Explosions, red shirts, emergency decree

12 10 2010

Marwaan Macan-Markar in The Irrawaddy has a useful report reflecting on recent events in Thailand. He notes the Nonthaburi explosion came just “a few hours after the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva extended the emergency decree for another three months in Bangkok and three neighbouring provinces.”

The explosion was also used by the regime “to buttress its claims that the decree needs to be extended due to the unsettled political climate.” It’s a good point to make as previous extensions have relied on relatively small bombs as justification. Now the government has a really large blast to point to as justifying their decision.

He cites acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn as being keen to link the explosions to red shirts: “This emerged for the first time with last week’s bomb—to establish the link…. These people are connected to the red shirts, and they are capable of exploding bombs…. It is clear, the threat is clear…”.

PPT is sure that the government has made this link many, many times in the past. So what is Panitan on about? It seems that the government thinks a really big explosion will be more convincing and will invoke heightened fear and disdain for their political opponents, especially if it can show a link to the Puea Thai Party that is in any way convincing.

Interestingly, in this context of fear, some observers are questioning the emergency decree. Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Thailand analyst of the International Crisis Group, makes the point that “The emergency decree is not needed in the red shirt areas… The government could use regular laws to deal with the disturbances.” Why aren’t the alleged red shirt bombers operating in their heartland?

Vitit Muntarbhorn of Chulalongkorn University worries that “the political climate in the Thai capital is steadily inching toward one where laws meant for abnormal circumstances are becoming the norm,” where “National security laws are becoming permanent…”. PPT has been pointing this out for some time.

Marwaan claims that the emergency decree had resulted in a situation where, by “late August, the jails in Bangkok and in cities across the north and northeast held close to 470 political prisoners…”. That leaves out the sizable (but still largely unknown) group of lese majeste political prisoners. Panitan says there are only184 detainees.

Thailand lingers in the half-light at the edge of a political dark age.



2 responses

13 10 2010
Government tactless at best « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Government tactless at best Over the past few days PPT has been urging that caution – indeed skepticism – is a reasonable approach to the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s claims regarding red shirts, explosions, “terrorists-in-training” and so on (see here, here, here and here). […]

14 10 2010
Soldiers everywhere « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] story in the Bangkok Post. When several commentators talk of a slide into authoritarianism and PPT even said that “Thailand lingers in the half-light at the edge of a political dark age,” we are […]

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