Updated: The royalist strategy

22 11 2012

According to former People’s Alliance for Democracy leader and now its allied Green Politics group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila has explained the broad royalist strategy on bringing down the elected Yingluck Shinawatra government.

He claims that “Siam Pitak rally this weekend will involve more than 100,000 participants. If he is right, this number will legitimise their call for change as public consensus.”

He argues that the dinosaur’s rally “may not be able to topple the government, but it could be a wake-up call for those in power.” Of course, it is also a wake-up call for the groups that are anti-Thaksin Shinawatra.

Suriyasai explains that the strategy is to begin a destabilization strategy: “It’s difficult to remove the government. But if it faces mass protests often enough, it’ll be difficult for the government to survive…”.

In addition, he notes the role that the royalist allies in the Democrat Party are expected to play, when he says that “a hard-hitting no-confidence debate in parliament together with fiery speeches at the rally could inflict serious wounds on the government.”

The strategy seems clear enough, if there is no “special order” for violent action on the 24th.

Update: The police think they have discovered another royalist strategy. The Bangkok Post reports that the “national police chief claims there is a plan to take Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra hostage, and cites this as one reason for imposing the Internal Security Act in three districts of Bangkok.”

That might be just a lame excuse for invoking the ISA, but who knows when the dinosaur royalists are at work? They just might be thinking in this manner.

Security agencies also “reported receiving information there could be attempts to raid government premises…”, and the police expect a large turnout of  anti-government protesters.





Backtracking

20 11 2012

The massing of red shirts and the continuing public opposition to any overthrow of the elected government are telling. These demonstrations have caused Pitak Siam’s leadership and those backing it to back peddle on some of their more outrageous and Jurassic “plans.” Not that anyone should believe them.

The Bangkok Post says that Pitak Siam’s General Boonlert Kaewprasit has lied that his group “has never called for the country to be closed to outsiders but only wants to stop corrupt politicians…”. Of course, Boonlert made this statement of a freeze several times.

He now seems to be emphasizing that his dinosaur group is a “show of force against the government for turning a blind eye to acts of lese majeste, acting as a puppet of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and allowing corruption to become widespread without proper suppression.”

Boonlert is reacting to red shirt opposition and public opinion surveys that show massive public opposition to anti-democratic actions.

At the same time, Puea Thai Party talk about the use of the “Internal Security Act to control the rally” is  not particularly encouraging. Admittedly, the party is caught in difficult circumstances, but complaining of “some political groups or parties might use their canvassers to get more people to join the anti-government rally,” meaning the Democrat Party, and calling for dissolution is rather dramatic, even if a quid pro quo for the anti-democratic activities of the so-called Democrats and their backers.

Being cautious but sticking to the line used several times by both party and red shirts about lawful rallying is undoubtedly preferable. While the situation remains dangerous and unpredictable, the Puea Thai Party has massive support and this will (hopefully) see off the dinosaur revolt.

 





Thaksin-Yingluck strategy has failed

17 11 2012

Since the 2011 election, amongst others, PPT has posted skeptically about the political strategy adopted by Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra in dealing with their opposition.

They made it clear that they wanted no more than to stay in power for four years. To do that, the Puea Thai government has done all that it can to appease the military, monarchy, royalists and other opponents. Whenever the government has proposed anything that has resulted in rising opposition or criticism, it has withdrawn.

Like others, PPT pointed out that the flaw in this strategy was that the opponents -yellow shirts, military brass, ultra-royalists, palace figures and the Democrat Party – were never going to accept the elected and popular government as loyal and legitimate. After all, none of these groups accept that elections are a legitimate way to decide who should rule and none of them accept that the majority of voters matter.

Following the election in 2011, Democrat Party mover and shaker Suthep Thaugsuban made it clear that neither elections nor parliament matter in the struggle by the conservative elite to get what it wants.

Unfortunately, while the Thaksin-Yingluck strategy was successful for a while, we fear that we may be proven correct by current events. A few days ago, we mentioned that the Thaksin-Yingluck strategy of cooling politics had been unable to neutralize the royalists who see Thaksin as disloyal and a populist threat to their interests.

News today is that the military has decided to undermine the government, a bit like it did in 2008. At The Nation, Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimakorn and Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking for all service commanders, “told her [Yingluck] that troops would not get involved in controlling the demonstrators.”

PPT doesn’t think the government should put troops o the street or invoke the Internal Security Act as the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime did with gay abandon. However, in a normal political system, it is not up to military bosses to tell the elected government to take a long jump. As in 2008, the military commanders are engaged in mutiny. Notably, they did not do this when the Democrat Party-led administration gave them control of them control of security and protecting the regime. Today they again appear to be preparing to bring down an elected government.

