Updated: Thailand close to civil war

24 04 2010

That’s part of the headline in the U.K.’s Telegraph (24 April 2010). The full headline is: “Thailand is close to civil war as its British-born PM rejects deal with angry Red Shirts.” The story begins: “He came to power as the decent leader: a smooth British-born and Oxford-educated Thai aristocrat who promised to end political turmoil and restore democracy.”

Well, not quite true, as he was hoisted into position on the backs of the military, the palace and the People’s Alliance for Democracy and a related and hasty court decision that got rid of opposition parties. The Telegraph’s story gets to this point later, but there are several factual errors in the report. It is the general message, however, which is more significant.

It continues: “But Abhisit Vejjajiva was cowering behind razor wire in a military barracks in suburban Bangkok as his capital, turned into a smoking battlefield by mobs in red shirts, braced itself for an expected bloody crackdown.”

Again, not accurate on who is creating a battlefield, but the point is clear enough.

The Report says: “On Friday, alarmed by the pace of events, Red Shirt leaders offered to end their occupation of Bangkok’s central shopping district, normally awash with foreign tourists, in return for elections within the next three months. But when Mr Abhisit, who knows he would probably lose such a poll, was asked if he accepted the protesters’ proposal, he replied bluntly: ‘No, I don’t’.” It adds, “…Thais are beginning to face up to the possibility that their prosperous nation stands on the brink of civil war.”

Now, the report says, “the capital’s streets are now too dangerous for Mr Abhisit to venture out without powerful military protection…”.

The story concludes with a comment on the re-mobilizing yellow shirts: “It was their protests that originally paved the way for Mr Abhisit’s premiership. He had hoped to go down in history as the leader who healed Thailand’s wounds. If his natural allies now fight with rival Red Shirts on Bangkok’s streets, he may instead be remembered as the man in charge when Thailand descended into civil war.”

If the army moves, Abhisit will likely be remembered as the butcher of Bangkok who wanted to crush opponents to save a Thailand that should be of the past. Protecting privilege may mean burning the place to the ground.

PPT should also draw attention to an earlier post at Siam Report, where Abhisit’s determination to destroy the red shirts was seen in the 10 April event. As events inch closer to disaster it is worth recalling Matichon’s assessment as described and translated by Siam Report:

At the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) meeting before the crackdown Matichon Weekly (April 16, 2010) says “The Prime Minister favors a crackdown but the commander-in-chief doesn’t want to do it. That’s something everyone in CAPO knows well.” (นายกฯ อยากจะสลาย แต่ ผบ.ทบ. ไม่อยากทำ” นั่นคือสิ่งที่ทุกคนใน ศอ.รส. รู้กันดี). Anupong’s position quickly made him the odd man out, according to Matichon, and shortly before the April 10th order, there was a small meeting at Infantry Regiment 11 between PM Abhisit, Deputy PM Suthep, and a group of armed forces generals led by Deputy Commander in Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha and First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Khanit Saphitak. The next sentence of the report translates, “Without the shadow of Gen. Anupong Paochinda”.

ชัดเจน มากขึ้น เมื่อพบว่าเบื้องหลังการปฏิบัติการ มีการหารือก่อนสั่งการในช่วงเช้าวันที่ 10 เมษายน ระหว่างการประชุม ศอฉ. วงเล็กๆ ที่กรมทหาราบที่ 11 รักษาพระองค์ (ร.11 รอ.) ระหว่าง อภิสิทธิ์, สุเทพ และคณะผู้บัญชาการเหล่าทัพ ที่นำโดย พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ จันทร์โอชา รองผู้บัญชาการทหารบก และ พล.ท.คณิต สาพิทักษ์ แม่ทัพภาคที่ 1 โดยไร้เงา พล.อ.อนุพงษ์ เผ่าจินดา

In the meeting, Matichon says the group first discussed the legality of the crackdown and then moved on to planning. At this point, the group decided the crackdown should begin at the Phan Fa Bridge because there were fewer people there than at the Ratchaprasong intersection. Following that, the group assigned Gen. Khanit as the person responsible for the whole operation.

นอก จากนั้น ที่ประชุมเห็นว่าหากจะสลายการชุมนุมควรเริ่มจากสะพานผ่านฟ้าฯ เพราะเป็นพื้นที่ที่มีคนเสื้อแดงชุมนุมอยู่ไม่มากเท่ากับแยกราชประสงค์ โดยมอบหมายให้ พล.ท.คณิต เป็นผู้รับผิดชอบทั้งหมด

What happened next is known to everyone.

Abhisit’s position is clear and has been for some time.

Update: In the Bangkok Post, the army acknowledges the threat of a crackdown having consequences beyond Bangkok, with spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd saying: “The army was … concerned that a military crackdown on protesters in Bangkok would lead to political conflicts in other provinces…”. He continued: “Any operation in the Ratchaprasong area could fuel the fire in some provinces and that will stir up conflicts in the future…”.



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