Panic and coup round-up

11 03 2010
As for yesterday, PPT offers a summary of some of the many news stories doing the rounds, and is by no means comprehensive. Readers should know that all reporting now is heavily biased and many stories are clearly manufactured or reporting manufactured claims. If anyone says they know what is going to happen over the next few days, they are probably not worth listening to. This is a work in progress for the royalist government and their opponents.

Abhisit says don’t panic: As several other commentators have pointed out (see Thai Crisis), it seems truly odd that, after days of stoking fear and panic over the forthcoming red shirt rally in Bangkok, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva suddenly says not to panic (Bangkok Post, 10 March 2010). This after he and ministers have spoken of terrorism, sabotage, grenade and bomb attacks and talked incessantly of violence. Abhisit himself seems in quite a flap.

Kasit’s baggage: The Nation (10 March 2010) reports that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya spoke to diplomats and was reported to have stated: “Thai people have freedom of expression – but toppling the government in an undemocratic way is against the law and hurts Thai society…”. Of course, Kasit was and is a great supporter of the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy who held a record-breaking, non-stop demonstration, occupied the airports, saw their own car bomber blow himself to pieces and celebrated him, called for political changes even the king rejected as unconstitutional and wanted changes to political arrangements that would do away with many of the basic principles of democratic representation.

Warning the already frightened: As PPT pointed out previously, there are a rash of emails and blog postings that are frantic and frightened. The don’t-panic prime minister and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban have both said the grenade and bomb attacks are possible. Now there are many versions of the 30-40 sites considered possible. One list even states (keeping their spelling) that there will be “snipers around Skytrain and Subway stations” and adds, for good measure that “UDD men are going to burn down Grand Palace to pacve the way to turn Thailand to Republcian regime!” and that they will attack “Siriraj Hospital to Commit Regicide against His majesty.” Add to that the comments about Central World and Central Lardprao being “Main target for looting” and the claim that Chulalongkorn will be stormed and there will be “lots of hostages,” and the picture of stoking fear and possibly attacks on the red shirts is clear.

Journalism and the red shirts: The Nation (11 March 2010) reports that Thai Journalists’ Association president Prasong Lertrattawisut has “admitted that some media outlets were indeed being manipulated and urged the print media to be careful about the tone of its headlines.” He also called “on broadcast media to not vilify those whom they disagree with.” An interesting statement from the TJA which has been heavily pro-yellow shirt in the past and many mainstream journalists remain so.

Take, for example, the yellow shirt supporter Nattaya Chetchotiros in the Bangkok Post (11 March 2010). She is said to be an Assistant News Editor at the Bangkok Post and former President of the Thai Journalists Association, but still comes up with this unsourced (not even the “unnamed source” so prized in the press) comment: “One factor that could be a game changer, however, is growing dissatisfaction among rank-and-file protest leaders who have not been fully reimbursed for the expenses they footed beforehand. Each group has reportedly to spend at least 10 million baht a day for mobilisation. The more than one hundred grass roots leaders have begun to turn against one another and family members of the ‘Grand Master’, such as Payap Shinawatra who is supervising the movement from the Northeast, and Yaowapa Wongsawat and her husband Somchai who are taking care of the North. These relatives of Thaksin have approved the budget for former MPs or people who wish to run in the next election and they reportedly have not paid up in full, asking the protest leaders to make advance payments out of their own pockets. This money factor was also at play during the bloody Songkran riots and which the Thaksin side could not win. As this same factor has come in to play in this impending red march, it remains to be seen if the reds will see victory.” For Nattaya, there can only be money involved and nothing else. This is the standard middle class and elite perspective on the great unwashed who are marching on Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Supalak Ganjanakhundee (The Nation, 11 March 2010) has a bit of a surprise for Nation readers when he claims “The government, with collaboration from the mainstream media, managed to portray itself as an angel and the red-shirt group as former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s evil lackeys – ready to use all violent means to bring their boss back to power. Visions of last April’s bloodshed have been planted in the public mind many times a day to show the red-shirt group is nothing but a bloodthirsty monster.” Exactly. And by doing so, they make violence far more likely.

Supalak even states that it is not just Thais who fall for this propaganda: “Even a foreign diplomat like British Ambassador Quinton Quayle subscribed to such discourse as he rushed to see Pheu Thai Party leader Yongyut Wichaidit on Tuesday, to urge the party with its strong links to the red shirts not to use violence in the weekend demonstrations.”

Stop the red shirts: According to television reports, the efforts to stop red shirts getting to Bangkok have been increased. The television news claims that railway and bus stations are under heavy security. It is also reported that police and provincial officials have been ordered into to villages to have phu yai ban stop red shirts from leaving for Bangkok. It is also reported that the roadblocks are being made tighter between red shirt assembly provinces in nearby provinces and Bangkok. One claim is that the police and military are not going to stop red shirts, but intend to delay them so long that many will turn around and go home. Another claimed possibility is that there may be serious clashes at these roadblocks as red shirts break through. This would mean considerable violence even before the red shirts get to Bangkok proper.

Raising funds, preparing to retreat: The Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) reports that the red shirt rally organizers are raising funds for their rally. In fact, PPT has seen solicitations for some weeks now, and red shirts, despite the regular claims that it is funding by Thaksin Shinawatra that keeps them mobilized, have been selling merchandise and asking for donations for some considerable time. The Post claims the red shirts are short of funds, so their rally may be only 3-5 days. It is claimed that it costs 30 million baht a day to keep a large rally going – so just how much money did it take to keep the People’s Alliance for Democracy rallying for months, and where did that money come from?

The Post says “sources close to the movement” claim that the red shirts are “preparing to retreat to the provinces if its mass rally against the government in Bangkok this weekend falls flat…”. When they retreat, they are said to be aiming to “seize provincial halls.”

A safe place: The Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) reports that the 11th Infantry Regiment “would accommodate VIPs and emergency cabinet meetings…”. It is understood that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will stay at this base for the duration of the rally. Meanwhile, morning television reported that the queen has joined the king at Siriraj hospital and people have been asked to “not bother them.” Is Siriraj a safe house too?

A coup?: Acting government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn is reported in the Bangkok Post (11 March 2010) as saying there is “no substance to a report that there would be a military coup before this Sunday…”. He claims the “government has double-checked the story and found that it has no grounds.” PPT wonders how that conversation went?

Apparently this rumor developed “after people saw troops moving out of their barracks to maintain peace and order under the Internal Security Act, which came into force today…”. A spokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command said “soldiers early this morning began manning checkpoints in Bangkok and seven nearby provinces.” In fact, troops have been out on the streets and working roadblocks for several days already. ISOC says more troops are being deployed today.

As far as PPT can see at present, a reason for a coup would be to dissolve parliament, but not for an election. Rather, the aim would be to reshuffle government seats and allow a civilian government to stay in place with even stronger military backstopping. Elections would be off the agenda. If there is considerable conflict over the next few days, anything is possible.



2 responses

11 03 2010
Global Voices Online » Thailand: The Red Shirts are coming!

[…] Prisoners in Thailand monitors news reports about the Red Shirts and makes this important conclusion Readers should know that all reporting now is heavily biased and many stories are clearly […]

11 03 2010
Some red-shirt leaders speak about upcoming rally whilst Suthep stirs the khi kwai « GJBKK Blog

[…] ‘Panic and coup round-up‘ covers a lot on the scaremongering and the “don’t panic we are in control and […]

%d bloggers like this: