Notes on the news

20 02 2014

PPT is again having trouble keeping up with the flood of stories – bizarre and serious – that deserve attention at present. Here’s a brief set of notes:

Army hide-and-seek: Both Khaosod and Bangkok Post report on the military refusing/delaying handing over soldiers accused of involvement in organizing the assassination attempt on red shirt activist Kwanchai Praiphana. At Khaosod it is reported that the “military has not yet handed to the police four suspects…”. All are said to be from the 9th Infantry Division.

The Army had previously promised to deliver the suspects but this hasn’t happened. (Yes, it is the case that the military is treated differently from regular citizens in legal cases owing to their control of government for many years.) It seems the military are refusing to answer the phone. Worse, they are withholding evidence: “the 9th Infantry Division, … in Kanchanaburi Province, has also withheld two pick-up trucks thought to be used by the four suspects during their assassination attempt…”.

The Bangkok Post has it this way: “The army yesterday abruptly cancelled the handover to police of four soldiers allegedly involved…”. The Post says that the Army accuses the “police of allegedly breaking a handover condition and cited this as the reason for the cancellation.” Here’s the reason: “The suspects had travelled to Khon Kaen, along with the staff judge advocates and military court prosecutors, expecting to be handed over to police. Before they reached the police training centre they were informed that witnesses would be questioned while they were being interrogated, said Maj Gen Pairoj. This had not been part of the agreement, he said.”

Eventually, the suspects were delivered, and then released on bail….

Who us (Army)? No, couldn’t be. Then who?: At the Bangkok Post, a “top army officer [Maj Gen Varah Boonyasit, commander of the 1st Division (King’s Guard),] has denied speculation that troops shot at police during Tuesday’s clash between authorities and anti-government protesters.” Why would he need to do this? Because some on social media “questioned whether unidentified men who used deadly weapons during the melee were military officers.” For PPT, what we have heard is questions regarding the shooters – who are now pretty well-known and identified – is a question about whether they are serving or or were previously serving, soldiers. As Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha has previously said that these shooters appear to be well-trained and claimed he has no idea who they are, the social media question seems reasonable.Shooter 10

Meanwhile, the reprehensible Tharit Pengdit of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has also said that the shooters were “unidentified armed elements” with “high-explosive hand grenades, M79 grenades, high-velocity sniper rifles and handguns.  We doubt they are “unidentified given the photographs available of them.  We have more to say on Tharit below.

Courts again support anti-democrats: The Bangkok Post reports that the “Civil Court ruled yesterday the caretaker government has the authority to enforce the emergency decree, but issued a set of orders chiefly to prohibit dispersal of the anti-government protesters.” In essence, the court upheld the decree but rejected the measures needed to enforce it. Pondering the 2010 red shirt demonstrations, this action would have been unthinkable. So why the double standards? Simple: “It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC rally is peaceful and without weapons.” Right…. The guys with guns and grenades actually are “unarmed”….  And the court was frank about its decision: “The court said its order was to protect the protesters’ right to hold peaceful demonstrations, citing massive mobilisation of security forces into Bangkok to break up the protest.” Funny, we don’t recall that logic being applied in 2010? Or have we neglected the courts providing “protection” to red shirts? It matter not that this is legal horse manure, for the Constitutional Court has ruled!

Anti-election commissioner: At the Bangkok Post it is reported that Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who has led the EC’s charge against elections, stalling, fibbing, dragging feet etc. etc.,  says that by defending the government’s rice policy and trying to stem a political run on a state bank, “Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s televised address … risks breaking the law.” It is stated that a message posted on Somchai’s Facebook page – yes, it is okay for an election commissioner to post his views there it seems – where he said “the premier’s use of the media to woo voters conflicts with Section 60 of the organic law on elections and the EC’s announcement on the poll campaign. Ms Yingluck also promised to give farmers something, and this breaches Section 53 of the organic law on elections, he said. The premier, meanwhile, used state resources to seek votes, which goes against Section 181(4) of the constitution. She also failed to behave neutrally, which violates Section 57 of the organic law on the election.” It seems that in politics, Somchai is of the view that a caretaker government can do nothing at all, whereas the opposition is free to campaign as they please, including on the streets. More of those old blue double standards!

Meanwhile, Somchai is busy suing others for allegedly defaming him!

