Mad, bad and out-of-control

22 11 2019

Strategy Page has an article on what it calls a civil war:

The civil war between the military/royalist coalition and democrats continues. The struggle has not escalated to violence yet, but it is getting more intense.

It notes that the military, the military-backed government and their royalist supporters are:

… fighting against the possibility of the pro-democracy parties eventually gaining enough allies in parliament to take power and reverse some of the damage the military government has done in the last five years.

In part, this explains the effort to smash Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his Future Forward Party.

Self-crowned

On King Vajiralongkorn, the article concentrates on the knowns, underpinned by the unknowns. It begins with purges, saying the king is:

conducting a purge of the palace staff along with a “loyalty training” program for thousands of officials serving the monarchy in one way or another. During October the king fired at least a dozen palace officials for misconduct. No details were provided. Also dismissed and stripped of all official honors was his recently appointed royal concubine. All this palace intrigue appears to have something to do with the king’s fourth wife, who is the queen and does not want to become an ex-wife like her three predecessors. In Thailand, discussing such palace activity publically is illegal. Nevertheless, the gossip describes a very “truth is stranger than fiction” situation.

What’s missing from the article is the way the king is accumulating power, changing laws, taking over military regiments, grasping vast swathes of state property in Bangkok and making himself wealthier. A powerful but erratic king is a threat to Thailand’s politics.





Ultra-royalist fingerpointing

24 11 2016

A couple of days ago we mentioned “motivational speaker” Orapim Raksapol, hired by the junta earlier in the year to speak for the monarchy in the northeast.

Essentially she declared northeasterners less “loyal” to the monarchy than the junta’s anti-democrat constituency based mainly in Bangkok’s condos, townhouses and shophouses. She reckoned the northeasterners lacked sufficient “gratitude” to the monarchy’s supposedly good works in the region.

We also noted that the anti-democrats trust the northeasterners and many have racist responses when confronted by people from the region and their politics.

Khaosod has more details. But while its story concentrates on the use and power of social media, we thought there were a few other things to highlight.

One is Orapim’s “loyalty” that involves a remarkably hopeless knowledge of the monarchy that she claims to “love.”

She “implored” northeasterners “to remember the works … the King Bhumibol had done for their region.” She stated: “Isaan people, the King visits you so often, he helps you so much. The king loves you…. But isn’t it strange, that you forget the King? It is strange.”

Armed kingWhat’s strange is that Orapim thinks the king, essentially bedridden since 2006, thinks the king has been visiting the northeast. While we don’t keep a diary of these things, it must be a couple of decades since the king went to the region. We can’t think of the last time the palace in the northeast was used by the king or queen. If she means an earlier era, then she’s talking about the period of counterinsurgency, which was hardly filled with love.

She continued, expressing a bunch of yellow shirt stereotypes and ultra-royalist fairy tales:

There was no water – he gave it. There was no forest – he grew it. Millions of trees…. Pardon me. Isaan people had no jobs, the land was arid. It was all due to the King. He gave you water. He gave you forests. He gave you jobs.

We don’t quite know what to say. This is simply buffalo manure. Yet we imagine that this is what yellow shirts have chosen to believe. It is a story that warms their hearts and allows them to write off the  darker skinned northeasterners as ignorant, gauche and ungrateful for the ruling class’s charity.

The second point to note is the deeply-felt conviction among ultra-royalists and yellow shirts, along with those in Bangkok’s condos, townhouses and shophouses, that northeasterners are hopelessly radical and republican.

Yellow shirts have defended Orapim, agreeing with her claims. They say that “anti-monarchists are the ones who are creating conflict.” Yellow shirt activist Therdsak Jiamkijwattana supported Orapim as simply speaking the truth: “These people are connected to a movement to overthrow the monarchy…. The people who violate lese majeste law, they are all Redshirts!”

The civil war continues to simmer and the ultra-royalists keep the monarchy at its dangerous center.





Thongchai: Thailand needs an election

18 05 2014

Professor Thongchai Winichakul writes for Al Jazeera on Thailand’s ongoing crisis and the crying need for an election as the path out and forward:

On May 7, the Constitutional Court removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and a number of her Cabinet ministers from office. This judicial coup was followed by a decision from the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which indicted Yingluck for dereliction of duty in handling a controversial rice-subsidy program. Despite their judicial semblance, both rulings were carried out without any due process of law. They call into question the credibility and impartiality of Thailand’s judicial system in the eyes of the majority of the Thai public.

… The royalists’ relentless scheme to usurp power by undermining the rule of law now threatens to degenerate into civil war.

