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.




Anti-government name change / violence

30 11 2013

The Civil Movement for Democracy has re-named itself the People’s Democratic Reform Committee and released another statement:

PDRC Statement Number: 1

Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) Statement 4

Issued: 30 NOV 2013

Statement for Immediate Release

People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC)

Rejecting the divisive, color-coded politics of recent years, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) was set up comprising of leaders from various organizations participating in the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD), a broad-based people’s movement committed to rooting out Thaksin’s regime and to build and inclusive Thai society based upon sustainable democratic principles.

At present, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) encompasses organizational and citizen’s involvement which includes the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation, officially representing 45 State Enterprises nation-wide, The Business Club for Democracy, a coalition of business leaders advocating good governance, leading academics such as former President of the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA), 5 former Ministers and senior bureaucrats as well as well-known civil society leaders and activists.

Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, as Secretary-General of PDRC, said in his announcement stressing not PDRC’s strict adherence to the use of non-violence. The symbolic peaceful sit-in’s, protesting the constitutional violations, corruption and abuse of power of the Yingluck government is gaining wide-spread support across regions, with state employees waving national flags and cheering upon arrival of the civil participants.

This followed the mass rally last week, in which more than a million Thais from all walks of life joined, showing they no longer trust a government which puts the interests of serving the Thaksin regime before the public’s interest.

PDRC today announced plans for more sit-in’s at other government buildings tomorrow from 10 AM onwards to encourage civil servants to join the peaceful demonstrations.

Mr. Akanat Promphan PDRC Spokesman condemned the government’s mobilization of the Red Shirts which resulted in today’s clashes with a student rally at Ramkhamhaeng University, with at least one student shot and several injured, as a clear sign of the government’s intention to induce violence indiscriminately against its citizens.

Note the last paragraph attributing violence to the government and identifying a student as having been shot. One person was reportedly shot and 5 injured, although other reports are of 11 injured. Most reports, as will be examined in a further post by PPT, have Ramkhamhaeng University students and other anti-government protesters engaging in considerable violence against people identified as red shirts. This follows sporadic attacks on people identified as red shirts in recent days.

PPT was bemused that this group should choose to attack and condemn red shirts rallying – and they have mostly been more or less enclosed in a stadium – when this lot are themselves running on the mobilization of their supporters as they fan out across the city and engage in acts that are meant to sabotage and inhibit state agencies and state-related enterprises.





Further updated: Occupations and Korn

27 11 2013

We suggest watching Saksith’s Twitter (https://twitter.com/Saksith) account for a blow-by-blow description of fast unfolding events in the anti-government protests including the seizure of government buildings and provincial halls.

+++++

At the Bangkok Post, Suthep Thaugsuban has decided to go for broke and is painting himself as a martyr-in-waiting and hinted at violence to protect him:

Suthep insisted … he would not flee [and arrest warrant] as he said he respected the justice system but would not turn himself in to police until the so-called “Thaksin regime” is uprooted from the country….

He said if his supporters did not want him to be arrested, they should come to Bangkok to join the protests.

“These could be my last words to you. I don’t know what will become of me.”

… Suthep [again] urged all anti-government demonstrators across the country to take over the fight by laying siege to all government offices.

“I’m asking Bangkok people to do like I did at the Finance Ministry at all remaining ministries and for people in the provinces to do it at provincial halls and tell officials not to serve the Thaksin regime anymore,” he said.

“We have to do it simultaneously tomorrow [today], otherwise we will have no chance of victory.”

Provincial halls are now being seized in several places in the south where the Democrat Party is strong, and also at Saraburi.

In Bangkok, more government buildings are being seized. These attacks are being led by some southern stalwarts but also by PAD leaders such as Preecha Iamsuphan and Somkiat Pongpaibul, who have “moved to surround the Interior Ministry where the situation was the most tense. They demanded that all civil servants exit the building.” They cut off power to the complex.

Update 1: The old crew from PAD are getting this anti-government protest motivated. Along with the southerners arriving in fairly large numbers and the Dhamma Army providing the basis of the moveable demonstrations and some of the occupations, some of PAD’s celebrity supporters are being seen. Mad monarchist Tul Sitthisomwong has been with the crowds at Silom. Tul

The Bangkok Post has a reported that former Finance Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva’s school chum and current deputy leader of the Democrat Party Korn Chatikavanij has been at some of the rallies and is showing support for his former colleague and the Party’s big boss, Suthep. Korn has also commented on his Facebook page that he supports Suthep’s campaign to overthrow the “Thaksin regime.”

