Thailand is screwing up

23 05 2014

That’s some of TIME magazine’s headline: “Thailand Is Doing a Great Job of Screwing Up Its Potential.”

Moody’s agrees, according to documents posted by Andrew MacGregor Marshall:

The deterioration of the political situation in Thailand to the extent that the army felt compelled to impose martial law reflects the heightened degree of political uncertainty, as seen in repeated delays to hold national elections, the unchanged intention of the main opposition party to boycott a future poll and the unwavering desire of the main anti-government opposition group to dismantle democratic governance in Thailand. We see the latest development as further weighing on the economic and financial performance of the Thai economy.

From AP: “Countries including the United States, Japan and Australia expressed concern and disappointment over the coup, with the U.S. saying there was “no justification” for the takeover, Thailand’s second in eight years.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary stated: “I am extremely concerned by today’s coup…. The UK urges the restoration of a civilian government that has been democratically elected, serves the interests of its people and fulfils its human rights obligations.”

Military arrests a red shirt activist

Military arrests a red shirt activist

PPT reckons that the hardening attitude of anti-democrats to “outsiders” will probably lead to verbal attacks on these “stupid foreigners.” But what do they say about Thais? Perhaps the military will lock them up?

Academic Prajak Kongkiarti at Prachatai: “People will soon rise up against the military, coup lead to deeper conflict and violence.”

Prajak

Prajak

They are arresting more and more red shirt leaders. According to Andrew Spooner, others like Abhisit Vejjajiva and his anti-democrat Democrat Party leaders have been “released” from protective child minding.

Just to make things more confusing, The Nation reports that:

Leaders of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee have been taken to a safe house in Bangkok, a military source announced on Friday.

They were taken from the First Infantry Regiment to a safe house after the coup makers released representatives of the ousted government and the Democrats who attended the failed seven-partite meeting at the Army Club on Thursday.

The coup makers also released three Pheu Thai representatives but detained two – Pheu Thai secretary general Phutham Wechayachai and party spokesman Prompong Nopparit – and took them to the safe house along with the UDD and PDRC leaders.

Sombat

Sombat

One red shirt – always at the forefront of dissent – Red Sunday Group leader Sombat Boonngamanong has, according to The Nation, become:

the first person in the list of 114 summoned to report to the military junta who has publicly refused to do so, citing that staging a coup is illegitimate and challenging the junta on Twitter and Facebook to catch him if they can.

“Hilarious. Not reporting [to the junta] is considered a criminal offense. But when they deploy tanks to seize power and tear down the constitution, it is not even a violation of the Criminal Act,” Sombat tweeted at around 1.40pm yesterday (Friday) ….

The Bangkok Post says “the coup-makers warned those defying the summons will be arrested and face legal action.” It also reports that he junta has called in 155 people, and we reckon this does not include those being arrested elsewhere.

Arresting people, setting up “safe houses” under military control, imposing strict censorship and tramping about in big boots makes Thailand look like it is doing far worse than just screwing things up. We’d like to be wrong on this!





Can the Puea Thai Party change?

28 10 2013

In our last post we commented on the Democrat Party’s apparent incapacity for change. In this post, we ask if the governing Puea Thai Party can change. Can it be diverted from a path that will damage the party? Can it reduce its apparent capacity for self-harm?

Both the official red shirt leadership and rank-and-file red shirts seem united in their opposition to the nonsensical changes proposed for the amnesty law, although their opposition may focus on slightly different aspects of the bill.

At the Bangkok Post, there is a useful report of the Red Sunday Group, which mobilized more than 200 people on Sunday at Rajaprasong to oppose the government’s  amnesty proposal.

Red Sunday “voiced particular opposition to the amnesty for Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Surat Thani Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban…”.

Sombat Boonngamanong “said the party’s move to provide a wholesale amnesty was beyond his understanding and ran against the red shirts’ stance.” He made an excellent point:

“Thaksin and other party leaders fail to explain to their supporters what is really behind this compromise deal. They must tell us. Politics can no longer be kept exclusive and dictated by back-door negotiators,” Mr Sombat said.

Sombat urged red shirts to rally: “More people will come out on the street if the party defies the will of the red shirts who shed blood and tears to put it into power…”.

Historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul claimed that “red shirts felt cheated as they had shown full support for the Worachai [Hema amnesty] bill which was later changed.”

Former lese majeste convict Suchart Nakbangsai demanded that “lese majeste offenders should also be included in the deal.”

Different ideas, but the same message: this amnesty is a lose-lose situation for the Puea Thai Party. It risks losing the support of red shirts and it will see demonstrations by the broader opposition of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra yellow shirts.

The way out is for Thaksin to disown the amended proposal and remember his promise to red shirts on the Worachai proposal. A return to that amnesty draft will preserve the Puea Thai Party’s electoral base.

Can Thaksin and the party display collective good sense and political savvy?





With 4 updates: CRES, the king and red shirts

3 12 2010

Those who feel the need to protect a so-called universally respected monarch are becoming ever more alarmist. The Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situations (CRES) “has ordered city police to hold talks with red shirt leaders on whether it is possible to postpone an event to be held on His Majesty the King’s birthday.” Sombat Boonngamanong has “organised the talk show to discuss injustice…”.

