of view. On the 19th September the PAD went to the border armed, as usual, with guns, bombs and clubs. They attacked the police and then a group of local villagers who were opposed to them. Local villagers on both sides of the border have traditionally held joint religious ceremonies together at the temple on this day. This has not happened since the PAD forced the closure of the temple last year.
Teptai Senpong, personal spokesman for Prime Minister Abhisit, earlier stated that there was no reason to declare a State of Emergency in the border area, “as the PAD were defending Thai national interests”. The present Foreign Minister is a PAD supporter who took part in the illegal occupation of the international airports last December. He is famed for being rude about the Cambodian government. Suriyasai Takasila, PAD spokesperson, said that the PAD leadership would not turn its back on Wira Somkwamkit, the PAD leader who headed the violent raid on the border. Naturally, the PAD riot and their extreme nationalism was supported by ASTV. The government will not prosecute the PAD and their leaders for their illegal violence. They never have. At the same time numerous Red Shirts are in jail or face prosecution.
Just like when the PAD took over the airports, they cared little for the impact on local people’s employment and livelihood. They cared little if the sons of poor farmers, conscripted into the Thai army, were to die in any pointless shoot out with their brothers in the Cambodian army.
The progressive, peaceful and democratic face of Thai society is the Red Shirts. The violent, fascist and authoritarian face is the face of the Yellow Shirt conservative royalists who control the state, the Army, the Monarchy, the government and the media. The one thing they do not control is the hearts and minds of most Thai citizens.
Most Thais are waiting for the King to die. But that in itself will solve nothing, despite the fact that his son his universally hated and held in contempt. No real democracy can be built without dismissing the Generals, the Judges, the Privy Council, the Royal Family and the corrupt politicians. Will the Red Shirts be up to this People’s Revolution? Can it be an overwhelming movement of citizens in order to minimise bloodshed? These are the issues on many people’s minds today.