When in trouble, threaten a crack down

24 08 2009

Worryingly, as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Democrat Party come under pressure, they seem to favor actions that challenge people’s rights. PPT has regularly posted on the Democrat Party’s ready and enthusiastic acceptance of lese majeste and computer crimes laws. The issue addressed in this post involves the use of the Internal Security Act.

Claiming that he would never cling to a political post – presumably, the prime ministership – Abhisit said in the Bangkok Post (24 August 2009: “Abhisit willing to accept political change”) that he was prepared for any political changes that might come, adding he would remain with the Democrat Party until  he leaves politics – perhaps he is responding to rumors that he might jump ship (to the PAD’s New Politics Party?) or that the Democrat Party might be dissolved.

Abhisit was speaking to a course group studying political development run by the Election Commission, including 2006 coup leader and Council for National Security chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin. Hopefully Sonthi might be learning that military coups are not appropriate in promoting political development, but probably not.

Abhisit is reported to have given “a strong indication the government will impose the Internal Security Act to control the planned red-shirt demonstration on Sunday. The prime minister said the government has the legitimacy to apply the law if problems were foreseen.” Abhisit added that “trying to negotiate with the red-shirt leaders was unlikely to produce any significant result.” He and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had discussed enforcing ISA or declaring a state of emergency.

Suthep said, “We are worried about the demonstration and are considering whether a special law should be used to keep order in the country. We believe people do not want to see more violence or rioting in Bangkok as it would further damage the country…”.

With Abhisit and Suthep under pressure and using threats of violence and the ISA to shore up their position, Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondej “expressed concern on hearing that the government may impose the Internal Security Act to ensure peace and order…”. He said the “situation is unlikely to turn violent because all concerned have learned their lesson from the Songkran riots…”.

In The Nation (25 August 2009: “Govt may have to invoke security law”) , Suthep is reported as being emphatic, explaining that the “government had no choice but to invoke the Internal Security Act to maintain peace during the red-shirt rally on Sunday…”. He added: “… I don’t think society will tolerate any more mayhem…”. Suthep blamed red shirt leaders and accused them of planning violence: “Judging by remarks made by certain red-shirt leaders, he said, the protests were being organised as a pretext to cause disturbances instead of making genuine demands.” Suthep also suspected “that the red shirts might try to repeat a blockade of Government House because they planned to gather at the Royal Plaza nearby.” Abhisit said that “protesters should in no way be allowed to disrupt work at Government House.”

Recall that there was also considerable speculation of violence when the UDD presented their petition last week. It is fair to say that some government supporters were disappointed that that event was entirely peaceful. Recall also that Abhisit personally visited PAD demonstrators during their long seige of Government House.

Double standards, certainly, but the Democrat Party leadership’s continual predictions of violence are a political device to allow for measures that limit rights. Worse, they reflect a propensity to limit people’s rights.

Update: The Bangkok Post (25 August 2009: “Govt to impose Internal Security Act this weekend”) reports the predictable decision by the government to use the ISA. Abhisit announced “that use of the the act was aimed at preventing unrest. The government had received information that the UDD may prolong the rally.” Sounding like he did justa couple of weeks ago when also predicting violence at the red shirts petition presentation, he asserts: “Although the UDD leaders assured us that the rally will not cause a repeat of the troubles in April, intelligence reports suggest the government should be alert as there could be a third party stirring up unrest…”. So the government is using the ISA to “prevent chaos.”

Supporting Abhisit, the long invisible Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij supported the use of the ISA, claiming it would “help create public confidence that the anti-government rally would not escalate into violence.” He added that: “The business sector and the general public will have more confidence that the government is in a position to keep the situation under control and that a Songkran riots-like situation will not occur again…”. Further, “Without a law giving the government special authority to maintain peace and order, there would not be such confidence…”. Maybe Korn is right and this is about building the government’s authority. At the same time, his tune has changed from when he supported PAD’s demonstrations.

The same kinds of arguments for opposing the red shirt rally to present the “royla pardon” petition are being ranged against the upcoming UDD rally (see here). While it is admitted that the law allows for UDD to rally and to protest, unease is expressed, along with the view that the UDD is driven by concern for Thaksin rather than for broader issues of democracy. However, the real question for the government is why use the ISA now? Is its use simply motivated by the need to gain political merit and advantage?


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4 04 2010
Korn shows his true colors (again) « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Thailand’s leading aristocrat families has also been a strong supporter of using all kinds of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He has also  his quiet support for the […]

5 08 2012
The Democrat Party: an idea-free zone « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] public school and Oxford educated scion of an aristocrat families who has also supported the use of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He was also  a quiet support for the 2006 […]

5 08 2012
The Democrat Party: an idea-free zone « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] public school and Oxford educated scion of an aristocrat families who has also supported the use of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He was also  a quiet support for the 2006 […]




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