The fantastic “Dubai plan”

27 11 2009

Also available as จินตนาการเพ้อเจ้อของ “ปฏิญญาดูไบ”

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) apparently concocted the so-called Finland Plan or Plot in 2006 to assist it in painting Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak Thai Party as republicans. This was important for the yellow-shirted PAD in portraying their battle with Thaksin as a fight for the king.

Now, courtesy of  Suriyasai Katasila, the PAD – or is it the New Politics Party? – has come up with another Thaksin plot, this time to overthrow the royalist government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Democrat Party.

The Nation (25 November 2009: “Thaksin’s plan for civil chaos, and a coup : Suriyasai”) refers to an “alleged Dubai plot” to bring Thaksin back to power through violent action. Suriyasai, the secretary-general of the New Politics Party, says it is a “five-step plan” and calls it the “Dubai declaration.”

Doesn’t a “declaration” actually have to be declared to the public?

Apparently the Peua Thai Party and the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship are leaking to their bitter enemies as PAD. Suriyasai claims that red shirts flew to meet Thaksin in Dubai recently – couldn’t they have just gone to Cambodia? He says they came back with a 5-step plan that seeks “civil chaos” leading “to a military coup.”

Suriyasai said that the first step in this plan was about “alarm-clock mobs” that “would entail hundreds of thousands of red shirts amassing on specific dates.” According to the Suriyasai, the Peua Thai Party had been financed to “mobilise 10,000 to 20,000 people to divert police attention from a mass rally” that was said to be “waiting for a sign from their big boss to start the chaos.”

The second step would bring “pressure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve Parliament by simultaneously organising rallies to besiege several state agencies such as Government House, Parliament, Army Headquarters, Channel 11 and ASTV.”

Notice that ASTV is now a state agency! Probably just incompetence amongst copy-editors at The Nation.

This stage would also involve taxis blocking “major roads by parking them locked and in gear so they obstruct security agencies from sending in troops or police to keep security.” Suriyasai says that this would involve “traffic paralysis” and also a “vacuum of state power.”

It says a lot about “state power” if a traffic jam can create such a vacuum. Guess that means that there is a vacuum of state power on the last Friday of every month.

The plan’s third step “was to stir up civil chaos if the PM does not dissolve Parliament. To achieve this, they planned to set off bombs, assassinate important figures, notably 300 people an “enemy list” of Thaksin … such such as leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, members of the Assets Examination Committee, Anti-Corruption Commissioners, Constitution Court judges, academics, some politicians and members of the media.”

The fourth step sounds like it is from a script of a movie that would need to star Jason Statham because it involves not simply “ousting the government”  but seizing “Thaksin’s Bt76 billion in assets currently ‘frozen’ in Thai banks and toppling the bureaucratic polity.”

Suriyasai says that this “was necessary … because Thaksin knew that changing government alone would not be not enough to bring him back to power – he had to clear all legal obstacles in his way.” The target is said to be “Privy Council chief Gen Prem Tinsulanonda … the symbol of bureaucratic polity that [Thaksin] must destroy both openly and secretly…”. Getting rid of Prem means that the military could be made to swap sides for “Thaksin’s ultimate goal under this step was pulling strings to instigate a military coup.” If he can’t get a coup, Thaksin “would continue to destabilise the country by creating confrontations, rallies and civil chaos…”.

The PAD/NPP spokesman says that the “fifth step was to form a national government. After a coup is staged, Thaksin, would take advice from Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and be ready to negotiate to form a national government and seek amnesty for him and his cohorts.”

It seems that Suriyasai managed to release this “plan” to the media at just the right time. The red shirts were about to rally in Bangkok, there were rumors of foreigners being involved in demonstrations, the red shirts were planning rallies at key intersections, alleged red shirts were “found” with weapons, there had been threats alleged against the prime minister and the government sounded like it was preparing for violence. Unfortunately for Suriyasai, the red shirts, apparently with the connivance of Thaksin, called off the rally.

Surayasai must be disappointed. Had there had been any violence during the red shirt rallies the “Dubai plan” might have taken on a life of its own, a bit like the Finland Plot. Maybe Suriyasai can resurrect it later? Of course, the more bizarre and fervent PAD supporters will love this stuff, for they believe all of the plots and allegations concocted by PAD leaders without a shred of evidence.

Shrinking political space

26 05 2009

Nirmal Ghosh (The Malaysian Insider, 25 May 2009: “Shrinking space for honest debate”) has an interesting story on the narrowing political space in contemporary Thailand.