… Thailand’s onetime budding electoral democracy is now increasingly besieged. A would-be royalist government might attempt to overrule the dissenting public using a combination of force, fear and coercion.

… The royalist conservatives, who are behind the anti-democracy protests, have lost every election since 2000. They are declining in popularity and political legitimacy. However, they continue to dominate the judiciary, the military, the state bureaucracy and universities.

The Senate … is a bastion of the royalist elite. Half of its members are unelected but selected by the judiciary and appointed by the king….

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

[T]he PDRC and Election Commission continue to obstruct the process in order to delay the vote. Meanwhile, as tensions between the two sides mount, the situation threatens to spiral out of control.

The royalists’ reliance on the military or fear of the draconian lese majesty law … will likely backfire…. Resentment with the royalists and the monarchy has evidently increased on social media, and the number of charges under the lese majesty law spiked in the past few years. The royalists hope the appointment of an unelected prime minister by the king would quell possible unrest. But doing so would validate a widespread belief that the palace was in fact behind the ongoing scheme all along. This puts the future of the monarchy in jeopardy. Since the late 1970s, the king’s charisma has been the linchpin of stability in Thailand. But overreach by the royalists has brought the monarchy’s legitimacy into question. Not long ago, it was unimaginable to even ponder the demise of Thailand’s monarchy. If it comes to an end, the royalist conservatives will only have themselves to blame.

A free, fair and democratic election is the only way out of the current turmoil.

Hard-hitting but full of truths that the royalists fear, ignore and obscure.





“Moral people” or democracy

18 03 2014

Charles Keyes is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington and the author of the brand new book Finding Their Voice: Northeastern Villagers and the Thai State. He has an op-ed at Aljazeera America that will have quite a few arguing that this old hand and respected academic has somehow “sold out” to the “dark side.”

In fact, Keyes has recognized that Thailand has undergone great changes and is alerting others to this fact and its political meanings.

Keyes begins with a simple point: “For nearly a decade there have been large-scale protests, primarily in the capital, Bangkok, with supporters of royalist elites confronting those who favor representative democracy.” The most recent street politics are explained as having very high stakes: “whether Thailand can remain a democracy and, if so, what kind of democracy.”

On anti-democracy leader Suthep Thaugsuban and his movement: “Despite constant references to democracy, Suthep and his followers are far from seeking democratic reforms.” As most observers know, “Suthep and his … PDRC are insisting on Yingluck [Shinawatra]’s withdrawal from politics and for her democratically elected government to be replaced by a royally appointed committee…”.

The professor says the anti-democrats want “rule by moral people — appointed by the king.” As he points out, this is in opposition to all recent elections, and is justified by what PPT would see as a nasty racism:

The Democrat Party and its middle-class and royalist backers dismiss Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party supporters as ignorant peasants whose votes were bought primarily through populist government programs.

Having spent five decades studying Thailand and the Northeast, he dismisses this perspective:

In contrast, villagers in the north and northeastern parts of the country — Pheu Thai’s stronghold — are committed to democracy and believe they should have an equal say in determining Thailand’s political order.

Of course, they should have an equal say. However, PPT points out that this is anathema for the anti-democrats because they also reject notions of equality.

Keyes points out that economic change, education and migration for work means former peasant households have “become cosmopolitan villagers, with a sophisticated understanding of the larger world.” In other countries they are farmers, often with political clout, but not in Thailand.

The change came with what PPT has designated the “Thaksin revolution.”

The result, as Keyes explains is:

Unfortunately for these constituents, Thaksin and his family, including Yingluck, have generated widespread disapproval, even hatred, from the old royalist and bureaucratic elite, the middle class and many nongovernmental organizations.

Much of the chronology that Keyes explains will be known to PPT readers. He does, however, comment on the current political crisis: “The current stalemate threatens to degenerate into tit-for-tat violence, if not civil war.” He thinks the “country’s future hinges on the manifestation of … differences in electoral democracy, not confrontations on the streets.”

The silence on the monarchy is deafening. Yet that silence by this old hand is doing away with the manufactured notion that the “revered monarchy” has a role in solving the current crisis in contemporary Thailand. Of course, the palace, its hangers-on and the hierarchical lot in the military will disagree, but it is the people that matter.





Glee over anarchy

3 01 2014

PPT almost never cites The Nation’s ASTV-like op-ed writer Thanong Khanthong, except when the point is to illustrate the extreme anti-democratic position. Reluctantly, we do it again, as his most recent gleeful scribbling tells the story of the next couple of weeks.