The Yingluck government is clearly very spooked by the dinosaur movement, this time called Pitak Siam. The police and other security and intelligence agencies are also very worried and want the ISA invoked because they feel the multiple groups rallying could be uncontrollable and because police do not relish being subject to legal action if the ISA was not enforced (that is one of the things wrong with the ISA!).

The brass may be right that there won’t be violence. If there is, they are telling the government to take a running jump and be prepared to be ousted.

Red shirts are unlikely to meekly acquiesce on moves to oust another elected government. The stage is being prepared for a showdown….  We hope we are wrong, but it could get very nasty, very quickly.





Who is paying the piper?

14 11 2012

While the Puea Thai Party-led government is trying to play down the Pitak Siam rally planned for 24 November, it is clear that ardent yellow shirts are hoping for confrontations. Their social media are reflecting this desire as part of a broader mobilization strategy for the groups that came together in 2006 and 2008, then under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

National police chief General Adul Saengsingkaew, who will be responsible for overseeing the protest and maintaining law and order during the rally, seems far less sure. He states that he will “propose the cabinet invoke the Internal Security Act.” That too would please the more agitated amongst the royalist anti-Thaksinites.

Most interesting in Adul’s comments was the report that he “confirmed that reports that a group of people had contributed a total of six billion baht to a fund for the ousting of the Yingluck Shinawatra government matched information in a Special Branch Police intelligence report.” If such a huge amount is even considered likely, that is a large war chest indeed, and social media accounts have some of this coming from disgruntled rice traders.

Adul added that “the same group also supported the “anti-government rallygoers”, but declined to give further details.” In the past, rumors have circulated about support to yellow shirts from anti-Thaksin Sino-Thai tycoons from banking conglomerates and including industrialists like  Prachai Leophairatana. In earlier posts on this funding, PPT stated:

Prachai became a solid member of the group of Sino-Thai businesspeople who opposed Thaksin and, some suggest, he became major funders to PAD. Readers might also recall that one of the cases that saw the Democrat Party get off charges that originated in the Election Commission, where Prachai and TPI Polene stood accused of an illegal transfer of funds to the Party.

As we have been saying in recent posts, it really is beginning to look like the old gang is getting back together. If they have solid funding, then a long standoff, violence and political gridlock are not out of the question.





Open letter on human rights

10 09 2011

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is getting plenty of advice on human rights of late. Following the letter by 112 international scholars on lese majeste and computer crimes, she has now received one from the International Federation for Human Rights and Union for Civil Liberty on a range of human rights issues.

This letter covers restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, the death penalty, special security laws (including Martial Law, the Emergency Decree, and the Internal Security Act), impunity of government officials and members of state security forces and unequal access to the justice system, refugees and asylum, and co-operation with and commitment to U.N. human rights mechanisms.

As the letter notes, none of these are particularly new issues for Thailand, but the authors urge Yingluck “to make effective protection and promotion of human rights a top priority in your administration.”





Statement by Jaran Ditapichai/จรัล ดิษฐาภิชัย on 10 April anniversary

9 04 2011

This statement was received at PPT from Jaran Ditapichai, a former commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission:

Statement on the First Anniversary of Red Shirts Suppression

10 April 2011 marks the first anniversary of the start of the suppression of people protest for democracy. The protest was organized under the leadership of United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) or the Red Shirts.

The peaceful assembly began on 14 March 2010 without weapons. They called for the government of Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the parliament, returning the power to the people through new election, the result— 25 deaths, and 800 injures.

The crackdown of the people derived from the strategy of not solving the political problems politically. They chose to use military force. Start with Internal Security Act. State of Emergency declared. More than 50,000 military and police personal deployed to surround the demonstrators. Armed with deathly weapons, sniper units, helicopters to drop tear gas, the crackdown continued until 19 May 2010, the death toll rose to 91, more than 2000 injures, and over 400 people arrested, dozens provinces throughout the country under curfew.

In the year past, the government not only not admitting the wrong doings in the cracking down of the Red Shirts, but also continued to use the Security Act to intimidate and made arbitrary arrests for months. Despite the setting up of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and many others ‘Reform Commissions’, it is a trick to legitimize the government, and none of the recommendations have any practical effect.

In the meantime, the UDD or the Red Shirt movement revived rapidly. It became the largest Democracy Movement in Thailand for genuine democracy. They called for the prosecution of those involved in 10 April and 19 May 2010 massacre. They called for fair trials for all of arrested leaders, not double standard as is usually employed.

The political crisis that stems from the conflict between the ruling elite and the people who cherish democracy remains after 4 years. To resolve the crisis— those responsible for the bloody crackdown on 10 April to 19 May 2010 have to be brought to justice. Parliament must enact Amnesty Legislation for all protestors of all political persuasion. Moreover, a new Constitution that is truly democratic must be drafted.