Abhisit VejjajivaAbhisit in la-la land: Also at the Bangkok Post, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has an op-ed and there is also a story about his call for a political path forward. He uses pretty political language to dress up his party as well-educated proponents of political compromise. The problem for PPT is that Abhisit seems to think that every one in the world interested in Thailand’s politics is either an anti-democrat or suffers memory loss.

Some seem to think it is a kind of breakthrough that Abhisit says “As the leader of the Democrat Party, I must share the blame for the failed politics…”. Of course he does. His party rejected elections after calling for them, trashed parliament, supported political extremists, engaged in serious hate speech and decided to lead street demonstrations because it can’t win an election. Abhisit has also destroyed the moderate wing of the Democrat Party and allowed it to be controlled by extremists. In addition, Abhisit was prepared to accept a military coup, make deals to grab the premier’s position and then participated in decisions that saw red shirt demonstrators shot down, more or less in cold blood. Yes, Abhisit has more than his fair share of blame for the current problems.

It is clear that he is in both denial and spin modes when he states: “We must all demand progress in bringing to account the perpetrators of over 30 incidents of violence against protesters and opposition leaders in the past few months.” The guy has to be given a negative credit for his complete rejection of his own violent responses to demonstrators and the failure to condemn violence by his own people; indeed, the Democrat Party’s own Blue Sky channel lauds the protester’s violence.

And the elitist Abhisit has also found farmers to be political tools when he finally manages to see them not as ignorant buffaloes but as tools for attacking his opponents.

Perhaps the least surprising element of his political diatribe is the call for “someone credible and accepted by all sides can lead the reform process and manage the short transition to new elections in which everyone participates. That someone is clearly not the current government, the protest leaders nor the Democrat Party…”. That call is the one emanating from the senior royalists and Abhisit must do what he is told.

Is it Dhamma or Army?: Chamlong Srimuang’s religious beliefs have long been soaked in politics and blood. From his time as a mercenary to 1976, 1992, and all the events since 2005, Chamlong has mobilized the so-called Dhamma Army, which nowadays appears to be bereft of dhamma and to act as a political gang. They were at the center of clashes with the police on Tuesday and they remain united under Chamlong as their commander. Other extremists populate the Dhamma Army contingent and encourage violence. As the Bangkok Post explains, “Police were attacked with grenades and gunfire but they also fired live rounds at protesters.”

And The Eel: We noted above that we’d get back to Tharit. This is reported in The Nation: “Tarit insisted that the police who carried out the operation were not armed.” As he did during the red shirt demonstrations when he was against them, he’s lying. It is clear from many reports, videos and photographs, police were armed with shotguns and automatic weapons. To claim otherwise is stupid. In another source, he states: “crowd control police were backed up by an armed unit, to protect them if they were in danger. However, the backup unit did not fire a shot on Tuesday, just displayed their weapons in a tactic to subdue the other side…”. Again, we think this is lunacy. The picture evidence is that police did fire shots. What is unclear is whether these were all live rounds or rubber bullets. With “allies” like this, enemies are almost unnecessary.





Notes on the bombings

20 01 2014

Like everyone else, PPT is deeply concerned about the spate of bombings and shootings in recent days. And, like those others, we don’t know much about the motives, intentions and culprits. So we thought some notes from the events might be of some use for readers.

On the first bombing, which left one dead and 38 injured, it was reported at the Bangkok Post that anti-democracy boss Suthep Thaugsuban stated that “he holds the caretaker government responsible for the grenade attack yesterday on demonstrators taking part in a march and vowed to once again escalate his anti-government protest.”

In the same report, police were said to have “raised questions about the incident in which protester guards blocked police and reporters entering the area near the attack scene where they claimed they found a weapons stockpile…. Police also queried the last-minute change in the protest route.” It is added that: “Military police led by Col Noppasit Sitthipongsopon, of the 1st Cavalry Infantry, inspected the scene with PDRC guards while police officers were booed and jeered by the protesters. Reporters were also prevented from entering the building.”

Later, at the Bangkok Post, it was reported: “Police are seeking two men, one believed to be an aide of a former Democrat MP, seen in a video clip of the grenade explosion that killed one protester and injured scores of others in the rally at Banthat Thong Road on Friday afternoon.”

Suthep not only held the government responsible in the way that Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha did, but went further:

“The blood that spilt on the street is piercing my heart. What it [the government] has done to the Thai people is cold-blooded. Let the pain remind us and give us strength to fight until we win,” Mr Suthep told protesters at the Lumpini stage.