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the people’s uprising [PPT: sic. he means the umpteenth attempt to throw out an elected government], has set January 13 as the day for a Bangkok shutdown. The momentum is in his favour. [PPT: just this once, we agree with him]

… Supporters from other provinces have been arriving in the capital since before New Year, joining Bangkokians in preparing for the shutdown. Whistles will be blown by the millions as the capital is shut down to force the removal of Yingluck. [PPT: notice the words used refer to a “removal”] We are about to witness a classic people’s revolution against a government that has lost all moral and political legitimacy. [PPT: it remains unclear how this is a “people’s movement” when the consensus is that the majority would still vote for Yingluck, if given a chance]

To stage a people’s revolution without ripping up the Constitution, the number of people on the streets does matter. [PPT: of course, the movement is entirely about another illegal and amoral removal of a popularly-elected government] And Suthep has millions from various walks of life behind him. An unprecedented number of more than a million anti-government protesters showed up on November 24. [PPT: recall that this movement denigrates numbers when they are associated with landslide election victories] But the record was broken again on December 9 – the day Yingluck Shinawatra caved in by declaring a House dissolution. [PPT: compromise is capitualtion in the eyes of the anti-democrats] The people [PPT: propgandists always claim to speak for “the people”] now want back the rights and power they had temporarily given to the government. They do not need a military coup. Unarmed and peaceful, they can reclaim sovereignty over the country from a tyrant government that has proved to be working against the interests of the people. The learning curve will be tough. But democracy will have to be earned the hard way. If the people want to change the country, they have to take action rather than praying for a miracle. [PPT: oddly, he is pessimistic about the military (or monarchy) stepping in. PPT reckons an intervention – military, judicial or palace – is increasingly likely, especially as the military brass is opposing an emergency decree; this is not that different to its failure to respond to airport occupations in 2008]

… If the Yingluck government were to be toppled, it would not only wipe out the political and business interests of the Shinawatras but would also upset the geopolitical interests of the US. [PPT: this indicates how the leadership of the anti-democracy movement and its propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists] It is an open secret that the US has already “handcuffed” the Thai government into allowing it to revive the U-tapao military base. Thailand is an important Asian ally in Washington’s campaign to contain China. Oil deals in the Gulf of Thailand are also on the table, not to mention security arrangements in the South China Sea, and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade area. That is why the US has openly intervened in Thai affairs by calling on the people to honour the February 2 election. The international media have also been parroting this line of pseudo-democracy, which would extend the tenure of the corrupt Shinawatra regime. [PPT: this again indicates how anti-democracy propagandists have been swayed by the rants of extremists]

[PPT: Thanong then sets out the scenario for the protesters] … Bangkok will be shut down for several days. Suthep has hinted that 10 or 20 days of uprising could finish off the caretaker government. This would pave the way to ending the Thaksin regime once and for all. The people plan to fall back on Article 3 of the Constitution to declare they have taken sovereign power back from Yingluck. There are strong legal and constitutional grounds for doing so: the Yingluck government lost its morality and legitimacy by introducing an amnesty bill to whitewash corruption and those with charged with serious criminal acts. [PPT: he refers to a bill that was defeated before it became law] It also attempted to amend the Constitution to consolidate its power over the Senate. [PPT: amending the constitution is entirely legal and aimed at implementing a long-held election promise to make the senate more democratic, as it was before the 2006 military-palace coup] When the Constitutional Court ruled against that amendment, the Yingluck government and members of the ruling party publicly declared they would not accept the ruling. This blatant challenge to judicial power rendered the government obsolete. [PPT: as far as we are aware, disagreeing with a court decision is not yet grounds for dissolving a government]

After the people invoke their sovereign power as per Article 3 of the Constitution, they will resort to the extraordinary measures afforded by Article 7 to seek royal endorsement for the appointment of an interim prime minister and government. [PPT: neither article of the constitution is considered appropriate for the current situation. However, we have no doubt that, should the anti-democracy lot get hold of government, no law will constrain them] A people’s council will then be formed to lay down foundations for comprehensive reform to end corruption and set Thailand back on the path of genuine democracy. [PPT: he means that the rules of politics will (again) be changed to allow the minority supporting the anti-democracy movement to retain power] This is how events will play out in the coming weeks. Nobody knows the outcome, but the scene could turn ugly. The certainty is that Yingluck and her supporters will not relinquish power easily. [PPT: in fact, the Yingluck government has made several compromises; it is the anti-democracy movement and its Democrat Party that have refused to compromise or accept the results of elections]

Contrast Thanong’s views with those of an entirely less gleeful editorial at the Jakarta Post:

Thailand is sliding into anarchy, which from experience has meant intervention.

