Updated: The military is ready and will act

18 04 2010

With several reports of soldiers being sent to the roof tops of tall buildings around the Rajaprasong red shirt rally site, tensions are rising as a second military crackdown appears ever more likely. Red shirt tweets, SMSs and emails are warning of an impending crackdown. PPT hopes they are wrong, but we fear not.

The Nation says that Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the spokesman of the Emergency Operations Command, announced the soldiers would undertake “secret surveillance” which he said was “for the sake of the protesters’ safety as intelligence agencies had learnt that protesters could also be targetted in next terrorist strikes to cause misunderstanding and turmoil.” This kind of report is about as Orwellian as it gets. The colonel added that troops were also being deployed to “discourage people from joining the rally for their own safety.” On 10 April, the military did the same thing, to prevent red shirts getting to the rally site.

In the Bangkok Post, Sansern predicts a crackdown, warning “that resolute measures will be used if the demonstrators resist against the authorities.” He added: “We will not let the protesters seize weapons from officials again. If they do we will react in accordance with the law…”. A higher body count can be expected. We suggest readers also look back at our reports yesterday relating to military preparations and international culpability.

In another report, Sansern says that the military is “ready to use strict measures against them [red shirts]” and added that the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation had met Sunday and agreed to “[s]everal severe measures” to be used against the protesters. That includes actively “preventing UDD supporters from upcountry from joining the demonstrators already at Ratchaprasong intersection…”. In addition, from now on, “officials will carry arms and protect themselves.”

The government is also investigating and ordering up to “51 persons believed to be financiers for the UDD and ordered to report to the CRES.” Censorship of red shirt media is vast.

Update 1: A later report in The Nation has more from Sansern. When asked when the crackdown would be, his response was:  “If I say when, the operation is doomed to fail…”. The army will “not allow the reds to parade around the capital or set up a new site at Silom…”. Anyone who wants to enter the red shirt area may be arrested or fined.

The red shirts are being confined to Rajaproasong. Government-aligned newspapers – that’s all of them – say there are 4,000-13,000 red shirts although photos from the scene suggest far more than that highest estimate. If the soldiers attack, casualties have the potential to be very high.

The red shirts are urgently calling for people to join them, hoping that numbers may trump the government’s actions, but from PPT’s perspective, this seems unlikely. It seems clear that the government is going to clear them whatever the level of casualties that requires. As all of the yellow-shirted organizations and powerful individuals are calling for action, that seems the only course. Make no mistake, the palace and privy council will have been consulted.

Just to be clear, when Colonel Sansern was asked “when the final showdown on breaking up the demonstration would be held,” he replied: “We’re ready whenever the situation permits.”

Update 2: In another report, The Nation says that “[e]lite forces from all three branches of the armed forces and police are being mobilised to carry out operations to remove red-shirt demonstrators from the Rajprasong intersection in Bangkok.”

The report contains what might seem a bizarre statement: The “rules of engagement are modelled on an emergency plan after 2003 when the Thai embassy and businesses run by Thai firms in Phnom Penh were burnt down by a rowdy mob. Thailand was reportedly ready to go to war with Cambodia, with combat units readied and F-16 fighters put on standby for possible aerial attacks.” Is this really what the government of the yellow-shirts, palace and elite are prepared to do? It seems certain they are.

The report goes so far as to say which units are to be involved: “Army units to be used are capable of ‘special operations’. They include Task Force 90 – a heli-borne infantry assault unit, the 31 Infantry Regiment and red-bereted Army special operations forces. The Navy would dispatch their US-trained SEAL commandos and the Marines Force Recon strike force. The Air Force will rely on their special operations commandos while the police would dispatch 191 SWAT commandos, anti-terrorism Arintharaj Force and paratroopers.”

Justifying what might be a bloody operation, the government released information from a “joint intelligence report” that came to the conclusion that the so-called third hand – increasingly identified by PAD and the government as being red shirts – were “armed men were recruited from three groups of people: separatists in the South, mercenaries from neighbouring countries, and paramilitary men trained by active officers allied with the red shirts.” This means that the government is saying it is off the hook for its actions on 10 April. By blaming red shirts, mercenaries and southern separatists, they lay the ground work for retaliatory violence.

As we have stated previously (see link above), the media and the international community will be culpable in any tragedy that occurs. They have allowed the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to spin responsibility away from state forces and the government’s own decisions.

The government states that “the prime objective of the coming operations is to deal with the ‘armed third force’, coupled with red-shirt masses travelling to Bangkok from Monday to Wednesday. All tall buildings nearby Rajprasong intersection are now manned by security officials.” All red shirts are a “threat” and are targeted.

Could it be that the military/government are hoping to scare the red shirts off? That seems unlikely at this point. This is the behavior of a military state that no longer even bothers to maintain a democratic facade. Thailand is in deep trouble as the Abhisit government moves closer to the abyss of violent action.

And where has Abhisit Vejjajiva been while all of these critical decisions are being taken? On holiday.  His legacy is secured.



2 responses

18 04 2010
Ominous signs

[…] There are email reports that it may commence today. Political Prisoners in Thailand has a detailed report. Here is a brief extract: Justifying what might be a bloody operation, the government released […]

19 04 2010
Monday in Bangkok – Red Shirt Situation at Silom | Bangkok | NileGuide

[…] military. A crackdown by the military is expected if the Red Shirts attempt to take Silom. Check this blog post from Political Prisoners of Thailand for a comment on the dire situation of likely violence on the […]

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