He denied he had been behind the grenade attack himself…. “I am not that kind [of person]. I don’t kill my own supporters,” he said.

According to Mr Suthep, the incident showed that the prime minister was not stupid, but a “demon”.

Suthep made much of the discovery of an “assortment of weapons was found in a room in the building including rifles. Only television crews from Channel 5 and Channel 9 were later allowed to film the inspection inside, as well as BlueSky Channel…”. Meanwhile, “National police chief Adul Saengsinkaew said police were unable to provide security because of the change of route. He also said police were not allowed to enter the site where the weapons were found…. He asked the PDRC to allow police to investigate and promised to intensify security in the wake of the blast.”

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra “denied the PDRC’s accusation that the government was behind the attack.” She added: “I do not support any kind of violence and will take action against those who do…”.

On the weapons, Khaosod reports a police statement:

Pol.Gen. Worapong Chiewpreecha, deputy chief of the Royal Thai Police, also told reporters that he believes the weapons found by PCAD guards were in fact BB guns. He stressed that the police would investigate the matter and find the perpetrators as soon as possible, but lamented the fact that soldiers have entered the crime scene before the police.

Later in the day the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) announced that forensic police had already investigated the evidence reportedly found by PCAD guards, and concluded that the weapons were plastic BB guns, with their triggers removed, which could not fire live ammunition.

On strategy, Democrat Party stalwart and anti-democracy leader – yes, we know that sounds silly, but that is a fact – and Abhisit Vejjajiva ally, Sathit Wongnongtoey stated:

I must admit that peaceful movements limit our strategies. We think that the worst-case scenario is that Ms Yingluck refuses to resign and will wait for demonstrators to become tired. PDRC secretary-general Suthep [Thaugsuban] keeps encouraging demonstrators to fight until Ms Yingluck and other caretaker ministers resign and the Thaksin regime disappears from Thailand.

The game will end faster if government officials and soldiers side with the people. The game will end faster if the government deals violently with demonstrators. We know hardcore government supporters will launch violent attacks and black-clad men are carrying out their missions and enjoying support from some police officers.

Another attack, with gun fire, was reported:

Journalists reported hearing gunfire intermittently on the front line of the PDRC’s Chaeng Watthana protest site near Mongkutwattana General Hospital…. The attackers came in a group of 30 motorbikes and 12 minibuses. Most of them were dressed in black…. According to the journalists, PDRC guards prevented reporters and photographers from observing the situation at the front line, citing safety concerns…. The PDRC’s protest site on Chaeng Watthana Road has regularly been harassed at night by armed opponents.

BomberA second grenade attack too place on Sunday, at the Victory  Monument: “Two grenades thrown at victory monument protest site; at least 28 hurt, … including a number of anti-government protesters…”. This time, CCTV caught the image of the bomber.

The Bangkok Post predicts the bombings will “likely … push both sides further apart.” It cites Suthep:  “Following the Banthat Thong blast, PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban urged protesters in the South to lay siege to government offices starting on Monday.”

The official response is as follows:

THE GRENADE attack on the anti-government march last Friday was the work of an ill-intentioned group bent on stirring up trouble and pointing blame toward the government, chief of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday.

Surapong, who is also caretaker Deputy PM and Foreign Minister, said police could not gain access to the scene shortly after the attack because the PDRC leaders did not let them enter.

“There was an attempt to prevent police from getting inside to control the situation and collect evidence, which suggests that an ill-intentioned group wanted to create a situation whereby the government would be blamed [for the attack]. The attack was not aimed at protest leaders as [first] claimed,” he said.

Deputy Bangkok Police Chief Pol Maj-General Adul Narongsak said ini?tial investigations found that the area where the BB guns were found was far from the scene of the bomb blast. Shortly after the attack, PDRC guards refused to allow police entry to the scene, which hampered the investiga?tion. A number of military personnel were the first to be allowed access. Police were allowed entry later.

Adul said it was unlikely the grenade was thrown from a building nearby, as there were many obstacles in the way. And CCTV footage did not show any object being thrown into the area just before the blast occurred.

Adul said the footage showed a sus?pect in a white cap quickly take cover behind a telephone-exchange box just before the deadly explosion. After the blast, another man got out of a pick-up and ran straight to the man with the white cap. The two quickly collected some objects near the blast site with?out paying attention to the injured peo?ple. The footage, he said, had led police to believe that the suspects mingled with protesters before the blast.