I urge the international community, both governmental and private, to pay attention to crisis in Thailand. Especially I urge all to support the upcoming election, and help ensure it is free and fair.

If Thailand were completely democratic, it would help stabilize Southeast Asian region, and will be beneficial to all International community.

Jaran Ditapichai

แถลงการณ์ 1 ปี ของการปราบปรามคนเสื้อแดง

วันที่ 10 เมษายน 2554นี้ เป็นวาระของการครบรอบ 1 ปีแห่งการเริ่มต้นการปราบปรามการชุมนุมของประชาชน ภายใต้การนำของแนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาติ (นปช.)หรือคนเสื้อแดง โดยชุมนุมประชาชน โดยสงบและปราศจากอาวุธมาตั้งแต่วันที่ 14 มีนาคม 2553 เพื่อเรียกร้องให้รัฐบาลยุบสภา จัดการเลือกตั้งใหม่ คืนอำนาจธิปไตยแก่ประชาชน ซึ่งส่งผลให้มีผู้เสียชีวิต 25 คน บาดเจ็บกว่า 800 คน การปราบปรามดังกล่าวมาจากนโยบายและมาตรการทางการทหารของรัฐบาลอภิสิทธิ์ เวชชาชีวะ เริ่มจากประกาศใช้ พระราชบัญญัติการรักษาความมั่นคงภายในราชอาณาจักร การประกาศภาวะฉุกเฉิน และใช้กำลังทหาร ตำรวจกว่า 50,000 นาย ปิดล้อมที่ชุมนุม โดยเฉพาะทหาร ใช้อาวุธสงคราม หนุ่วยแม่นปืน(สไนเปอร์ )ยิงฝูงชน เครื่องบินทิ้งระเบิดแก๊สน้ำตา และการปราบปรามดำเนินต่อมาถึงวันที่ 19 พฤษภาคม ทำให้มีผู้เสียชีวิตเพิ่มขึ้นเป็น 91 คน และบาดเจ็บเกือบ 2000 คน และถูกจับกุมคุมขัง 400 กว่าคน พร้อมกับประกาศเคอร์ฟิวส์ ในหลายสิบจังหวัดทั่วประเทศ

1 ปีที่ผ่านมา รัฐบาลไม่เพียงแต่ไม่ยอมรับความผิดในการปราบปรามคนเสื้อแดง เท่านั้น หากยังคงรักษากฎหมายความมั่นคง ข่มขู่คุกคามและจับกุมคุมขังคนเสื้อแดงอย่างต่อเนื่องมาอีกหลายเดือน แม้จะมีการตั้งคณะกรรมการสอบสวนข้อเท็จจริงและปรองดองแห่งชาติ และการตั้งคณะกรรมการปฏิรูปอีกหลายชุด แต่เป็นเพียงการหลอกหลวง เพื่อสร้างความชอบธรรมให้กับรัฐบาลเท่านั้น ไม่มีผลในทางปฏิบัติใดๆ

ขณะเดียวกัน นปช. หรือ ขบวนการคนเสื้อแดงฟื้นตัวอย่างรวดเร็ว จนขยายตัวเติบใหญ่ เป็นขบวนการประชาธิปไตยที่มีขนาดใหญ่ที่สุดของประเทศไทย คนเสื้อแดงเคลื่อนไหวต่อสู้เพื่อประชาธิปไตยอย่างแท้จริง เรียกร้องให้ดำเนินคดีผู้ร่วมสังหารประชาชนในกรณี10 เมษายน และ19 พฤษภาคม 2553 และขอให้ดำเนินคดีกับแกนนำและผู้ชุมนุมอย่างยุติธรรม มิใช่สองมาตรฐานเหมือนที่กระทำอยู่

ความขัดแย้งระหว่างฝ่ายปกครองกับประชาชนผู้รักประชาธิปไตย ยังคงเป็นวิกฤติการณ์ทางการเมืองที่เกิดขึ้นและดำรงมา 4 ปี เพื่อคลี่คลายวิกฤติ จะต้องดำเนินคดีกับผู้ปราบปรามอย่างนองเลือดในวันที่ 10 เมษายน จนถึง 19 พฤษภาคม 2553 รัฐสภาจะต้องออกกฎหมายนิรโทษกรรมต่อผู้ชุมนุมทางการเมืองทุกฝ่าย และต้องจัดทำรัฐธรรมนูญฉบับใหม่ที่เป็นประชาธิปไตยอย่างแท้จริง

ขอเรียกร้องต่อประชาคมโลก ทั้งภาครัฐและเอกชนให้สนใจวิกฤติการณ์ประเทศไทย โดยเฉพาะให้สนับสนุนการเลือกตั้งทั่วไปที่กำลังจะมีขึ้น ให้เป็นไปโดยเสรีและยุติธรรม หากประเทศไทยเป็นประชาธิปไตยสมบูรณ์ ย่อมมีผลต่อเสถียรภาพในภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้และอำนวยประโยชน์ต่อนานาชาติไม่มากก็น้อย

จรัล ดิษฐาภิชัย





No election!

