Truth and the Battle for Bangkok

14 02 2011

Andrew Marshall at Reuters has a long blog post – Reclaiming the truth in Thailand – that warrants careful reading. Prompted in part by the Amsterdam & Peroff report to the International Criminal Court, Marshall pieces together some questions and cases that demand investigation and explanation. He concludes:

The list of themes provided here is by no means exhaustive, but it provides some starting points for a collective effort to reclaim the facts. If the authorities want to dispel doubts and conspiracy theories, they could do so by being fully transparent on these issues. If they cannot or will not disclose what they know, the real narrative of those months can still be uncovered, if those with information that sheds light on the unanswered questions of the Bangkok violence share it with others who are also seeking the truth. However big or small each individual’s contribution, it can be cross-checked against others and pieced together so that together we can eventually write the true history of April and May 2010. And that can only be positive for Thailand.

Marshall’s detailed account, with numerous links throughout, deserves attention.

Updated: The Saudi gems and murder saga goes on and on

22 09 2010

Readers will have no doubt read of (if not hearing the huge sighs of relief from Government House) the report that controversial cop Police Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom has declined to accept the Abhsiit Vejjajiva government’s remarkably stupid promotion of the alleged criminal.

For those keen to have a shortish summary of the two decade saga and the involvement of the Thai elite in this whole sorry tale, see Andrew Marshall’s blog at Reuters. The only thing missing is any details of the rumors of royals getting their hands on the missing gems. PPT doesn’t know if there is any truth in such rumors, but their existence is reason enough for some consideration. As everyone says, there’s a movie in this story of crime, corruption and the elite.

Update: Readers should also see Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban’s letter to the Saudia Arabian Embassy here.

On elections and buildings vs. people

23 05 2010

Andrew Marshall, in an article in The Irrawaddy (21 May 2010) comments on the post-crackdown situation. He observes: “The Red … [Shirts] will return to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, to Buriram and Mukdahan, to Nong Khai and Nan, bringing home first-hand accounts of the bloody battle of Bangkok. Towns and villages across the north and northeast will be further radicalized. Until talks between the Reds and the government collapsed last week, a November election had seemed possible. But it is hard to imagine an election ever being held in such a poisonous political atmosphere.”

PPT thinks he’s right. The point about elections is one we made some time ago. Part of the reason for the government opposing red shirt demands was because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his advisors believed they’d probably lose any election that would have followed a House dissolution. But as we pointed out, PPT believed that Abhisit was opposed to any election, earlier or later, until he knew he and his backers could engineer a win. Now he has a “mandate” to postpone an election because his candidates are unlikely to be able to campaign in red shirt areas. He has often said that this ability to campaign is a required condition for any election.

Indeed, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has been quoted as having “acknowledged the difficulty of putting the Thai political scene back on an even course. He said in principle the government could agree to early elections in November as long as calm was restored throughout the country…”. He added: “We need to make sure that emotions have cooled to the extent that candidates from all parties can feel safe in campaigning anywhere in the country.” To make the message clear, he stated: “And if we can do that in November, we will do it in November. If it takes a little bit longer than that, we will give it the necessary time that is required…”. In fact, the only reason for going to an election will be that the government and its supporters are sure they can win.

Marshall is also right to point to anger. Anger doesn’t always lead to radical action – the Burmese people have been angry for a considerable time – but will underpin political decision-making and action for many years to come.

PPT has experienced some moments of extreme concern as well. There’s plenty to be angry and concerned about. The partisanship of the mass media and the campaigns against any media seen to be in any way critical of the Thai government’s reprehensible actions in recent days is breathtaking. The current anti-BBC and anti-CNN campaigns stage-managed and promoted by the government are abominations. By the way, we say the government is managing these things because PPT received emails from Democrat Party insiders circulating the information that has now become part of the “campaigns.” We are angry at the way the government is seemingly able to whitewash its draconian track record, its murder of citizens and its on-going repression.

This government is so royalist and so repressive that it even blocks a tiny blog like PPT, usually read only by a few thousand in Thailand. If the government is so right and so good, why does it need to block every single critical observer? Why is it fostering attacks on the international media that are highly personalized? We know the answers.

But here’s something more to be angry about. We think the Butcher of Bangkok has prevented information being available about injuries and deaths during the crackdown. Sooner or later there will be a debate about this, probably in cyberspace. There, the government’s supporters, including the moles the army has working the blogs, will argue that there were cameras everywhere, so nothing could be hidden. When this argument begins, recall that most foreign journalists were behind the troops (including CNN). Few were “embedded” with the red shirts. Those that were on the red shirt side of the event each report from several to many deaths. One reader we have who was there, reports that the troops looked like they were on a hunting trip. The film of soldiers firing deliberately and repeatedly at targeted protesters is suggestive of a higher casualty figure than we have seen – on Friday, the Erawan Emergency Center is reporting a total of 53 people had died and 413 were wounded since 14 May.

It is infuriating to read accounts by many, many journalists that focus on the damage to buildings – see the AP report in The Irrawaddy, where the whole report by Vijay Joshi is about the damage to buildings. Not a serious word about deaths or injuries. How crazy is that? Crazy is probably the wrong term….