“We can confirm that people responsible for the attack were among the protesters as the footage captured both their images and voices,” he said.





Abhisit at CNBC

19 01 2014

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is interviewed at CNBC. Watch the video at the CNBC site.

The short story associated with the video clip states that Abhisit “is trying to differentiate its positions from the demands of street demonstrations led by his one-time deputy [Suthep Thaugsuban], saying it isn’t seeking to suspend the country’s democracy.” Amongst other claims, Abhisit says: “We do not actually mind if we lose fair elections. And we’ve always accepted election results…”.

It’s a nice try and suggests that Abhisit thinks a pukka English accent can still fool some foreigners. abhisit and whistle

Readers might find this alternative view on the Democrat Party and elections more enlightening than Abhisit’s excited and disingenuous claims. Dr. Prajak Kongkirati, a political scientist from Thammasat University, observes:

If they were still playing within the democratic rules of the game, they would have to contest the election because to run in the polls is a prime duty of a political party. Political parties are different from interest groups and social movements. Political parties exist in order to propose platforms and policies to voters through elections. The Democrats [PPT: they mean Democrat Party] have not only failed in their basic duty as a political party but their supporters will also lose the opportunity to have them as their representatives. About 11-12 million people voted for the Democrat Party in the last election. Moreover, the Democrats will then not be able to perform their duty in the formal political system, which designates politicians to rise to power through elections. Moreover, their proposed reform does not contradict elections. The election is, in other words, a process for proposing a blueprint of reforms for the voters to choose. This is what other developed countries around the world do. There is no such thing as reform without elections.

Back to Abhisit. It is impossible for him to “differentiate” his Democrat Party from the street demonstrators. They are twinned, and always have been. His best mates are on the stage – think Sathit Wongnongtoey – and Abhisit himself and plenty of his party’s senior people have been at the demonstrations and have hustled for the demonstrators. The Democrat Party’s Blue Sky channel is the official broadcaster and provider of paraphernalia for the demonstrators.

We could go on, but it amounts to this: if Abhisit is seeking to “differentiate” then he is fabricating.

The last few moments of the interview are interesting for the total focus on Thaksin Shinawatra as “the problem” for Thailand. For Abhisit, it seems that eliminating Thaksin is the answer to all the contestation of the last decade. That seems to be the anti-democracy movement’s position too. The real problem is exactly what Abhisit denies: he and those clustering around the royalist elite have not accepted electoral politics.

 





Updated: Snippets from the news

17 01 2014

VOA: The World Bank estimates that in 2012, Bangkok accounted for 26 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product, but it received more than 70 percent of government spending.

Bangkok Post: “Wage inequality has been encouraged to support export-driven economic growth based on cheap labour…. In 2010, the poorest 10% of the population received about 2% of Thailand’s wage….

Vocativ: The government has already given in to many of the group’s demands. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose two terms have been marred by almost constant protest, has dissolved parliament and called for new elections in February.

Bangkok Pundit: Abhisit [Vejjajiva] does not think that the protestors can topple the government and that protest leaders will have to intensify their efforts, raising the chances of violence.

Khaosod: Blue Sky TV [of the so-called Democrat Party and official TV station to the anti-democracy movement] has announced a crackdown on sales of counterfeit whistles in anti-government rally sites. The satellite channel … said on a Facebook post that sales of unauthorised whistles would no longer be tolerated…. But Blue Sky has previously complained that many vendors in PCAD rally sites have copied the special design of whistles officially adopted by the channel, which come in shapes similar to a lightning, and stated that these actions amount to copyrights infringement. The channel also sells its own “premium” lightning-shaped whistles, costing up to 999 baht per piece.

The Nation: Three armed naval officers have allegedly been found working unlawfully as guards for hardline anti-government movement Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform (STR), police said yesterday.

military at PloenchitKhaosod: Although PCAD protest sites have been targeted by drive-by shootings and bomb attacks in the past, the gunfire attack at Chalermla Bridge last night is widely seen as one of the most high-profile incidents so far, as it took place in the downtown heart of Bangkok, and in extreme proximity to Sra Pathum Palace, the official residence of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn…. “Gen. Prayuth has ordered us to pay attention to the area surrounding Huan Chang Bridge,” Maj.Gen. Warah said, using the common name of Chalermla Bridge, “As it is very close to Sra Prathum Palace. He also asked us to reach understanding with the protesters that they must make way for royal convoy. The protesters understood that”.