Following a spell of military rule, elections will be called or, more likely, forced on the caretakers. A government could also be appointed via some constitutional artifice.

What follows has not varied much – dissatisfaction over blatant or exaggerated misrule brings the establishment class and the masses into open conflict again, to be resolved temporarily by applying a variation of the old formula. The polarisation in the stand-off between the Puea Thai government and the Democrat Party-inspired insurrection shows that the country is more divided than ever – but mind the attendant dangers.

Will Thailand ever get off the wearying cycle of self-flagellation? Its Asean partners admire the Thai insouciance and the nation’s immense gifts, but are dismayed the country is being torn apart by feudal notions of class distinction, demonstrated in an inability to acknowledge the existence and interests of the other.

The worry is that a Thailand that continues on this course would destroy itself, with Asean the loser. If the election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not produce an outcome that is accepted by all Thais, are there alternatives?

Indefinite military rule is anathema to most Thais as it is unnatural, unwanted, and its past record has not been exemplary. A grand coalition, or a government of national unity, is an idea that could be explored, however far-fetched it may sound.

But Thailand’s party political tradition is not strong, and it lacks enough leaders of vision and unquestioned devotion to the idea of equal opportunity. As for rule by the unelected, it could never hold for lack of majority consent.

Would a return to an absolute monarchy be acceptable, as the royal house commands respect while past civilian and military choices have mostly been disappointing? But after the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej is over, how the Thais would regard such a scenario is unknown.

There is another unspeakable, remote possibility – civil war that could lead to a break-up of the kingdom. The present deadlock is different in that there is little room for compromise.

The elites insist on a right to rule, whichever form it takes. The pro-government red shirts, who have felt patronised and put upon, have spoken the first murmurs about secession if a re-elected Puea Thai party were cast aside, or an unelected claque [PPT: clique] were foisted on them. If the election is disrupted or put off, or results that favour the incumbents are voided, Thailand will have entered a fateful phase.





Royalist racist Vasit at it again

22 12 2011

Prachatai has a revealing article that confirms the old royalist police general Vasit Dejkunjorn remains a right-wing racist. In the past, Vasit has opposed Thaksin Shinawatra, opposed elections, and more.

As background on Vasit, we quote some material we posted many months ago: He is a long-time palace favorite and once the Chief of the Royal Court Police for the Thai royal family, Under the military junta’s government he was assigned to break Thaksin’s alleged political hold over the police force. He was also a favorite of the Democrat Party. Michael Montesano says this of Vasit: “Briefer of CIA director Allen Dulles during the latter’s late-1950s visit to Thailand, veteran of anti-Soviet espionage in Bangkok, long the Thai Special Branch’s leading trainer in anti-Communist operations, and palace insider at the time of his country’s most intensive counter-insurgency efforts, Police General Vasit Dejkunjorn ranked among Thailand’s most important Cold Warriors.” His own background in the shadows of the Cold War did not prevent him from being of an office holder at Transparency International in Thailand. Vasit remains a warrior for the palace in his columns in Matichon and as a royalist speaker. For a very short time Vasit was deputy interior minister for Chatichai Choonhavan being raised from his position as deputy police chief. Vasit has been “retired” for years, but keeps popping up in strategic locations. His political views reflect the position of the palace. For examples of his royalism and extreme views, see here and here.

This political outing by the aged Vasit is in Matichon where he attacks the US Ambassador and the United Nations Office of Human Rights for daring to make comments on Thailand’s lese majeste law. Vasit attacks Ambassador Kristie Kenney. While PPT has also attacked her on her pathetic weakness on Article 112 and specifically the Joe Gordon case, Vasit’s attack is of quite a different order as he stoops low in a racist attack.

He claims Kenney can only “know and understand other peoples and countries … superficially…”. He cites “Kenney’s degrees from various universities, [and says] … that he doubted whether those universities’ curricula had provided her with enough understanding about foreign countries including, in particular, Southeast Asian countries, and made her sufficiently aware that ‘the Thais’ feelings toward their King are completely different from those of Americans toward the President of the United States of America’.”

It seems that no American can possibly understand the “feelings” Vasit thinks Thais have for the king. Perhaps someone should ask Vasit how he knows anything about what Thais really think. After all, he has led a cloistered life in the service of the palace and with spooks and the elite.

What Vasit means is that he can’t understand how an ambassador, and especially an American ambassador could possibly oppose lese majeste when the US played a large role in creating the modern monarchy and has supported the military elites that are twinned with the monarchy. Kenney cannot be forgiven for even the mildest break with the authoritarian royalists.