Ghosh points out that while Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva may have won one round against red shirt protesters, he is now “surrounded by the tightest security for any premier in recent memory – and it is handled by the army, not the police.” He adds that “Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya rarely sleeps in the same place every night, and his security too is handled by the army.”

Academic Michael Nelson speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, saw a conflict between monarchism and democracy that has not been resolved since the 1932 overthrow of the absolute monarchy.

At the same event, Chulalongkorn University’s Thitinan Pongsudhirak spoke of how former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s manipulation of the political system resulted in an end to the old “consensus” amongst the Thai elites which saw them pitted against each other. That struggle has also seen the poor recruited.

The red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s supporters manifest “a sense of injustice. In their eyes, it is unjust that elected pro-Thaksin governments have been thrown out by the army or by ‘judicial coups’.” Every dismissal of their grievances by the establishment, every example of favourable treatment of the yellow-shirts or the blue-shirted vigilantes deployed against them in Pattaya last month, fuels their resentment.”

Ghosh explains that “the UDD is about more than just Thaksin; he is just a rallying point for broader grievances.” He points out that “leading intellectual, Mr Prawase Wasi, argues that the fights over Thaksin and the supposed plots to destroy the monarchy are ‘distorting the complexity of justice, simplifying it to a single-dimension issue’.” Prawese is further quoted: “In a pluralistic society…there are people who worship the monarchy and those who don’t – it is natural. The key is how to channel the differences towards creative collaboration and output. Justice is the only common ground…”.

Ghosh observes that: “In Thailand’s polarised environment, however, expressing opinions freely is like negotiating a minefield.” He cites Thitinan as saying: “We live in a tightening box of space for intellectual honesty.”

And, with the Abhisit government actively recruiting and encouraging spies, the space is narrowing exceptionally rapidly.

Military and red shirts

14 04 2009

Reports from various sources, including emails to PPT, report on the continuing military-led operation in Bangkok.

Al Jazeera is quoted at Prachatai (14 April 2009: “Thai protesters back down”) saying that the UDD/red shirts are surrounded by armed soldiers near Government House, prompting UDD leaders to call for their supporters to disperse. “Saying they were concerned about the safety of demonstrators following violence on Monday that left two people dead and more than a hundred injured in street battles, protest leaders used loudspeakers to call for protesters to withdraw…”. The protestors themselves are reported to have been fearful but some were reluctant to leave the protest.

The Nation (14 April 2009: “Red protesters told to disperse; “arson” plots unveiled”) reported TV Channel 11 as saying that UDD leader Veera Musigapong asked protesters to disperse. Veera reportedly “told the crowd that the voluntarily dispersing was not a defeat of the red-shirted movement but was aimed at protecting the life of the protesters.” Another leader, Weng Tojitrakan, “asked soldiers to move back by 20 metres so that the protesters could pick up their belongings and disperse.” The Bangkok Post (14 April 2009: “Demonstrators will disperse: leader”) states that the decision by the protest leaders “came a day after skirmishes in Bangkok, which left two dead and 113 injured.” Veera told the crowd: “All of my brothers and sisters, please give up and board these buses provided by police…”.

Meanwhile, The Nation home page has pictures of UDD leaders being taken away after apparently surrendering.

Behind these reports, there appear to be other efforts to crack down. The UDD’s D Station was seized and closed from noon on 13 April and remained closed, with some reports that soldiers occupied it. It is reported that some community radio stations have also been seized by troops.

Some reports sympathetic to the red shirts claim that government control of the electronic media has slanted the news. Whereas the media are reporting no red shirt deaths or one dead, some believe that as many as 10 red shirts may have died in the protests.

On the local fighting reported in the mainstream media, some sympathetic to the red shirts, while critical of some who went too far, claim that there was a whipping up of hatred against the red shirts and provocateurs at work, blaming the PAD.

Many internet sites deemed pro-UDD seem to have been blocked. Thai E-news was blocked from Monday night. PPT has noticed that several regular sites that regularly link or pingback to our site – some of which are not pro-UDD, have been blocked and that our own traffic has suddenly halved.

There have been some reports of explosions in Bangkok.

The result of this action is now that army is the winner and truly in charge. It is now the military that is providing direct TV updates on the situation and the government and Abhisit are playing catch-up. The military are likely to be seen by many in the middle class as having saved the day. In the Nation report mentioned above, the government continued to allege plots. Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, appearing on a pooled TV programme  announced “that police arrested three suspects Monday night who allegedly were involved in arson plots against key places including Bangkok Bank headquarters and a CP building.” Presumably such reports are deeply worrying to middle class Bangkokians. “Senior officers accompanying Suthep at the press announcement said the three were arrested with pistols, bullets and a lot of petrol. The ‘evidence’ was shown at the TV pool press announcement.”

