Changing tactics

25 02 2010
In the lead-up to the Shinawatra assets case, the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government has continued to attempt to restrict red shirt activism. While it has moved away from use of the Internal Security Act to threaten and repress rallies, a more concerted effort has been made to intimidate through displays of power and to confuse with stories allegations that throw the red shirts off balance and which also stir public fear. As PPT has indicated, the acting government spokesman has been the center of many of these unsubstantiated rumors and allegations.

Additional measures include non-stop pro-government and pro-monarchy propaganda on the main television stations, numerous visits by royals to the north and northeast (seemingly claiming back that ideological space) and intimidating individuals seen as threats.

The Bangkok Post (25 February 2010) also reports that there are attempts to further control community radio. It reports that the National Telecommunications Commission is currently “investigating about 20 community radio stations for allegedly trying to incite violence in the run up to tomorrow’s assets verdict. Reportedly a red shirt station in Prathumthani was closed last week.

These are apparently unsubstantiated claims that the NTC is investigating. It is claimed that some stations have encouraged listeners to cause chaos as the ruling on ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s 76.6-billion-baht asset seizure trial draws near. Others are alleged to have offended the monarchy.” There is some comment that this involves “both the anti- and the pro-Thaksin camps” but the target is certainly red shirt stations.

The NTC, which hasn’t yet investigated, can still state: “It is likely that some of them may be closed…”. Thailand’s “6,600 registered community radio stations across the country which are granted 300-day permits. They are prohibited from slandering anyone, inciting violence or damaging the institution of the monarchy. Those who do will have their permits revoked for a year.” The NTC last week “sent a letter to all community radio stations warning them to comply strictly with the regulations.

The NTC is represented on the” government-appointed situation monitoring committee in the run up to tomorrow’s verdict.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban continues to raise fears regarding protests and said the government feared attempts by unknown people to stir up unrest or even a riot.Suthep also warned that protesters could face tough legal action if they block roads or cause other trouble.

It is also reported that “[p]rovincial governors have been ordered to encourage Thaksin’s supporters to drop their plans to stage protests in Bangkok and follow the Supreme Court’s ruling on the assets seizure case on TV.Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul is reported to have told “all governors to deal with the red shirts in their provinces after the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship announced it would mobilise hundreds of thousands of protesters to travel to Bangkok for the mass rally planned on March 14.

To PPT, it seems that the red shirts had a period of smaller rallies that were remarkably successful in raising issues and keeping their cause in the news. This has caused the government to alter its tactics as well. The struggle continues.



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