On the UN’s Ravina Shamdasani, Vasit dismisses her as “seeming quite young and looking Indonesian or Malay.” Vasit seems not just racist but suffering from the senility that comes with age when he feels the need to observe that “both Kenney and Shamdasani may not know that the Thai King has been enthroned by succession in the dynasty, not by election for a four-year term like the American president…”. We imagine he means such a statement to be taken seriously and can only think that he is either senile or attacking them as women who can’t possibly understand the most obvious of things.

He then parrots the usual royalist nonsense about the monarchy as an “institution which unifies the whole Thai nation and guarantees the continuity of the rule which has lasted for over 700 hundred years…” and that lese majeste is about “national security.” Such royalist malarkey is presumably believed by some. But the real meaning of this junk is simply to manage the interests of the royalist elite that refuses to share power.

What is clear is his warning to Thais: “Especially in Thailand where the King is ultimately loved, respected and worshipped by the Thai people, such acts [lese majeste] are deemed the ultimate offence which is not forgivable by the Thai people…”. Of course, no one elected Vasit to a position where he is entitled to speak for any Thai people, but that doesn’t stop this dangerous royalist. He adds: “A certain number of ungrateful Thai people are trying to destroy democracy [sic.] with the King as Head of State. If the US or the UN are of this opinion or support this, they should know that the Thai people who worship and want to protect the King are ready to be their enemy and will fight both the US and the UN…”.

This is a serious royalist position. He may be in his dotage, but Vasit’s declaration of war against Thais and foreigners who think differently from him is a reiteration of the civil war theme that royalists engaged in in early 2010. All notions of liberal royalism are ditched and the fight soon becomes vicious. Every royalist faction is now mobilized behind lese majeste as if amending a dangerous and draconian law was an attach on the whole edifice of the monarchy. It wasn’t that at all, but it is now.





Pro-lese majeste action

6 04 2011

In our last post, PPT commented on activism aimed at getting rid of lese majeste as a political crime. In this post, we comment on what is effectively the military’s and the military-backed government’s campaigns to stifle discussion of the sometimes nutty but highly politicized and exorbitantly wealthy monarchy and royal family.

Prachatai has two stories that deserve attention.

The first tells of the 1st Army Commander launching the Thais Protect the Land program “to organize the people to fight threats against the monarchy.”

There’s nothing particularity new about this. The Army has, since 1957, been the appointed protector of the monarchy, and there have been numerous programs to link the military and monarchy. Likewise, the military has organized, with the monarchy, numerous “protection” projects, ranging from murderous vigilantes such as Nawapol to Village Scouts and huge propaganda throughout the country (at taxpayer expense, after the U.S. stopped funding it through, USOM, JUSMAG and the CIA).

Yet again, on 2 April, “Lt Gen Udomdet Seetabut, 1st Army Commander and Director of Internal Security Operations Command Region 1, presided over the opening ceremony of a programme to build people’s networks at the Phra Pradaeng district hall in Samut Prakan. Lt Gen Udomdet said that society was beset not only with the problems of crime and drugs, but currently also with offences and attacks against the monarchy by ill-intentioned groups of people in various forms.”

This program will “make the people aware of their duty to protect the nation, religion and king, to instill unity among them and to encourage them to take part in preventing and solving problems which affect internal security and social order…”.

Reflecting the recent royal comment on rumors, the general stated: “… we have to work together with our hearts to find the way to unite the people, particularly for the sake of the monarchy which is subject to attacks and rumours. So I want to ask all Thais to help and understand. If we help each other and have good will, bad things will vanish. Our nation will be secure. The threats to the monarchy will vanish.”

The second story shows how the monarchy is critical to current politics and why lese majeste is central to the royalist struggle to maintain its political regime.

During a seminar for the royalist Democrat Party, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban “called on the people to help protect the monarchy to prevent civil war.”

Suthep Thaugsuban (Bangkok Post photo)

Longtime readers of PPT will recall that it was just over a year ago that many, including royalist and yellow-hued intellectuals took up the civil war discourse.

At a “seminar attended by about 1,000 local party members as well as core leaders such as Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij, Deputy Interior Minister Chamni Sakdiset and Bangkok MP and former Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin” Suthep blamed (almost) all problems and conflicts on the red shirts amd Puea Thai Party, equating them with communists! He added the yellow shirts for good measure.