Of course, CRES has no legal right to prohibit red shirts from holding what is essentially a “political talk show … at the Imperial Lat Phrao shopping mall in Bangkok…” but spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said “organisers should take into account if it is appropriate to hold such an activity when the nation is celebrating His Majesty’s birthday.” It is not surprising that the police have sprung into action to “persuade” red shirts not to do anything that might be seen as straying off the straight and narrow path of the royalist propagandists! The stifling of thought is remarkably oppressive and matches the personality cults of other authoritarian regimes.

For an example of the propaganda exercises, see this story in The Nation.

(Sansern added that “security officers normally monitored activities of all political groups.”)

Update 1: There’s more on enforcing conformity on “love” for the king at 2Bangkok.com, where this comment is made, with three photos:

Handing out “We Love The King” stickers – December 1, 2010
A large contingent of police and media are on hand at the freeway entrance to hand out “We Love The King” stickers. Above, a bubbly lady hands stickers to a taxi driver. No further comment will be made about this incident.

Update 2: According to the Bangkok Post, Sombat has capitulated to the pressure to obey. The brief report, which only cites police sources, states:”The red-shirt people group has agreed to cancel its plan to hold talk show tomorrow, His Majesty the King’s birthday, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1 Pol Maj Gen Wichai Sangprapai said on Saturday. Pol Maj Gen Wichai said he had hold talks with a co-leader of the red-shirts, Somsak Boonngamanong, asking him to postpone the planned talk show on Sunday and Monday.” The policeman continued: “Mr Somsak agreed to cancel the planned talk show on Sunday as the Thai people are on the mode of celebration of the King’s auspicious occasion. However, the red-shirts affirmed to go ahead with the talk show plan for Monday…”.

Update 3: MCOT News has a report on the cancellation. It says, in part: “Sombat Boonngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday group, told a press conference that the UDD had decided to drop their plan to hold a political talk show at a major shopping mall in Bangkok tomorrow following talks with Pol Maj-Gen Vichai Sangprapai, commander of Bangkok’s Metropolitan Police Division 1, assigned by the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) to negotiate with the activists to cancel their activity.  However, the UDD will organise polical talks show on Monday as planned, Mr Sombat said. The protest leader said the senior police officer was under pressure and was less flexible in pushing the UDD to cancel the political event prepared for Sunday.  Special Branch police were earlier instructed to closely monitor and videotape Sunday’s planned talk show for use as evidence in case the demonstrators breached the law.”

Update 4: Readers will find this Siam Voices post, on threats against Sombat, of considerable interest.





Red shirt plans

11 09 2010

According to MCOT News, it seems that the Abhisit Vejjajiva and his ruling coalition with the military are taken aback by red shirt determination. No doubt they felt that the military crackdown should have been “lesson” enough, but there they are, red shirts coming back to challenge the regime.

Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) has “ordered close monitoring of political movement during September 12-19 and assigned main responsibility to the police with backup from the military.” Oddly, given the level of concern and preparation, “Intelligence reports so far show no sign of violence but only a symbolic movement…”.

CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said that the Centre had “ordered extra patrols and intelligence work in preparation for the expected coming Red Shirt actions.” It also “warned” protesters “to refrain from doing anything against the law.”

A People's Information Centre sticker at Chidlom, sent by a reader.

Helpfully, this report lists planned red shirt actions:

  • Bangkok Metropolitan Police deputy commander Col Songpon Watthanachai said Metropolitan Police Division 5 will be in charge of providing security during planned September 12 Red Shirt protest at Lumpini Park.
  • The ‘Red Sunday’ red shirt group will ride bicycles from the King Rama VI Monument to Ratchaprasong Intersection, Dindaeng, the Victory Monument and Phayathai Road before returning to their starting point at Lumpini Park.
  • On September 17, the Red Sunday group and the June 24th group plan to lay flowers in front of prisons nationwide and at Metropolitan Police headquarters, which will be responsible for providing security at Klongprem Central Prison. For an interview with Sombat Boonngamanong, see here.
  • On September 18, they will travel from Bangkok’s Imperial World department store to the northern province of Chiang Mai in a motorcade of 50 rally cars.
  • On September 19, activities will be held at Ratchaprasong Intersection to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2006 coup which ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The regime’s security commanders are beside themselves with anxiety. Anti-riot police and investigators are being deployed to demonstration sites, rapid response mobile units have been put on alert. The police are getting ready for legal action, mainly arrests. Where the   emergency decree remains in place, jail and fines await. Where the decree is lifted, the authorities plan to use the Traffic Act or the Maintaining Cleanliness and Orderliness Act.

Protesters have been warned “not to use any vehicles to incite disturbances or obstruct the public routes which affect the public livelihood.” A reference to bicycles, perhaps?

It is worth noting that, according to Prachatai, placing flowers may be illegal as it might be considered contempt of court! He added that such a demonstration would not be good for the country’s “image.”

The increasingly garrulous Sansern advised that “CRES was concerned about the increasingly frequent attempts of certain groups to misinform [sic.] the public with distorted facts [sic.], including a claim that the authorities were given an order to kill the people, resulting in the 89 deaths [sic. try 91] among the military and police and protesters.”

He then presents an outright lie: “We can see that during the protests the security forces did not use war weapons or fire live ammunition at the protesters.” With such a blatant lie, all we can do is refer to PPT’s recent post on the topic; there’s more than sufficient evidence there to illustrate the colonel’s intentional falsehood.

At least he admits that the “Emergency Decree had been declared in the first place because there were affronts against the monarchy…”.