PAD, the monarchy (again) and a beat-up (?)

24 11 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that while the People’s Alliance for Democracy cancelled its anti-Thaksin Shinawatra-cum-anti-Yingluck Shinawatra rallying, it has “vowed to hold a prolonged mass rally against the government if there is a renewed bid to seek a royal pardon for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.”

But PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul went further than this. He vowed to also have PAD rallying if the Yingluck government “fails to stop the anti-monarchy movement…”. Sondhi promised protesters numbering in the “hundreds of thousands.” Why the push on the monarchy?

Sondhi claims “the anti-monarchy movement was still active with websites with lese majeste content prevalent on the internet.” He claims that “PAD is gathering evidence to prove the government is insincere in protecting the monarchy.” Further, PAD is going to “submit a petition asking the government to take action against anti-monarchy elements.” If the government doesn’t act within 14 days, “PAD will stage a mass rally…”.

PPT has a feeling that PAD is just getting warmed up. Sondhi is going to bank on protecting the monarchy as the rallying cry. More importantly, now that a pro-Thaksin government is in power, the tawdry anti-Cambodia rallies of last year, which failed to draw crowds, can be left aside and the “true believers” – including the Democrat Party – can be brought out under the royalist banner to fight the devil and his followers. The issues are now much clearer and the target makes better sense for a broader group of anti-Thaksinites.

Interestingly, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan warned the red shirts and the government, blaming them in advance for any confrontation. He also warned: “Thaksin has no land [in Thailand] to live on. Ms Yingluck may end up like her brother…”.

In a kind of footnote to this story, it is interesting to see the BBC’s comments on the whole royal pardon debacle. It seems the BBC finds something in the claim by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok “that the speculation had been dreamt up by a ‘frantic’ media.” The report states: “The current amnesty plan covers only serving prisoners, and excludes people found guilty of fraud. But local media claimed the government, led by Mr Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, was trying to change the rules of the amnesty to include the former prime minister.” It then appears to lash the Bangkok Post: “The Bangkok Post newspaper fuelled the speculation last week when it quoted a government insider as saying a secret cabinet meeting had been held to discuss the issue.”

Was it a beat up? Probably not entirely, for Chalerm Yubamrung was involved, seemingly intent on causing some kind of mini-crisis, but then PAD’s Panthep is cited in The Nation making some claims that seem to suggest the BBC is on to something: “The PAD said it did not believe what Pracha [Promnok] said [on the royal pardon decree] but as there was no clear evidence suggesting otherwise and no independent figure who had seen the draft, the PAD would give the government a chance to prove it was telling the truth. If the document was submitted to the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, the PAD may have a chance to see the content of the draft to verify that Thaksin would not really benefit…”.





The BBC documentary that everyone should be talking about

10 08 2011

As Andrew Spooner mentioned in a recent post, the BBC has a particularly hard-hitting documentary – “Thailand – Justice Under Fire” – that examines the Battle for Bangkok in 2010. It has been difficult to locate. However, thanks to several regular readers, PPT now has the links. They are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

The BBC asks, amongst many, many good questions: will those who have killed with impunity at last face justice? And it examines the cover-up that has occurred under the royalist government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva. The blurb adds: “Award-winning correspondent Fergal Keane investigates the struggle of victims’ families as they seek the truth about what happened to their loved ones. He explores claims of cover-up and impunity for the powerful.” As Keane says: “The powerful have never been held to account.”

As Spooner points out, the brief interview with Abhisit, in part 4,  is revealing of a damaged leader, with blood on his hands. The interview with Army Spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd is revealing of a culture of lies and murder by the military.

Given recent debate about who controls who, Thongchai Winichakul’s description of the military-monarchy relationship as one of collaborators in the political system is worthy of consideration.

This documentary deserves widespread attention and the movement for justice demands support or “what’s covered up will be repeated.”.





BBC on red shirts, lese majeste and media

2 03 2011

What Can I Say? has come to Thailand to discuss media freedom and censorship in Thailand. Here’s a bit of the blurb: “In Thailand, what part have illegal community radio stations had to play in the demonstrations by activists – red-shirt or yellow-shirt – that occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum?”