Here’s what he is quoted as saying:

Now the Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin are using communist methods to mobilize the mass. So the people have to be aware of this. The country is currently beset with problems because of the red shirts, the Pheu Thai Party, the men in black—an armed force fighting for Thaksin to return to power, and the yellow shirts who think that they have power and mass and can do whatever they want, attacking everybody who holds differing opinions and seizing Government House, although they [currently] have only 300 people.

All of this is seen as a threat to the monarchy, associating red shirts with attacks on the institution that is so central to the royalist regime that has been established since the 2006 coup:

I ask everybody to help protect the monarchy, because now when [we] open the websites of the red shirts, we’ll see only attacks against the institution, which is unacceptable to me. I insist that my talking about the institution is not to gain votes, but for national security. If [we] don’t protect the institution which binds our hearts and minds, we’ll risk civil war….

And, in a remarkable addition to his comments, after attacking the red shirts and Puea Thai Party, Suthep acknowledged his own party’s weakness when he called on that party “to fight under the democratic system, and not to exploit its political mass mobilization during the general elections.”

Lese majeste allegations are thought by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime to potentially diminsih red shirt mobilization.





Updated: Abhisit, restraint and irony

30 01 2011

CNN has a report, with video, on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Davos that has left PPT gobsmacked. The report begins: “has called on leaders troubled by civil unrest to exercise restraint, less than a year after a bloody military crackdown on the streets of Bangkok.” He was speaking of Mubarak in Egypt.

Yes, we are sure he is serious! And no irony at all!

The irony of this statement is revealed in the second paragraph of the report: “Abhisit Vejjajiva sent in government troops to quell long-running Red Shirt protests in the Thai capital last May. Ninety-one people died and hundreds were injured in the street battles that followed.”

Restraint? Seriously? It seems so: “When the protesters were peaceful [when they] were exercising their constitutional rights, there was absolutely no need for any kind of force to be used. Unfortunately in the protests in April and May there was violence — grenades launched, invading hospitals and so on — and we had to make sure that order had to be preserved.”

Look at the body counts and the role of army snipers and see if restraint was used and where the force of violence was located. And, look at the events of early April and note that it was the state’s forces that moved against protesters who, in Abhisit’s terms, terms were exercising their constitutional rights.

Abhisit adds his now infamous call to the rule of law: “For us what was important, we needed to enforce the law [and] at the same time, we had to exercise the utmost restraint, and try to address whatever legitimate grievances these people on the streets had.”

See our recent post on “legitimate grievances” being met. On the rule of law, PPT has pointed out that Abhisit means something other than the usual definition that “no person is immune to law.” We know this because the law is used selectively in Thailand and the state operates with impunity in a range of field including the murder of political opponents.

Update: For something that is a little more real world, see Martin Petty’s Reuters report that briefly compares and contrasts Thailand’s “slow-burn civil war” and the rebellion in Tunisia.





Further updated, with video: “We are only killing terrorists” and other conspiratorial ideas

16 05 2010

It seems that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has been able to develop a new definition of “terrorist.” It is apparently anyone the army kills during the current crackdown on red shirt protesters. This definition is conveyed in a BBC report seen by PPT at about 1800GMT.

The report is devastating for the government’s position because it shows soldiers targeting and shooting at demonstrators in a very careful and calculated manner. The BBC reporter is then shown at the other end of this targeting and shooting. The people being targeted are those burning a few tires, armed with slingshots, firecrackers and crude petrol bombs. In a dramatic piece of video – which we’ll post as soon as we find a link – a protester is shot in the leg. Update: Here’s the video:

The government is desperately fighting a losing battle for the international media as it prepares to clear the remaining red shirts from Rajaprasong. The problem is that the protesters have opened several “fronts” now. This battle may go on for several more days and will be even bloodier than it has been so far.

Update 1: For those who would like a yellow-hued version of events at present, replete with some comments that will strike readers as callous and calculating, we recommend 2Bangkok.com‘s post on “civil war.” We don’t reproduce it all but a few choice cuts:

Claims of civil war “by the Prime Minister … have less to do with the ability of the Red Shirts to conduct civil war and more about justifications for tough action that will be taken. Such claims are part of an overall media campaign on local TV screens to prove the Red Shirts are violent and bent on ‘disunity’.”

It is stated that “military involvement and the unshakable government coalition makes it clear to all that near term dissolution will not be tolerated–it is only a question of who gets wiped out during this operation and who the results will negatively impact.” Maybe the red shirts knew this when they rejected the Abhisit road map?

The army’s loyalty has been doubted, but “present operations–beginning with the removal of Seh Daeng–shows something has changed and there is some commitment to act though a final clearance plan. A coup still remains unlikely, but if one should occur it would indicate the need to go beyond legal norms in liquidating perceived threats to the state.” This perspective has no doubt at all about who took out Seh Daeng.