A Bangkok Post photo

A Bangkok Post photo

Apparently, like Suthep, Korn craves a  “people’s government” which would consist of a “dream team” of administrators. This team would “temporarily take the helm of the country’s administration…”. It all sounds very last century, harking back to the military junta’s appointment of royalist Anand Panyarachun in 1991. One of the complaints from the yellow lot in 2006 was that the then junta appointed a bunch of has-beens to a “dream team” that was unable to root out the “Thaksin regime.”

Korn reveals that:

“Khun Abhisit (Vejjajiva) and all of us also would not take any positions (in the people’s government). I, for one, would like to make it clear I will also not take any position. I would take an administrative post only after being elected,” Mr Korn wrote on his Facebook.

 But, as in 2006, the Democrat Party then expects to take over from the “dream team” and run the country without having to worry about free and fair elections.

There’s just one small problem: “Korn said he did not quite understand what the ‘people’s government’ would really be like.” Really? No one seems to know! Perhaps they can just make it up after the chaos.

Update 2: The newly-established media division of the street protesters now calling themselves the Civil Movement for Democracy, has released its third statement (see the earlier two here). The third statement repeats six points that Korn posted at Facebook (and which we skipped above) suggesting that Korn and his team are working directly with the CMS. That said, there are some divergences in the preamble. It states:

CMD Statement Number: 3

Issued: 27 NOV 2013

Statement for Immediate Release

Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD)

Rejecting the divisive, color-coded politics of recent years, the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) is a broad-based people’s movement committed to rooting out Thaksin’s regime and to building an inclusive Thai society based upon sustainable democratic principles.

The Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) is committed to establishing a People’s Assembly which would work in tandem with the current legislative structure, the Assembly would move to address structural flaws which are impeding the development of our country. The CMD considers institutional corruption as the main threat to the country and will implement structural changes to address this, such as:

1. Creation of an election system whereby vote buying would be more difficult – such as making electoral constituencies bigger.

2. Effectively counter corruption within the country – such as doing away with statutes of limitation for corruption charges.

3. Providing the public with more governing authority – such as giving the public more tangible powers to impeach flawed politicians and through increased decentralization by changing the gubernatorial system so that governors are directly elected rather than appointed by the Inter Minister (currently only the Governor of Bangkok is directly elected).

4. Reforming the police force – such as making the police more representative of the public’s needs by having the police in each province come under the jurisdiction of an elected Governors.

5. Reforming the bureaucracy so that it responds to the needs of the public rather the interests of politicians – such as making it more difficult for politicians to arbitrarily transfer bureaucrats (with measures such as those that currently ensure the impartiality of the Governor of the Bank of Thailand.)

6. Foster a free market economy that would prevent monopolies, collusion and market distorting policies such as the Rice mortgage scheme. Create a National Agenda to address issues such as Education, Health Care and Infrastructure deficiencies.

 The most interesting part of this statement is the claim that the now capitalized People’s Assembly will work with the existing parliament – the one Suthep has rejected. That seems to run counter to the earlier claim by Korn that a “dream team.” But then, if the “Thaksin regime” is toppled and the 300+ parliamentarians sent packing for voting on the amnesty bill, then there’s be on members of the Democrat Party left in parliament. Confused? So are we.

Much of the rest of the statement is stuff that’s been around on all sides of politics for some time – electing governors. cleaning up the cops, reforming the bureaucracy, decentralization – and you’d guess that the Democrat Party, when in government in the past, would have addressed these items. They didn’t so we are left wondering why they’d so it now.

Reforming the electoral system we take to mean another attempt by the Democrat Party and its backers to ensure that the party can get elected. In fact, prior to the last election in 2011, the Democrat Party tried some of this, but they were still beaten in a landslide. So “electoral reform” can only mean wholesale changes that are unrepresentative and anti-democratic; essentially, fixing the system.

The final shibboleth on the free market means little. In fact it might scare some supporters for the backers of the PAD and the Democrat Party favor oligopolies and sweetheart business deals for making their billions.

It seems they are a confused and confusing lot. We do know they hate Thaksin and love the king.

 





Media and bias

27 11 2013

Remarkably, the current anti-government protesters have not had to consider dealing with the foreign media, being content with the mainstream Thai media being largely in their camp and making their positions clear and even justifying their illegal actions as “legal protest.” Following the attack on German journalist Nick Nostitz, condemned by, amongst other, Human Rights Watch, however, the angry lot has decided that they need to make statements to the media.