Bangkok Post: Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is worried that an armed group might be behind sporadic attacks launched during the anti-government protests in Bangkok. Deputy army spokesman Winthai Suwaree said Gen Prayuth is worried about the security situation near rally sites.

The Nation: Despite the protests being small, “Since the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) launched its ‘Bangkok shutdown’ campaign on Monday, it has been spending more than Bt10 million daily to maintain its eight new rally sites – double the amount it was spending when the protest was confined to the Democracy Monument, PDRC spokesperson Akanat Promphan said…. PDRC core-leader Satit Wongnongtaey admitted that the cost of managing the protest had risen seven-fold since the “shutdown” campaign was launched, adding that the PDRC really needed donations and that it was not just a gimmick.

Update: The latest press release from the anti-democrats relates to the funding issue above:

PDRC spokesperson slams Chalerm Yubamrung for discrediting the public; thanks citizens for their goodwill and support

Akanat Promphan, spokesperson for the PDRC, rebuked caretaker Labor Minister Chalerm Yubamrung today for maliciously slandering innocent citizens donating cash and provisions to the PDRC. Chalerm’s accusations of public “redonations” of money from PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban to the public, then back to Suthep were groundless, said Akanat, as all monies were given wholeheartedly to support Ratchadamnoen and now Pathumwan kitchen. “Help comes in all forms and denominations. Is Chalerm really accusing the toddlers and schoolchildren handing us 5-and-10-baht coins of deceit?” he asked.

Spokesperson Akanat also highlighted the PDRC’s gratitude to the public for giving so much and so freely. “All of our operations are publicly and voluntarily funded by the goodwill of citizens who are determined to eradicate the Thaksin regime, unseat his proxy government, and undertake critical reforms before the next election. Any assistance by the PDRC to help the public achieve its objectives are also freely provided, such as food, medical attention, and security. The caretaker government is fully aware of this yet continues to attempt to discredit the PDRC and innocent protesters,” criticized Akanat. “Its efforts would be better spent on finding those responsible for violently attacking peaceful and law-abiding citizens. In particular, those responsible for the injuries and deaths at Ramkhamhaeng University, Thai-Japanese Youth Center/Din Daeng, and the anti-government protest sites are still at large.”

A couple of points: Is the anti-democrat movement really taking money from toddlers? More seriously, the claim that all operations are “publicly and voluntarily funded by the goodwill of citizens” seems to be negated by the report in The Nation above which suggests that Suthep Thaugsuban and others have been kicking in substantial funds. There’s plenty of other business funding to the movement, and this has been consistent since 2005.

Finally, Akanat showed an example of a recent attempt in social media to discredit the PDRC by forging pricing announcements for PDRC services (pictured in the attached image: a banner charging each vehicle 200 baht for PDRC security services near Chatuchuk/Lat Prao stage). He reiterated that the PDRC has always operated and will continue to operate free of charge for the public good.





With 12 updates: More on violence

1 12 2013

PPT suggests watching the up-to-date coverage at Siam Voices.

The Nation reports the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order as stating that “[t]wo were killed and 45 others injured in last night’s clashes at Ramkamhaeng University last night.”

The same newspaper also reports that red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan “claimed four red supporters and one Ramkhamhaeng student were killed in clashes at Ramkhamhaeng last night.” Apparently, “Jatuporn declared an end to the rally and asked red shirts to go home” in order to avoid further confrontations and violence.

The Bangkok Post reports a red shirt supporter shot in the head and dead:

Police said a group of red-shirt supporters and anti-government students clashed near the red-shirt rally site near Ramkhamhaeng University and gunshots were heard at about 2am.

Thanasit Viangkham, a 23-year-old soldier, was shot in the head and died instantly….

According to investigators, the anti-government students were jeering at the red-shirts, including Thanasit, as they were walking outside the stadium at night. The red-shirts then picked up wooden sticks and threw glass bottles at the students, who later fought back. One of the students then fired at the red-shirts. One of bullets hit and killed Thanasit, as the protesters quickly dispersed in different directions.

The anti-government opposition Twitter page is updating again, blaming all violence on Thaksin, red shirts and men in black. Some news channels have reported shooting from both sides into the early morning.

