Red shirts, ASEAN summit and political realignments

23 10 2009

The Bangkok Post (23 October 2009: “Arisman allowed to present petition”) reports that, after both Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban refused to allow any red shirts anywhere close to the ASEAN summit, they are to be allowed to present a letter to representative of the ASEAN leaders.

Earlier, Abhisit was adamant that no red shirt could get to the summit venue and Suthep supported him, threatening to have red shirt leaders arrested.

It seems, however, that Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon “has given approval for Arisman Pongrurngrong, a core leader of the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship, to submit the UDD’s petition to Asean representatives at Puek Tian Beach in Petchaburi, secretary to the defence minister Gen Noppadon Inthapanya said on Friday.” Prawit has apparently given 7 red shirt leaders permission to make the trip to deliver the letter-petition.

Anticipating criticism from the Democrat Party leaders, it was stated by Prawit’s aides that: “In his capacity as the director of the Asean summit peace keeping centre, Gen Prawit can give permission without having to report to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban…”.

Arisman said that he would “go to submit the petition,” saying that he was “not afraid of being arrested as threatened by Mr Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, as he had arranged his visit with Gen Prawit.”

Meanwhile, Abhisit’s hand-picked acting police chief is sticking by his boss and saying that Arisman and other red shirts will be arrested if they show up at any summit venue  (Bangkok Post, 23 October 2009: “Pateep: No contact from red-shirts”).

[Update: The Bangkok Post (23 October 2009: “UDD submits petition to Asean”) reports that the “… United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has submitted its petition to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, calling on member countries to withdraw their support for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as Asean chairman.” It appears that the letter was delivered outside the main summit venue, bit still , it seems, inside the area where the ISA was enforced. A compromise location.]

Whatever happens, this is the latest in a series of reports that began with the Puea Thai Party’s rejection of constitutional amendment and Chavalit Yongchaiyudh’s move to join the party that suggest that a realignment is taking place. PPT may well be proven to be premature in our assessment, but it seems to us that something is moving in politics that hasn’t been seen since the Democrat Party was hoisted to power by the military.

Chavalit gets chided by Prem as a traitor, but still joins the party and is followed by a goodly number of former senior military men, some from Thaksin’s class at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School but others as well. Chavalit then goes to Cambodia and meets Hun Sen and the latter makes it clear that Thaksin Shinawatra is welcome and will  not be extradited. For many in the Democrat Party and for royalists and PAD, this will mean that the devil is potentially at the doorstep.

At the same time, several Democrats defect to the New Politics Party (of PAD) and to Puea Thai, and the Democrats appear to be unable to resolve internal  rifts. At the same time, Chavalit has also offered an olive branch to PAD. Is Prawit doing the same for the red shirts?

Interior Minister Chavarat Charnveerakul is right that the “political arena is just like a trading market where there is normally fierce competition.” However, these latest moves are suggestive of a broader level of maneuvering that hasn’t been seen for a while and which might be aimed at sidelining some of the more extreme royalist politicians.

Based on previous experience, we might now expect a response from them, including the group of appointed senators. Presumably, Abhisit and Suthep will also need to respond to Prawit’s apparent direct challenge.

We know we are speculating, but Thailand’s political tectonic plates seem to be displaying considerable activity.


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24 10 2009
New: PAD also rallies, attacks Cambodia « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] of PAD yellow shirts also rallied briefly at the Puk Tien Beach in Cha-Am district, where the red shirts delivered their petition-letter for the ASEAN summit […]

29 10 2009
Updated: The old gang and getting Thaksin « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] fearing a realignment of the political landscape, Prem Tinsulanonda, the aged general in charge of the king’s Privy Council was the first to […]