On 26 November, they sent out two statements. The two are so sadly contradictory that they are revealing of a lack of media savvy, a patronizing view of the foreign media, and the politics of hatred. The first announcement, looking a bit like Announcement 1 by the CNS on the day of the September 2006 coup, is below, with PPT emphasis added:

CMD Statement Number: 1Anti-gov

Issued: 26 NOV 2013

Statement for Immediate Release

Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD)

Rejecting the divisive, color-coded politics of recent years, the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD) is a broad-based people’s movement committed to rooting out Thaksin’s regime and to building an inclusive Thai society based upon sustainable democratic principles.

This broad-based peoples’ movement was triggered by the government, with Thaksin’s younger sister as the puppet Prime Minister, passage through the Parliament of an Amnesty Bill which sought to give a blanket amnesty covering the last 10 years, including not only political and violent activities but also some 20,000 on-going and indicted corruption cases, involving Thaksin and many of his cronies. It was this outrageous attempt to pardon widespread corruption, rammed through parliament at 4am in the morning that has so incensed a broad spectrum of Thai people. The amnesty bill ignited a smoldering discontent that has been building over many years characterized by the worst levels of corruption in modern memory with no regard of check and balance.

By denouncing the constitution court’s verdict, the ruling Pheu Thai Party has in effect violated the Thai constitution, which in principle binds all democratic institutions. For this reason, on the 24th November the largest mass political gathering in modern Thai history took place. It was noted that this mass demonstration attracted people from all segments of society. Subsequently, the peaceful sit-in staged at the Ministry of Finance on the 25th November was organized as part of the CMD’s non-violent movement.

Today, the CMD calls on the government to take responsibility for their actions. We urge for comprehensive reforms to restore the values of true democracy in Thailand. We call on the government to respect and abide the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Most importantly, we will strictly adhere to the principles of non-violence in all of our actions.

We are staggered by some of these claims, more so by the apparent contradiction of several of them in the second announcement, reproduced below with emphasis by PPT:

CMD Statement Number: 2

Issued: 26 Nov 2013 (Time)

CMD leadership regrets incident involving German reporter

Bangkok, 26 November, 2013 – The leadership of the Civil Movement for Democracy (CMD), the broad-based peoples’ movement now pushing for the dismantling of the Thaksin Shinawatra controlled-government, today issued a statement regretting an incident involving a German reporter which took place yesterday at approximately 1:15pm (Monday, 25 November) outside the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Speaking on behalf of the CMD’s collective leadership, spokesman Mr. Akanat Promphan said the CMD leadership regretted the incident involving German freelance photo-journalist, Mr. Nick Nostitz, who said he was punched by angry anti-government protesters. “In spite of the fact that the protesters recognized Mr. Nostitz as a well-known government supporter who has long since abandoned the principle of objectivity required by journalists, this was no excuse for the use of any level of violence and we apologise to Mr. Nostitz unreservedly,” said Mr. Akanat.

“We wish to emphasise we are attempting to maintain the principle of non-violence at all times and will do our best to make sure members of the media and outside observers from non-governmental organizations are able to perform their duties safely and without restriction at all times,” added Mr. Akanat.

Mentioning inaccurate descriptions of events issued by the Government’s public relations machine, Mr. Akanat said the protesters’ entry into the Finance Ministry’s compound yesterday morning did not involve the use of force or the damage of any government property, contrary to the Government’s claim.

Reading the two Announcements is an odd experience. We have rejected color-coded politics, they say, in No. 1. Then, in No. 2, they attack Nostitz as a “government supporter,” which matched the identification of Nostitz as a red shirt journalist. Announcement No. 2 is said to be an apology to Nostitz but is actually an attack on him, questioning his professional ethics.

Announcement No. 1 states that the protesters want “an inclusive Thai society based upon sustainable democratic principles.” Unfortunately, they provide no account of what this might be or why they reject the current constitution (which favors them) and the idea of electoral representation as it currently exists. There attention is to corruption, which is not a function of any particular form of government, and the “many years” seems odd when this government has barely completed two years. In fact, the mention of corruption is part of the mantra that only elected politicians are corrupt, which is a complete nonsense for Thailand. Jumping on another track, the announcement then claims that the reason for the demonstration is that the Puea Thai Party has (verbally) rejected the Constitutional Court’s recent judgement.

We are left to conclude that the reason for the demonstration has to do with the politics of hatred rather than any particular principle or philosophy.

Finally, No. 1 “calls on the government to take responsibility for their actions. We urge for comprehensive reforms to restore the values of true democracy in Thailand.” What does this mean? The leadership of the protesters has already stated that it will only be satisfied with the overthrow of the government and the rooting out of the so-called Thaksin regime. Given that pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2000, the protesters need to say what their demands really are.