Baffling in Bangkok

2 08 2009

Following the current news in Bangkok at present is like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces having to be found before they can be put together. PPT doesn’t have all the pieces, but here are the pieces we see.

Police chief on leave or not?

A few days ago the PAD called for the police chief to be fired over his alleged blocking of the investigation of the assassination plot against Sondhi Limthongkul. Deputy PM without a parliamentary seat, Suthep Thaugsuban claimed that there was no reason to sack Police General  Patcharawat Wongsuwan. Yesterday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came up with a grand compromise after days of discussions and manoeuvrings: the police chief would go on holiday for a month (The Nation, 1 August 2009: “Police chief on month’s leave”).

The Nation reported: “Abhisit took an unusual step by holding an impromptu news conference at The Emporium department store in Bangkok and announcing Patcharawat’s leave. He was supposed to hold the news conference earlier in the morning, but it had to be delayed due to further behind-the-scenes negotiations for the best face-saving way out. Abhisit said that starting next week, Patcharawat would take leave for 10 days, after which period he would be allowed to rest further so that the police chief would be out of his office for about a month. This move was initiated by Patcharawat himself, who also recommended that the annual reshuffle of police officers be suspended for the time being.”

Much of the press had the same story. Today, Patcharawat has denied that he is taking leave (Bangkok Post, 1 August 2009: “Police chief: I am not on leave”). Almost immediately, The Nation (1 August 2009: “PM insists Patcharawat agreed to take leave next week”) reports that Abhisit insists that Patcharawat is taking leave.

It looks like there is a stand-off with Abhisit clearly unsure what will happen next.

Linking the Sondhi assassination bid and the royal pardon petition

When the assassination bid first happened, there was an assumption that Thaksin Shinawatra was behind it. Then Sondhi Limthongkul came out to blame a range of people, from the military top brass to police and people close to the palace (see here and here and here).

Over the past couple of days, though, it seems that he has had second/third/fourth thoughts about this, and has been strongly hinting that Thaksin is involved. First he claimed that the person behind the plot was overseas and he has made further similar statements.

PPT wonders if the increased temperature over the Thaksin “royal pardon” bid is causing this change of heart?

Now General Chaisit Shinawatra, a cousin of Thaksin (Bangkok Post, 1 August 2009: “Gen Chaisit slams attempts to block Thaksin pardon”), has come out in defence of the petition. He slammed the government’s attempts to “obstruct the red-shirts from petitioning royal pardon for Thaksin, saying that this obstruction “means the government was trying to prevent the people from having good relationship with their beloved King.” An interesting move to use a royalist argument against the royalists!

Chaisit added: “The government’s allegation that a number of people were misled to sign their names in support of the petition was groundless in my point of view. It is not possible that the five million people were cheated to [sign] their names in the same time…”.

He then went on to say that “it is also not possible that Thaksin would get involved in the attempted assassination of Sondhi Limthongkul, a core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. He dared Mr Sondhi to clearly stated names of the persons behind the case.”

Sondhi keeps alluding to people and now he has been challenged. His response will be interesting.

Thaksin back in royalist garb…

The police have been fast out of the blocks in ruling that Thaksin’s phone-in to the assembled red shirts at Sanam Luang was not lese majeste. The Bangkok Post (1 August 2009: “High institution not insulted”) says that the “police had transcribed the recorded phone-in made by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to address the red-shirts gathering at Sanam Luang last night and found that there was no words considered to have insulted the royal institution…”.

Thaksin “told the red shirts that he would open one satellite-based TV channel specially for publicizing HM the King’s activities, particularly his majesty’s efforts to eradicate poverty of the people. He added that the TV channel’s broadcasting was to show his loyalty to the high institution after being accused of trying to destroy the monarchy.”

The army moves (half-heartedly?) on the petition

The Nation (1 August 2009: “Anupong deploys soldiers to explain to people about Thaksin-pardon petition”) has a brief report stating that Army chief Anupong Paochinda “has ordered commander of all army units to have their subordinates explain the correct procedures for seeking a royal pardon to the people nationwide. But Anupong said he realised that it would not be easy to change the mind of the people.”

Sounds decidedly half-hearted, especially as he has headed south out of the political heat.

We leave it to readers to tell us what other pieces we should be looking at. It is certainly a potent political mix that is being developed at the moment.

As a footnote, it might be that the person most happy about all of this political manoeuvring is Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. He was under tremendous pressure before the ASEAN summit, and is now forgotten. Does he owe Thaksin a vote of thanks?



3 responses

10 08 2009
Abhisit and the truth « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Army chief Anupong Paochinda (here) “has ordered commander of all army units to have their subordinates explain the correct […]

22 08 2009
Further updated: Chuan says Abhisit is humiliated « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] link to our earlier posts (here, here, here, here and here) and also to the spate of stories in the English-language press (here, […]

3 09 2009
New: “National security” benefits the Democrat Party and its allies « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] about the Sondhi Limthongkul assassination case? Big news for a while, but with all the frothing over the police promotions and […]

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