Thaksin speaks again

30 03 2009

Following the seemingly co-ordinated series of red shirt provincial actions, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has again spoken to his supporters by video link (The Nation, 30 March 2009: “Thaksin threatens to lead protests himself if coup happens”). He is reported as stating that “if soldiers used violence to disperse red shirt protesters or a coup happened, he would return to Thailand to bring out more people to Bangkok and lead the protest himself.”

Thaksin is reported to have continued his attacks on Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond claiming that Prem always wanted to maintain his influence over governments. Thaksin says, “He (Prem) always contacted us over the issue [military promotion and reshuffles] till I had to tell him let Thailand has just one PM…”. Further, Thaksin  “accused Prem, the military and the Constitution Court of staging silence coups against governments, citing the removal of [pro-Thaksin prime ministers] Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat…”.

Thaksin called on his supporters to “get our democracy back from the Privy Council, from the military and from the bureaucrats. We want the democracy that brings us our well-being…”.

The former premier also attacked Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Thaksin wants more support for the red shirts

28 03 2009

In another speech to UDD red shirt demonstrators through a video link (The Nation, 29 March 2009: “Join red-shirt protest, Thaksin tells people”), deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called on “people who had benefited from his government’s policies to come out and support the red-shirt movement….I call on you to rise up throughout the country to join the red-shirts and bring back democracy for our children…”. He also called for politicians from his banned and dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party to “lead your countrymen in the fight”.

Thaksin directed his attacks at the Democrat Party-led government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, “portraying it as pro-aristocracy and inefficient in tackling the country’s economic problems.” He told his supporters, “It’s time to return democracy to the people, or the confusion will never end…”.

Abhisit dismissed Thaksin’s complaints as “an old story.”

A clip from Thaksin’s speeches is available at the pro-Thaksin site Thai E-News/คลิปเสียงและภาพ วิดิโอลิงก์ ทักษิณ ชินวัตร วันเสาร์ที่ 28 มีนาคม 2552.

Surayud, Prem, accusations and responses

28 03 2009

It is reported (Bangkok Post, 28 March 2009: “Red-shirts burn Prem’s effigy”) that a group of red-shirt protesters went to the house of Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanond “to demand that he and ex-premier Surayud Chulanont take responsibility for allegedly being behind the military coup that toppled Thaksin Shinawatra. They also burnt Gen Prem’s effigy before returning to join the rally at the Government House.”

Earlier, former prime minister appointed in 2006 by the military junta and privy councilor General Surayud Chulanont is reported (Bangkok Post, 28 March 2009: “Surayud to clarify Thaksin’s allegations”) to be preparing to hold a press conference following accusations by deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that he and Prem were involved in machinations that led to the 2006 military coup.

Update: Surayud has now held his press conference, with a report in The Nation (28 March 2009: “I’m no coup plotter: Surayud”). Surayud is reported to have said that “he had met certain senior judges a few months before the coup but had merely wanted to hear their views about the country’s political situation at the time. He added that the judiciary had then been expected to help ease the country’s problems.” He added, “It would have been stupid of me to discuss plotting a coup with judges. I would have been better off discussing it with military commanders…”.

There were earlier allegations about palace-related people being involved with judges at various times prior to the coup, although it was usually considered that this related to General Prem. Following Surayud’s statement, it now seems that the Privy Council was indeed deeply involved with the supposedly independent judiciary.

Surayud is also reported as claiming that “most of Thaksin’s allegations against him ‘were not based on fact’. [Surayud] said he had presented his side of the story and it was up to the public whether to believe him or Thaksin.”

At this moment, with only limited reporting of the press conference, it is unclear to PPT what Surayud’s side of the story actually is, apart from his repeated denial of involvement in the events leading to the 2006 coup.

Royalists continue to worry

27 03 2009

The Bangkok Post (26 March 2009: “Doing it for your country”), in an editorial, makes this statement: “But the most worrying aspect of the [red shirt] protest seems to be Thaksin’s speech which is to be aired tomorrow. His speech on Sunday to the red shirts in Chiang Mai in which he accused two privy councillors, including former prime minister Surayud Chulanont, two senior judges and an academic of plotting his overthrow in 2006 has reportedly caused concern to Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council. Gen Prem is said to be worried that Thaksin’s accusations could cause public misunderstanding about the Privy Council.”

These is nothing in this that PPT hasn’t reported on in recent days. However, this seems new: “Gen Surayud is also reported to have warned the government not to sit idle over Thaksin’s allegations.”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators facing thousands of police are apparently not as worrying or challenging as a deposed prime minister’s comments about the Privy Council and the monarchy. How will Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva respond?