Update 1: Reliable reports have anti-government protesters storming ThaiPBS. It isn’t clear if this is an attack or a meeting of sympathizers. Meanwhile, The Nation reports that “Protest leader at Chamai Maruchat Bridge, next to Government House, told protesters to capture police officers…”.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post confirms the takeover of ThaiPBS:

A group of anti-government protesters have on Sunday morning taken control of Thai PBS telvision station, People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) spokesman Samran Rodphet said. Mr Samran said the protesters moved from the government complex on Chaeng Wattana Road to Thai PBS station on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road. They were led by Sakolthee Pattiyakul, one of the PDRC core members. The anti-government group told Thai PBS representatives to televise speeches made by PDRC co-leaders and programmes of Democrat Party-owned Blue Sky satellite TV channel. Thai PBS had also been told not to broadcast announcements made by the government and the Centre for Administration of Peace and Order (Capo).

Update 3: Police have used water cannon and 3-5 tear gas canisters against protesters. This appears to be the first police use of force after considerable provocation and with protesters fanning out over the capital and seeking to seize more buildings.

Update 4: Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha reportedly critical of police for using tear gas and “orders” them to cease. Has he now decided to come out in support of his boys in the Democrat Party?

Update 5: Al Jazeera report from near Government House:

Update 6: Not sure what to make of this snip from the anti-government Twitter feed. Students leaving the university, soldiers arrive, and then reported to be unarmed.

Soldiers involved

Update 7: The evacuation of Ramkhamhaeng has taken place, although it remains unclear to PPT what was preventing students leaving.The rector of Ramkahmhaeng, who seems not to be at the university campus, has been reported at The Nation as saying that he believes there are snipers shooting students and that the police did not rescue them. PPT hasn’t seen any confirmation of this, and the reports of death remain two, apparently shot with handguns.

Meanwhile, The Nation reports that:

Thairath Twitter reported that Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha urged the two sides of the conflict to reconcile, asking the police to stop using tear gas and the protesters to stop their movement. Thairath quoted Deputy Army spokesman Winthai Suwaree as announcing that Prayuth would like to plead both sides to stop what they were doing.  Winthai said Prayuth offered to find a way to allow both sides to hold a talk but they must stop first. According to the spokesman, Prayuth felt uneasy monitoring the situation inside the First Army Division.  “We, soldiers are sorry that we can do nothing. We don’t want to seek [PPT: see?] clashes between the people and police,” the spokesman quoted the Army chief as saying.

 This   seems to us a strange offer in the way it is reported. Prayuth might be doing a good thing, but as far as we can tell, it is the anti-government protesters attacking government buildings and police, and the authorities have been remarkably low-key in responding, even when the Prime Minister has to vacate her temporary office. The government response has not been anything like the hysterical rsponse to red shirts by the Democrat Party government in 2010, and troops have not opened fire on any demonstrators. In this sense, we get the distinct feeling that Prayuth is leaning to the protesters.

Update 8: Saksith at Siam Voices reports: “Protest leader Suthep to make announcement at 5pm, to be carried by most free-TV channels after mob pressure.” Also shows that ThaiPBS is showing the protesters’ Blue Sky Channel, controlled by the Democrat Party. Really quite amazing and difficult to imagine such a thing happening in many other places or under previous regimes in Thailand.

Update 9: Suthep spoke but didn’t say anything not heard previously. Have to say that even his audience seemed less than enthusiastic. Thaksin bad, Yingluck a puppet, government corrupt, need a real democracy with the king in revered worship, parliamentary system needs “strengthening” and a “people’s council” can do that. Thanks military and other people supporting him and his lot. Then, tomorrow is another strike day. Cheers.** Not quite sure why he needed to say the same things over again but is suggestive of limited ideas.

Yingluck* to address the nation at 7 PM.

*Maybe another minister?

**Forgot to mention Suthep’s demand that television stations only broadcast his news.

Update 10: Several ministers speak on television; no sign of Yingluck. That point was made clearly on ThaiPBS evening news. The ministers warn that people should stay indoors tonight. That can suggest a crackdown or it might just be a warning that protesters may again engage in violence under cover of darkness.

The biased reporters associations finally said something that was mildly critical of the remarkable confrontations with the major media agencies, forcing them to present particular news (via ThaiPBS news).*

We missed this Prachatai story on those killed last night. The anti-government protesters insist only their people have been injured and killed; they are lying.

*Perhaps we were too hard on the media organizations. We now read, including at The Nation, that the ThaiPBS account of the organisations’ statement was partial. In fact, they called for ThaiPBS to follow standard international practice and cease broadcasting when occupied.