PPT has listened to the show and it is worth considering for all kinds of reasons, not least for the identification of Thaksin as a former president and the awful rendering of Thai names and places. Kavi Chongkittavorn is interviewed and sounds like he works for something other than The Nation…. The comments of Sulak Sivaraksa are characteristically challenging on race, ethnicity and the monarchy. The discussion on community radio is fascinating for interviews with red and yellow broadcasters.

Do take the time to listen to the 23-minute episode.





Blocking really true vision in Bangkok

21 01 2011

Thanks to a link at Thai Intelligence News Study Centre, PPT was sent to the Bangkok Bugle for a note on True Vision‘s apparent blocking of images in a promo of Bangkok-based reporters Alastair Leithead and Rachael Harvey on the cable broadcast. The scenes show the two journalists at work on the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010. Of course, True is a part of the CP empire and CP has been a strong supporter of the present regime and of royal causes and especially propaganda.





Red shirts waiting

1 09 2010

There have been several reports in the international media of late regarding the regrouping of red shirts and their political plans and aspirations, including the BBC report PPT posted on a few days ago. The New York Times now has such a report, worth reading.

Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd

It begins by contradicting Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd from our earlier post today, where he claimed no persecution or hunting of red shirts. The NYT refers to “a huge poster carries the photographs of 76 people being sought in an attack on the [provincial hall] building [in Udon] three months ago, on the day the anti-government ‘red shirt’ protests were crushed in Bangkok.” It says only 11 have been apprehended so far, and adds that “[s]cores of people are in hiding, many of them sheltered by a mostly sympathetic population. Scores more, arrested at the scene, are being held without bail.”

It goes on to say that in this area “the government appears to have made little headway in calming or winning over its opponents,” that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government “says red shirt leaders are continuing to plot violence,” and mentions “a nationwide campaign of censorship of opposition Web sites and radio stations, [where] the government has shut down 46 local stations here in Udon Thani Province. Public gatherings of more than five people are forbidden.” In this atmosphere, “critics of the government have retreated into silence.”

The resentment of the government is clear and this comment by a dry cleaner seems on the money: “Now the poor people are learning the truth, and that makes the rich unhappy. When people become clever, that means it will be more difficult to govern them.”





Updated: On red shirts regrouping

28 08 2010

The BBC’s Alastair Leithead has an interesting video report at the Asia-Pacific site. In it he reports on the underground and above-ground red shirt regrouping, violent and non-violent.  PPT is not quite sure why Leithead is convinced the recent bombings in Bangkok are red shirt-inspired. They might be, but he seems certain. Viewers should be warned that there is a short interview with acting government spokeman Panitan Wattanayagorn that might spoil a relaxing Sunday.

Update: The Nation has a story on a red shirt “seminar” near Bangkok. Apparently attendance was limited to 500 and was at a school hall in the Prachachuen area to avoid violating the emergency decree. It is reported that Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Red Power magazine and red shirt leader and Peua Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan attended and spoke to supporters. Also attending was Sombat Boonngamanong of the June 24 group.

Somyos “dressed in a prison uniform with chains locked around his ankles, opened the seminar by inviting the red supporters to light candles in memory of friends killed in the recent unrest.” Jatuporn staged a mock release from a cell and urged the “government to do the same to those held in real cells on charges of terrorism.”

Intriguingly, Jatuporn also claimed that a “special power” was “interfering with the government, Parliament and courts of justice.” He also attacked the government, which he alleged “had been ordered to massacre the people.” And he pointed out the double standard employed when dealing with red shirts and yellow shirts. He said: “For the yellow shirts, police did not dare to issue arrest warrants and they were released without pos[t]ing bail.”

Sombat “called on the red shirts to continue a peaceful struggle by mobilising the masses to pressure the government. He said red shirts still had high hope their leaders would be released to join their struggle for democracy.”