“It will be up to the Red Shirts to prove they can field thousands more men from the provinces willing to fight their way into Bangkok.” Further, “Just like during the April 2009 rioting, the Red Shirts are purposely being allowed to run riot and then clips of this are repeated over and over on TV in a public relations campaign to prove to the public the Reds are rowdy and violent.” Really? Well we guess it will work for the frightened and panicked middle class, but do they need convincing? The idea that anyone on either side needs any convincing about the flaws of the other seems somewhat quaint.

But, “the desire all around is for the dual destruction of both the Red Shirt leadership and the Democrats for the purposes of future politics. This means many players will want the end to be as bloody and messy as possible. This means the Democrats’ goals are becoming clear as well–serve out as much of their term as possible after removing any further threat of mass rallies during their remaining tenure–so this has to mean capturing or co-opting the Red leadership.” That’s an interesting perspective. Who fills the supposed gap? Sondhi Limthongkul and his band of yellow shirts? Newin Chidchob?

And its added: “Those with a less politically centered view will be working to one goal after the Red leadership is deposed of–to ensure that the roused Red masses reassemble under the leadership of conventional political parties and will not again be harnessed again for more revolutionary goals.”

Forget any Thaksin comeback: “It is likely that a blizzard of legal and procedural changes will be enacted in an attempt to combat a return of a Thaksin-controlled party.” At the same time, the yellow view of red shirts has not changed one iota: “Thaksin [could] … rouse legions of rural people with new political aspirations and expectations…. The definition of democracy for most of these people is the ability to make money and be prosperous and secure. This comes from the tradition of aligning oneself with powerful ‘big men’–like police or military men, other family members, employers, or politicians.”

Update 2: For details on reports from foreign journalists of army snipers using a hospital as a perch and shooting at ambulances, see the first few comments on this post at New Mandala.





Final: The army continues to move in

14 05 2010

Facing considerable resistance, huge numbers of troops continue to surround the red shirt protest zone at Rajaprasong. They are gradually moving in on the protesters but are reportedly meeting considerable but sporadic resistance. Some useful reporting is as The Thai Report.

Meanwhile, the yellow-shirt media cheers the assassination attempt on Seh Daeng, asking why it took so long to get him, and to urge the government on to crush the red shirts. 2Bangkok.com suggests that the bid to kill Seh Daeng is army revenge (scroll down to Colonel Romklao’s revenge – May 14, 2010).

Bangkok Pundit has some recent news reports and tweets from reporters who are still seeing and hearing sporadic gunfire.

SkyNews reports that at least three foreign journalists have been shot and wounded. It names one of them as being Nelson Rand from France 24 television. This link includes a brief report on events in Bangkok. The Nation reports that a Matichon photographer – named as Jo Subin – was shot and wounded.

The Nation also reports that clashes continue: “Troops clashed with protesters at the Rajprarop security checkpoint Friday afternoon. Protesters tried to ambush troops at the Rajprarop barricade at 2:15 pm, leading to an exchange of gunfire. The sounds of gunfire prompted reporters and photographers to run for cover around building corners.”

James Hookway in the Wall Street Journal has a longer report on Friday’s continuing troubles: “Antigovernment protesters in Bangkok pushed back against police and army efforts to pin them down in the center of Thailand’s capital Friday, setting fire to a police bus and beefing up the improvised fortifications around their camp as violent clashes continued from the night before. Troops responded by firing bullets and tear gas at protesters attempting to turn the area into a war zone. It wasn’t immediately clear if the soldiers were using live ammunition, but they had previously been authorized to do so by army commanders who say ‘terrorists’ are operating within the demonstrators’ ranks.” It seems clear that live ammunition is being used (see comments above on wounded journalists).

Britain’s The Sun raises the prospect of civil war.

Yesterday, PPT suggested that the government side would deny involvement in the assassination bid against Seh Daeng. It didn’t take long. ChannelNewsAsia reports that Colonel Dithaporn Sasasmit, the spokesman for the army-run Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC) has denied army involvement. The fact that CRES stated that snipers were deployed and the reports of yellow media (see above) seems to throw doubt on the denials. CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd also denies. AP reports he says: “It has nothing to do with the military. It has never been our policy (to assassinate). We have been avoiding violence…”. So why the snipers despatched to rooftops yesterday? Snipers are used for just one purpose. See Thailand’s Troubles on the assassination bid.