Pre-empting lesé majesté?

26 03 2009

PPT earlier reported on Democrat government-Army co-operation on a plan to spend 1 billion baht to weaken the pro-Thaksin red shirt movement and to promote loyalty to the monarchy.

In a report in the Nation (26 March 2009: “Red shirts plan long siege”), Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said “the special Bt1-billion budget for Internal Security Operations Command projects would be used to dilute anti-government protests. Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs, said that since the country was facing a serious political divide, the funds would be spent to boost loyalty to the monarch among the people and pre-empt lese majeste cases that could destabilise the country.”

Promoting reconciliation, instilling loyalty and protecting the institution

24 03 2009

The Nation (25 March 2009: “Bt1 billion fund for Isoc projects in rural areas”) reports on a cabinet decision to allocate 1 billion baht to the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), to be “used on projects aimed at weakening the red-shirt movement. The move is part of efforts to counter a stronger anti-government and anti-establishment movement linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”.

The report states that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (ISOC director) and Army commander-in-chief General Anupong Paochinda (ISOC deputy director) co-operated to establish the fund.

In a redux of the policies implemented by the military junta-installed government led by Privy Councilor Surayud Chulalont, Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said “the fund was for projects to fight the economic crisis through the royal sufficiency economy philosophy.” Panitan said that the projects would use the armed forces to tackle economic problems and added that a goal was to “promote reconciliation, instil the loyalty to the monarch and protect the institution from violations.”

Panitan also claimed that the “fund would be for training programmes, campaigns to promote His Majesty the King’s philosophy of sufficiency economy, civilian affairs operations, management, evaluation of projects, and implementation of projects in villages and communities, among others.”

In another flashback to the period of military-backed government, the Bangkok Post (25 March 2009) reports that “Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul has threatened to transfer provincial governors if they fail to prevent red-shirt protesters in the provinces from joining the anti-government rally in Bangkok tomorrow.”

Prem and the 2006 coup allegations

24 03 2009

General Prem Tinsulanond, former unelected prime minister from 1980 to 1988 and now president of the Privy Council, has been implicated in the planning of the 2006 coup. There have been reports regarding this and they are appended below. Prem has denied his involvement.

In the Bangkok Post (24 March 2009: “Prem ignores Thaksin’s claims”), it is reported that, Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda has issued no instructions in response to Thaksin Shinawatra’s claim that two privy councillors were behind the 2006 military coup that toppled his government, a spokesman for the general said on Tuesday [Chris Baker has posted a translation of Thaksin’s main points at New Mandala]. Gen Prem’s personal secretary, Vice-Admiral Phajun Tamprateep, also said the two accused privy councillors — Gen Surayud Chulanont and Charnchai Likhitjitta — have not met Gen Prem to discuss the matter.”

Further, “Vice-Admiral Phajun said the Privy Council president was not worried by the accusation, nor was he angered by it. Gen Prem had not asked security agencies to closely monitor Thursday’s planned rally by the red-shirts, when Thaksin is expected to make another phone-in, he added.”

On Prem’s involvement in Thaksin’s ousting, it is noticeable that following the king’s declaration on the April 2006 election, the center of the opposition to Thaksin and the Thai Rak Thai government moved from PAD to Prem. Prem made a series of speeches criticising the government and Thaksin both before and after the coup (see the report at Thai Parliament and  New Mandala for a snippet that is also posted at General Prem’s website, but without links; in fact, Prem’s news site includes a range of similar reports, many of which seem to have gone from the Bangkok Post website). Prem was implicated in discussions with senior judges. His most explicit attack on the government was his 1 September 2006 speech to 950 cadets at the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy where he said the soldiers belonged to the king, not a government. He was supported by military leaders and Privy Councilor and former army commander General Surayud Chulanont (read the speech here).

In late June 2006, Thaksin had made statements alleging that a “charismatic person” was working to bring his government down. Many assumed that this figure was General Prem or the king himself (The Nation, 4 July 2006; International Herald Tribune, 7 July 2006).

At about this time, the first public reports of a possible coup emerged as General Prem apparently held discussions with military figures and palace advisers (Straits Times, 8 July 2006). Soon after Prem visited the military units and demanded that officers be loyal to the king, powerful serving officers began a public campaign against Thaksin ( The Nation, 3 January 2007).

Much of the current lesé majesté controversy can be traced back to the events of the coup, the PAD’s use of royal symbols and the military junta’s expressions of royalism (including the use of yellow ribbons on weapons and tanks during the coup).

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