Update 11:  The journalists’ associations stated that they “extremely disagreed with the action that could be considered as a threat to the media freedom, which contradicts democracy” and “asked for the PDRC to cease the action immediately.”

The journalists’ associations bodies confirmed “that the media must hold the rights and freedom in providing the information and opinions from every side according to the Constitution. Therefore, the editors and journalists in television stations must stand by the principle. In particular, ThaiPBS, which is a public media whose independence is guaranteed by the law, must insist and not allow any side to pressure or influence the news coverage. If it has to operate under pressure or influence, the international standard of going off-air should be pursued.”

Update 12: A reader quite rightly points out that the journalists’ association statement might have been more useful and carried more weight delivered prior to Suthep’s speech being broadcast under threat.





Violence

1 12 2013

Earlier we posted on sporadic violence associated with the anti-government rallies. In The Nation we later read this:

The numbers of anti- and pro-government demonstrators have “increased continuously” yesterday, according to CAPO deputy spokesman Maj-General Anuch Romayanand. He said police were deployed at Ramkhamhaeng University, which is adjacent to Rajamangala Stadium, where the red shirts were gathering in support of the government, in an attempt to prevent violence.

He claimed there had been attempts to create violence between both sides. Peace advocates urged both sides yesterday to avoid violence. Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University’s Research Centre for Peace Building, said that conflict should not lead to violence, as it could cause death.

Anti-government protesters increased their aggressive seizure of buildings associated with state activities, causing considerable inconvenience. With The Nation using the Democrat Party’s Blue Sky Channel as a source, and with lots of tweets from its reporters at the “Official twitter account of the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD),” violence near Ramkhamhaeng University was reported. The Nation’s report stated:

At least four people were injured in Ramkhamhaeng University yesterday evening after gunshots were heard. The drama was thought to be related to clashes earlier with red-shirts from the nearby Rajamongala Stadium….

… Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of protesters in an anti-red shirt rally harassed men near the university by blowing whistles at them. The red shirts are holding a rally to support the government at the stadium.

Some protesters beat on a taxi transporting red shirts with their fists and sticks and later some protesters threw rocks and beat a passing public bus.

A Bangkok Post photo

A Bangkok Post photo

A group of men also showed their opposition to the reds by setting a red T-shirt on fire, then stamping on it.

These incidents prompted RU rector Assoc Prof Wuttisak Larpcharoensap to order all the protesting RU students to go back into the university compound.

The rector said a number of men on motorcycles from the stadium had provoked the protesters earlier.

The Bangkok Post reported:

One person was confirmed killed as gunshots rang out Saturday night near Rajamangala Stadium where clashes between anti-government protesters and red-shirt supporters intensified on the eve of major protest marches.

Anti-government protesters earlier attacked a bus and a taxi carrying red-shirt supporters in separate incidents near the stadium on Saturday as fears of a confrontation grew.

A BBC photo

A BBC photo

The violence comes as weeks of opposition protests led by former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban near a climax with the planned seizures of Government House and more ministries on Sunday.

A Bangkok Post reporter heard gunshots and what sounded like an explosion near the university about 8pm.

Police later confirmed that one person had been killed and five people injured. A 29-year-old Cambodian worker and two university students were among those taken to hospital with gunshot wounds. The worker apparently was a bystander and was shot in the back by a stray bullet.

The Post report continued:

Thousands of red-shirt members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) streamed into the capital on Saturday for a pro-government rally. The crowd at Rajamangala Stadium was estimated at 70,000 in the evening.

As they made their way to the stadium, some protesters were confronted by anti-government students from nearby Ramkhamhaeng University, leading to violent incidents.

According to live reports on a local TV station, one red-shirt supporter was attacked shortly before 5pm when he revved his motorcycle in front of the students. He was slightly injured in the resulting brawl.

The students later surrounded a taxi carrying a man wearing a red-shirt and smashed its windows with sticks but the driver managed to get away.

The students then marched to the stadium before Uthai Yodmanee, one of the leaders of the Students’ Network, persuaded them to return to the campus.

He said anyone who went to the stadium would not be considered supporters of the anti-government movement.

Shooter

Shooter

The Twitter feed from the anti-government protest movement lit up. As would be expected, it pins the blame for violence on red shirts and the government. This feed, however, stopped posting about 4-5 hours ago. PPT isn’t sure why or whether we are just technological dunces. It has posted a photo of what it says is the shooter, which we reproduce noting that there is no associated statement of time or location of the video capture. We have yet to find the video that the picture comes from.