Useful Asian Correspondent video:

AP reports that “troops fired bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters rioting near the U.S. and Japanese embassies Friday as an army push to clear the streets sparked bloody clashes and turned central Bangkok into a virtual war zone.” It added that “Friday’s violence was centered on a small area home to several foreign embassies. Soldiers crouched behind a raised road divider and fired rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas shells. Army vehicles were seen speeding on deserted streets littered with stones and debris. Protesters retreated and hurled rocks and insults.”

The BBC has a recent report (1004GMT) on continuing urban warfare in Bangkok, with video. Worth viewing. The report shows troops firing weapons into what appears to be Lumpini Park and states that troops are stopping and searching ambulances (recall when the red shirts copped huge criticism for doing this? PPT expects nothing to be said about this when the government forces do it).

Colonel Sansern is cited in a SkyNews report as saying that clashes with red shirts at the Suan Lum night market occured when the former tried “to stop soldiers moving towards their main camp in central Bangkok.” He claimed that about 2,000 red shirts “intimidated authorities with weapons” so there was “an order was given to disperse them.” This is Sansern speak for opening fire.

Brian McCarten at Asia Times Online says that clashes on Friday “became much more serious as troops clashed with the protesters, firing rubber bullets, live ammunition and tear gas in an attempt to seal off their [the red shirt] encampment…”. He adds that casualties are mounting: “the death of one demonstrator, [and] around 30 people, including Seh Daeng, were injured during Thursday night’s violence.” [Erawan Emergency Center reports casualty update: 22 injured (4 in ICU), one dead. Among them, 1 Canadian and 1 Burmese.]

McCarten also reports that some red shirts appear to be armed. PPT doesn’t quite understand the media’s fascination with revealing that some protesters are armed.  And, according to this report, some protesters are not hiding this fact from the media. Clearly, while the vast bulk of protesters are unarmed or are fighting with rudimentary weapons (including rocks and slingshots), there are clearly some armed protesters. Thailand is a violent society and weapons are widely available, so it would seem logical to assume that some red shirts will have armed themselves for what they see as a final clash at Rajaprasong.

BBC reports (1122GMT)  “Redshirt spokesman Sean Boonpracong, saying there were ’40 companies of troops firing teargas, rubber bullets, as well as live ammunition’ who had converged on the area.”

This reporting is all based on tweets from journalists: At 1220-1230GMT, clashes are reported to be continuing, apparently in an expanded area, but still focused around Rajaprasong/Lumpini. Reporters have been warned to identify themselves with green arm bands but also to stay away from clashes as the military cannot guarantee that they won’t get shot. Shooting has erupted at Suan Phlu, Rajaprarop and Din Daeng with further reports of deaths and woundings.

At 1240GMT it is reported that tear gas has been fired into the Rajaprasong area and that explosions (tear gas canisters) have been heard near the main red shirt stage. Explosions also reported at Saladaeng.

NPR reports: “The situation seems to grow more dangerous by the hour in Bangkok, where thousand of anti-government “red-shirt” protesters and authorities are facing off.” A tweet at 1255GMT says “all hell breaking loose” at Saladaeng. Large numbers of trooops gathered in Sukhumvit.

MCOT Twitters that “Health Minister: Taxi driver confirmed dead, 37 persons including 3 journalists wounded in day-long clashes between troops and Red Shirts.” As this appears, another red shirt is reported dead.

Armored vehicles and ambulances are said to be moving into Saladaeng area. MCOT (see above for link) twitters that “Army mobilises armoured vehicles to Sala Daeng intersection for operation to retake area, a burst of gunshots heard continuously.”

Useful video of troops in action, firing live rounds at Guardian site.

At 1340GMT there’s an iunconfirmed report of an attack on the red shirt stage including an attempt to assassinate red shirt leaders. Report is of one woman shot by sniper.

Bangkok Post confirms blast at Rajaprasong: “A bomb exploded in the middle of the anti-government rally at Ratchaprasong commercial district on Friday evening. At least 15 people were injured from the blast. Reports said the explosion occurred at 6.20pm at the protest venue in Bangkok’s main shopping district. The blast caused people to scatter and hide at nearby areas.
Leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had to jump down from the stage and told their supporters to protect themselves by lying on the floor.”

Explosions also reported at Saladaeng. <a href=”http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/05/bullets_fly_in_bangkok_as_thai.html&#8221; target=”_blank”>NPR</a> reports: “The situation seems to grow more dangerous by the hour in Bangkok, where thousand of anti-government “red-shirt” protesters and authorities are facing off.” A tweet at 1255GMT says “all hell breaking loose” at Saladaeng. Large numbers of trooops gathered in Sukhumvit.