With 5 updates: High tension in Bangkok

24 04 2010

Further to our two most recent posts, PPT has had a flurry of emails suggesting that talks have broken down as the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has decided to crush the red shirts. Tension is very high and the red shirt leadership is urging supporters to be prepared.

Abhisit has personally rejected negotiations: “Thai TV says Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has rejected protesters’ demand he dissolve Parliament in 30 days to end a political crisis that has paralyzed the country.”

Update: “Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday rejected scaled-back demands that he dissolve Parliament in 30 days, prompting anti-government protesters to pull out of negotiations to end the political crisis gripping the country. The breakdown dashed hopes for an imminent peaceful resolution to the deadlock, which has been punctuated by increasing hostility and bloody street violence.”

Al Jazeera reports: “Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister, has rejected an offer of compromise with so-called red shirt protesters who have rallied for the dissolution of government for the past six weeks.” It is added that: “Abhisit said that he could not accept the offer because the red shirts ‘use violence and intimidation’. He said: “The 30-day ultimatum is not an issue. The dissolution [of parliament] must be done for the benefit of the entire country, not just for the red shirts, and it must be done at the right time…”.

It looks like the hardliners have had a victory within the government and that the ever stubborn Abhisit has had his way.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post has Abhisit saying this of the red shirts’ proffered compromise: “No, I reject it.”

In The Nation,  Thammasat University historian Thanet Aphornsuvan said that “the principles of non-violence may not be enough to prevent them from ‘being crushed by the Army’,” and added that “this was because the same method – an appeal for non-violence – had never worked in the past in Thailand.”

Reflecting his pessimism on negotiations, Gothom Arya of Mahidol University said in the same article of Prime Minister Abhisit:  “Peace is in his hands. It’s up to him to make it, alive or dead…”. He seemed pessimistic however.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reports on an important piece being put in place prior to a crackdown on the red shirts. Recall that army chief Anupong Paojinda has long said that he would reject an unlawful order to crackdown on the red shirts and that earlier in the week the Civil Court issued a ruling on the legality of a crackdown that was interpreted in different ways. Now the Post reports that to “erase public doubt, Thailand’s Civil Court on Saturday said the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) can indeed disperse anti-government protesters now occupying Bangkok’s prime business district ‘if necessary’, but emphasised that it must be ‘carried out in line with international standards’.”

Now even when the state kills people it claims to have done so “in line with international standards.” Perhaps this provides Anupong with the legal basis for action against the red shirts.

Another part of the government’s actions against the red shirts and preparing for a crackdown likely involves unstated “evidence” against red shirts in alleged violent acts. This is a common action in previous military actions that have led to bloodshed. A member of the opponents’ camp is pushed forward, in custody, and is said to have spilled the beans. This time, it involves an actor and the Department of Special Investigation. PPT has pointed out previously that DSI has been highly politicized. Now DSI has taken to parading alleged criminals and holding news conferences and television spectacles making grand and unsupported accusations. The Nation has an account of the arrest and interrogation of Methi Amornwuthikul, who is claimed to be a “prominent red shirt.” Methi is a red shirt, but an odd character and was previously in the media for his semi-nude modeling and more recently for swinging punches at a Puea Thai Party campaign worker (see the video of the latter incident here).

With yellow shirts, now in multi-colors rallying each day in numbers as high as 10,000 to 15,000, most of the elements for a crackdown that can be “justified” are in place. The threat to crush the red shirts appears ever more likely to be put in train. PPT assumes that the okay from the palace is already in place.

Update 2: The Nation leads with the Methi story and red shirt denials. The critical point for PPT is, however, the use of the alleged confession, with Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks claiming that “Methee’s confession confirmed a belief that acts of sabotage on April 10 were committed by the red shirts, not a ‘third party’.” The government’s role in killings and injuries is now totally whitewashed for the Democrat Party and the public is expected to believe – and many yellow shirts will – that the red shirts killed their own.

Update 3: Like many others, PPT is hearing many rumors of what caused the proposed negotiations/compromise to fall apart. On story has to do with Sukhumbhand Paribatra talking and reaching something of an agreement with red shirts and, it is said, Thaksin Shinawatra in Brunei. That fell apart because of hardline resistance from the yellow-shirt wing of the Democrat Party including Korn Chatikavanij, some close to the palace – guess who – and some in the military who want to crush the red shirts. They see this as the final battle. Part of the agreement was said to involve a “national government” that was to quickly amend the constitution. Abhisit would not have been interim prime minister, and he is said to have opposed that.

Abhisit remains ensconced with the more militant of the commanders of the armed forces, while Anupong remains against the use of force, fearing a large body count and seeing Bangkok’s major shopping and hotel area burned to the ground. It is said that it is unlikely that he can hold out much longer against the hardliners.

Update 4: Thailand’s Troubles has two posts on events of the 23rd and 24th.

Update 5: There’s more in the Bangkok Post on what Abhisit said of the red shirt offer to compromise. He said: “I am not sure whether it is a serious offer. But I am confident that is not an answer for the country’s problems. I don’t get it…”. Abhisit added that “[d]issolving the House in 30 days would ‘solve nothing…. I see it as an attempt [by the red shirt leaders] to create a new image for themselves, particularly among the international community given that they were engaged in violence in the past few days…”. The government was said to be “sticking by its offer that the House should be dissolved in the next nine months.”

Abhisit is not saying anything different from his comments after the first televised discussions with the red shirts. It is just that he is now surrounded by those demanding the red shirts be crushed.

The reference to international opinion is interesting, for government is busily chasing the “international community,” hoping to get time with senior U.S. State Department officials currently in the region and again enlisting Surin Pitsuwan, who is supposed to be heading up ASEAN but seems to be working for the Thai government.

Abhisit and Anupong are to appear together on television on Sunday amidst rumors that they still do not agree on a crackdown, with Anupong urging a political compromise.


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