Fear and loathing I

8 03 2010

There are still times when PPT is taken aback by the so-called journalism of the English-language press in Bangkok. We expected that The Nation would froth about the red shirt rally this week, although their editorial (8 March 2010), is remarkable even for this rag.

The red shirts are said to be planning to “create a radical political change so that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra can return to political power. They are said to be set to “block off all the major highways into Bangkok”. And they will “use pick-up trucks as their vehicles to render Bangkok polarised.” PPT has no idea what this last claim amounts to. They will “demand the resignation of the Abhisit |government.” Very radical indeed! The Nation says: “We expect the red-shirt rallies will try to incite turmoil…”. Perhaps reflecting the governments intelligence, the editorial says to expect 250,000 demonstrators. The editorialist is frantic.

For The Nation, the problem is that the government is next to useless and all hope lies with the military. Government plans are said to be a joke, and it is claimed that “the police might be shifting into neutral gear. The military is on full alert especially as the police can’t be relied upon. The final statement is this: “What is most worrisome is that the government does not appear to have any tangible and sensible plan to counter the red-shirts |rallies. With the police going into neutral gear, and the military trying to keep its patience under control, we can only face a growing prospect of violence. Thaksin is going for his final battle for a kill, while Abhisit does not seem to have any defensive plan or counter measures.

Veera Prateepchaikul at the Bangkok Post (8 March 2010) has a story with exactly the same elements as The Nation, if less apoplectic. He says “better late than never.” He believes that the government has “finally realised that they have to take pre-emptive action to cope with the mass [red shirt] rallies, or they may end up as sitting ducks.” He adds: “the government has finally woken up to the threat posed by the red shirts and their master, ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Veera applauds the decision to recommend the use of the Internal Security Act from 11 to 23 March and says that the “rallies, which security experts warn may result in widespread violence instigated by particularly ill-intentioned elements of society.Veera also reports that the king is now involved, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva briefing him on Monday on the political situation.

Veera thinks that unlike last year’s Songkran Uprising, “in which the red shirts took a frantic back pedal in the face of a military crackdown, the red-shirt leaders are more confident this time that they will prevail in this final showdown.”

The Bangkok Post (8 March 2010) also reports that Abhisit has cancelled his official visit to Australia” with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban saying that “the government was willing to hold talks with all sides in the conflict.” At the same time, the government has been able to get Seh Daeng and some of his scarier men locked up for the duration of the demonstrations.

PPT doesn’t agree that the royalist government has been sitting on its hands. The military and government have been preparing for a “final showdown” for some weeks now. We have also posted quite enough in recent days about government-led scare-mongering including our doubts about some of the arrests and associated media circus. Frankly, we have heard that there are just as many in the government and amongst its backers itching for a showdown as there might be amongst the red shirts. That’s worrying.



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