Risk and the emergency decree

22 01 2014

The Yingluck Shinawatra government, forced by increasing violence and the promise of more, has used the emergency decree. The Nation states:

THE CARETAKER cabinet yesterday imposed an emergency decree covering the capital and its outskirts for 60 days. This will give officials more power to handle the anti-government protest, which it claims has been a cause of violence, death and injury.

Emergency

From Bangkok Post

From today, the entire capital and Nonthaburi, plus parts of Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan will be under emergency law.

To enforce the decree, the authorities have set up a so-called Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO), replacing the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, to keep order.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul will supervise the CMPO’s policies, with caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung as director in command of the centre. Police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew and the Defence Ministry’s permanent secretary Nipat Thonglek have been named as operating directors.

The decision to impose the decree was made by caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and some members of her Cabinet, including Surapong and Chalerm, sources said. In a sign of possible disagreement, there were only military representatives instead of commanders present at the meeting yesterday, sources said. With a lack of military chiefs at the centre, the police under Adul will be at the frontline.

Yingluck said she had instructed operations officials to exercise utmost restraint when handling the protest. Asked if the situation would turn violent, like in 2010, she said the government would mostly have the police force overseeing operations. Protesters should not be worried, as police would operate in accordance with law.

As a footnote, we notice that The Nation actually has sources for this story, unlike this one, which appears to be imaginative and designed to provoke.

PPT reckons this is a risky strategy, but probably unavoidable in current circumstances. This comment was made in an agency report:

A state of emergency “is a very risky move from a government that has generally been conciliatory of protesters”, said Kevin Hewison, director of the Asia Research Centre at Australia’s Murdoch University. “The risk is escalating violence to goad the military to take sides.”

The anti-democracy lot will consider the emergency decree as a sign that they are beating the government and a sign of weakness. They will look for every opportunity to force the military into conflict with the government. Indeed, pretend academic Panitan Wattanayagorn pointed out in The Nation’s story: “If the soldiers are put under police command, it will be problematic…. I have never seen troops being placed under police [control].” Unhappy military brass will find it easier to side with the anti-democracy movement.

Putting Chalerm in this position is provocative. The anti-democrats will view this as a challenge. Indeed, Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-democrats, has already “scoffed at the invocation of the emergency decree…”. The Bangkok Post reports:

He said his supporters are not afraid and the rallies will continue.

“Is there anything that is an emergency in this country?” he said. “We have been protesting for three months already. Why declare an emergency now?”

Addressing the crowd at the Pathumwan stage on Tuesday night following the decision by the caretaker government to invoke a state of emergency, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) chief vowed to defy all orders issued under the emergency decree.

This approach is also risky as it can lead to escalations of conflict, and the emergency law can lead to human rights abuses if the authorities are unleashed on demonstrators, as Suthep and his little buddy Abhisit Vejjajiva did in 2010.

Readers can locate posts on the Suthep/Abhisit use of the emergency decree at PPT.

 


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