27 03 2011

That’s the rumor circulating. So strong is the rumor that both Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban have had to make statements trying to convince people that an election will be called and held.

Suthep is reported at MCOT News to have said that “a general election will definitely be held and urged the public not to pay attention on these rumours.” His statement mentioned resignation talk at the Election Commission, the continued use of the Internal Security Act and pressure from the People’s Alliance for Democracy as largely unrelated to whether an election would be held.

Abhisit is in the same place, as saying he is “confident that the election would be held as planned by him earlier, as the majority of people in the country wanted to see the country moving forward.” He seems to refer to PAD as wanting to obstruct an election.

The fact that both men have to reaffirm an intention to hold an election is telling in itself.





Is dialogue possible on human rights?

4 03 2011

PPT missed this about a week ago in the Bangkok Post. As is well-known, Thailand is currently undeserving chair of the U.N.’s 47-member Human Rights Council, and holds that position until June. According to the story, though, this doesn’t necessarily grant Thailand a free run.

The Post says this year will “be the first time Thailand comes under UNHRC peer pressure, with the country’s ‘Universal Periodical Review’ to be debated in October.” As part of this process, the Thai government “will present a 20-page human rights landscape while civil society including the National Human Rights Commission will present 10-page situation report.”

That might sound reasonable except for the important fact that the NHRC was appointed by the government and has been virtually silent on almost every serious abuse of human rights in Thailand under the Abhisit regime.

NHRC head Amara Pongsapich and friend

Hence, it is clear that civil society organizations working with the NHRC are either going to be tainted by association with this discredited agency or are going to be in conflict with it. Given that the Post lists several significant issues being taken up by NGOs – “the impunity of authorities in the far South and Bangkok violence, the plight of migrant workers and human rights defenders and freedom of expression as well as use of impeding laws such as the Internal Security Act,  lese majeste legislation (Article 112) and the Computer Crimes  Act,” PPT wonders how the NHRC can even have dialogue with NGOs unless they are handpicked to have a yellow hue.





Lese majeste censorship

26 02 2011

It is no surprise to read in the Bangkok Post that a “media barometer” for 2010 shows “Thailand’s freedom of expression remains curbed by laws such as the Internal Security Act and lese majeste law. This does not include widespread self-censorship and a climate of fear within society.”

The Asian Media Barometer showed that the “laws were implemented and applied in ways that contravened the letter and spirit of the constitution.”

And that’s a military-organized constitution!

The study found that “while Thai citizens and journalists still asserted the right to freedom of expression, they had a palpable degree of fear.” It is stated that “[t]hey think twice about criticising powerful institutions such as the judiciary or the monarchy…”.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva regime will surely come out with its usual denials claiming that its repression and censorship don’t really impact “people.”





Saturday red shirt rally

20 02 2011

In The Nation it is reported that the red shirts again brought out tens of thousands of demonstrators. This time they marked the the 10-month anniversary of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s crushing of the red shirt demonstration at Rajaprasong and the jailing without bail of most of the red shirt leaders and many of their followers since then.

The Nation reports that “Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan told an estimated 20,000 red-shirt demonstrators yesterday the group would hold an even bigger rally on March 12 if hundreds of detained red shirts, including seven of its leaders, were not granted bail next week.” Other estimates were of up to 40,000 red shirts, with rallies in other parts of the country as well. The 12 March date is symbolic as this date marks the anniversary of the red shirt rallies in 2010.

From The Nation

Jatuporn made the comparison between the concern the regime has for a few ultra-nationalists when they are jailed in Cambodia and the disdain it shows for the red shirts who have been jailed for month after month. These are political prisoners. This is clear when the differential treatment of yellow shirt leaders facing similar charges is examined; they get bail within hours.

The red shirts gathered at Rajaprasong, moved to the Supreme Court and finished with a rally at the Democracy Monument. The Thai Report has some video and links.

The Nation reports that it “took over an hour for the red-shirt motorcade to leave Ratchaprasong as they travelled slowly along New Phetchburi Road to the Supreme Court and then on to Democracy Monument. The parade was led by red-shirt motorcyclists, who shouted and honked their horns.”

Earlier, at Wat Pathum Wanaram, Red Siam leader Surachai Sae-dan called for “changing the old elite”.

Meanwhile, in MCOT News, it is reported that Bangkok will remain under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for at least another 2 weeks. It is getting hard to remember a time when Bangkok wasn’t under a state of emergency or the ISA. Abhisit, sounding Mubarak-like, stated: “The ISA doesn’t affect the daily lives of people or limit their freedom…”.