The red shirt blog has been quiet for several days.

A report at the BBC stated:

At least one person has been killed and three wounded by gunfire after clashes broke out between rival protesters in the Thai capital Bangkok.

People heading to a pro-government rally were attacked by students, and later shots were fired.

This BBC report also includes a video link to an interview with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, prior to the violence near Ramkhamhaeng.

An detailed AP report on the events is unclear on the victims of the shootings, but states this:

The shootings Saturday night occurred after scattered violence during the day involving government opponents attacking several people they believed were going to a rally at a stadium of “Red Shirt” government supporters.

While the main sites occupied by anti-government protesters remained peaceful, the violence broke out near a stadium where a crowd that appeared to number well over 50,000 Red Shirts rallied in support of the government.

Initially the government foes milled around and jeered the supporters. But then two people were grabbed, one from the back of a motorbike, and beaten. Two buses were attacked, their windows smashed as passengers cowered inside. One protester used an iron rod with a Thai flag wrapped around it to smash the driver’s side window of one bus.

A Bangkok Post photo

A Bangkok Post photo

The buses and one taxi appeared to have been targeted because they carried people wearing red shirts. Police claimed soon after that they had the situation under control.

But after dark, attacks continued on individual Red Shirts, and the crowds on both sides grew. Many of the attackers were thought to be students from nearby Ramkhamhaeng University.

Prachatai reports that “[t]here are no reports if these victims were anti-government or pro-goverment protesters,” and adds that there is increasing tension following the shootings:

Tension near the pro-government Red shirt rally on Ramkhamhaeng road has escalated after one was killed and at least three were injured in hours-long confrontation between red-shirt supporters and anti-government protesters.
The incident in the evening followed earlier clashes between the anti-government student groups from Ramkhamhaeng University and the red shirts who have been holding pro-government rally at the Ratchamangkla stadium, next door of the university, in the past week.
The police have shut off Ramkhamhaeng Rd to control the situation, but gunshots and fireworks were heard continuously from the other side of the stadium.
Speaking on the stage, the red shirt leaders condemned the attacks saying that this was organized by leaders of the anti-government protest, and call both sides to resort to peaceful means.
About 70,000 red shirts joined the protest inside Ratchamangkla stadium on Saturday, while hundreds of both groups have been in confrontation all evening and night.




With 3 updates: The violence begins

25 11 2013

With Suthep Thaugsuban urging protesters to occupy various sites, including the Ministry of Finance, The Nation reports that German photojournalist Nick Nostitz, a accredited journalist who has written two red vs. yellow books and numerous other photo essay, was attacked and punched at an anti-government rally.

Nick Nostitz

Nick Nostitz

This attack might be written off as a rogue attack except that he was apparently identified as a “red shirt” at a rally by a speaker on stage. This identification seems to have triggered the violent attack.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand expressed concern that the incident was also featured on Democrat Party-sponsored “Blue Sky TV, and Internet comments continued to target the journalist.”

Update 1: A reader sent us the link to Blue Sky Channels Facebook page where Nostitz is targeted with racist and violent comments, apparently before the physical attack on him. We insert two screen captures below, following Update 3, and there are plenty more nasty comments, egged on by the Democrat Party channel.

Update 2: Asia Sentinel’s correspondent has also noticed the violent turn in the demonstrations. Much in this report matches things PPT has posted on. This comment is worth repeating:

… Thailand’s opposition Democratic Party, having tasted some success in gaining public support to kill the much-despised blanket amnesty that would have allowed fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return from his years of exile, are turning to the violent tactics of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the ill-famed Yellow Shirts, who brought the country to a standstill in 2007 and 2008.

Update 3: Prachatai has more on the attack on Nostitz and there is some brief video available as well, grabbed from Blue Sky Channel. It reports that “Jumpol Chumsai, a Democrat MP and protest leader,  identified him as ‘red shirt journalist’ through loudspeaker.” The yellow shirts are unapologetic: “… After the incident, Suthin Wannaboworn, former journalist and supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, or the yellow shirt, said in an interview on pro-Democrat Bluesky channel that he believed that Nostitz was a journalist who was ‘organized’ by the red shirts.” Most of the crazed royalists, who are unable to distinguish between propaganda and journalism accuse Nostitz of being in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Nostitz attacksNostitz attacks 2