Accounts of the dead III: a BBC report

3 06 2010

The BBC’s Assignment program has a new report  entitled “Thawil – the Red Shirt Protestor.” The BBC blurb says this:

On 19th May, Thai soldiers stormed an anti-government protest in Bangkok. It was the climax of a 6-week stand-off between the Thai government, and the protestors known as Red Shirts. More than 80 people were killed during the confrontation. One of them was Thawil, a 36 year old rice farmer from the northeast of the country. In the aftermath of Thailand’s latest democratic crisis, Lucy Williamson has travelled from Bangkok up to the protest heartlands in the poorer north-east, to assess how deep the wounds are, and where Thailand goes from here.

Broadcast on: BBC World Service, 12:05pm Thursday 3rd June 2010

Duration: 25 minutes





Updated: The witch hunt is on

25 05 2010

Where do we begin…. A few days ago PPT stated that repression would be increased in Thailand. Sadly, we were correct. We have already posted on the arrests of red shirt leaders and Prof. Suthachai Yimprasert. And it isn’t just Thais being arrested.

The dragnet is extending across the country. Thaksin Shinawatra has been charged as a terrorist (Bangkok Pundit has more). For all of Thaksin’s faults, a terrorism charge is clearly political. Yellow shirts are apoplectic about the red shirt leaders who they claim are living in luxury while arrested (scroll down to Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2bangkok.com).

Red shirts are being rounded up in the provinces. Who knows how many have been arrested to date.

But it is more than this. People who are believed to be red shirts are being “outed,” including university applicants who are being rejected because they are accused of being “red” or “anti-monarchy.” There are attacks on CNN, the BBC and other international media (see Bangkok Pundit on this also).

Even moderate academics are being attacked by frothing at the mouth yellow shirts. Regular PPT readers will know that we believe The Nation’s Thanong Khanthong to be certifiable,a nd his latest blog, attacking a too dovish Gothom Arya as an almost red shirt takes the cake. It is serious though. This is a witch hunt. Real lives are threatened. It can’t be long now before a foreign academic is arrested as an enemy of the Thai monarchy.

Abhisit Vejjajiva is leading a government that is dominated by militarists and monarchists; it is a dangerous government.

Update: Two foreigners are amongst the red shirts arrested.





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….





Further updated: Deadline passes and “Containment by live fire”

17 05 2010

The BBC has a useful report,with video, on the passing of the deadline set by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in Bangkok. The video details the military tactic of “containment by live fire” where apparently the soldiers shoot at anyone they can see moving near the red shirt zone.

The BBC reports that “protesters – many of them women – continued to clap and cheer speakers on [the red shirt] stage in the centre of their vast camp as a deadline passed.”

Officially it seems that there are now “36 dead, and some 250 injured.” After this, it is said that the “government says it will talk to the protesters as long as they show ‘sincerity’ by leaving their camp.” PPT would think that such an offer would be treated with disdain. The BBC says that “few of the 5,000 remaining protesters appeared to heed the call” from the government to leave. Yellow shirt commentators seem to think these are paid protesters and gunmen as they continue to cheer the demise of Seh Daeng.

A state of emergency is now declared for 22 provinces and it seems that unrest has spread. PPT has posted on Ubon, and the BBC reports “a military bus set afire in the northern city of Chiang Mai and demonstrations in two north-eastern towns in defiance of a government ban.”

Red shirt spokesman Sean Boonpracong is on the BBC as we write this, saying women and children are being taken out. He was followed by acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn, who made the remarkable claim that there were 35,000 to 40,000 still in the area. PPT assumes a Chinese-style failure on tens of thousands. [Update: now corrected on the BBC to 3500-4000]

Simon Roughneen at The Irrawaddy has a post-deadline report. He reports some protesters leaving. He cites CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd saying, “If the protesters will not end the situation, we will have to enter the encampment.” He cites Abhisit, who is said to be “more obdurate than his spokesman, saying ‘We will move forward. We cannot retreat now.’ He insisted the military operation to quell protests was the answer to ending the country’s two-month-long crisis, and seems to be staking his credibility on a crackdown. Speaking somewhat vaguely and quite ominously, he added that ‘Overall, I insist the best way to prevent losses is to stop the protest. The protest creates conditions for violence to occur. We do realize at the moment that the role of armed groups is increasing each day’.” Abhisit has been stubborn all along.








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