Friday, January 29, 2010

Questions on Tactics & Civil War

I'm pondering the tactics of each side in the ongoing battle for political control of Thailand.

In the one corner we have Yellow (plus some Blue & Green available for assitance as and when required)
To me, the tactics of the Prem led royalist elite side are fairly predictable - now that they have engineered their team into power they will continue to use the military & judiciary tools at their disposal, combined with royalist symbolism to maintain control.
They will keep trying to paint the reds as anti-monarchy, anti-stabilty, anti-business, anti-nation, unthai etc, and have been laying the groundwork for (and acceptance of) a crushing of the reds should they attempt to make the final push that they keep threatening.
Prem's reference to Senator Chimsak Pinthong's 'important' 'must read' article make things very clear that the old guard are preparing to resort to the same old tricks one again.
(thanks to New Mandala, Political Prisoners Thailand, Bangkok Pundit and others for highlighting that significant development)

The PAD/NPP can be seen a a subset of this side, however rather than being about seeking or maintaining power and control for themselves, their main aim seems to basically be about bringing Thaksin down, now preventing any Thaksin aligned forces from getting into power (and if a Thaksin group ever did get back into power they would revert to the old undermining mode).
If the yellow side is ultimately victorious, expect the PAD/NPP to push for more specific, perhaps moralistic type goals, and its likely they may one day even end up an opposition force to the Democrat Party.

In the other corner we have Red.
The tactics on this side of the battle are much harder for me to read. This side is mainly comprised of Thaksin loyalists, but it also includes those who see Thaksin as the lesser of two evils.
At first glance one would think this side can just sit back and wait for the next election as it is unlikely that their electoral majority has diminished by much, if at all since the last election.
Apart from Abhisit & Korn, the current coalition government is the usual mix of ugly, corrupt and incompetent. One would think the corruption scandals will keep coming, and with the likes of Kasit as Foreign Minister, and Pornthiva as Commerce Minister, there are sure to be more embarrassments.
So one possible course of action for the reds is to just sit back, highlight the mistakes & problems of the coalition government and watch it eventually collapse.
But what then do we make of the regular calls for the final battle by the likes of Jatuporn?
Why the rush?
Is it only because the Shin asset seizure case is looming and Thaksin loyalists are in control of, and are the great majority of the protagonists, on the red side of the fence, or are there other reasons why the reds cannot sit back and wait for elections?

Rather than an inevitable collapse, is the current government consolidating power in a way that will make it difficult for the red side to gain power? (My guess is NO, and judging by his performance so far, the longer Abhisit stays in power the more ordinary Thai's will come to despise him)

By making a final push, would the red leaders be falling into Prem/Chimsak's trap, or is it possible they have some other plan to overcome it?

Prem has proven to be a good tactician over the years (IMO), but has he overstepped the mark and made it more difficult for his successor?
( like what some have argued one other highly influental and aging person on the Thai scene has done?)
The reds may not have completely discredited Surayud, but they certainly have taken the shine off him as Prem's successor, and their tactic of highlighting the double standards is a good one that hopefully they will continue even if Thaksin aligned forces regain power.

Has Thaksin's leadership role in the reds been maintained, or is there a chance that others can step up and inspire the Thaksin loyalist rump that this fight should be about much more than getting Thaksin back to power (or getting his money back)?

It's obvious that whoever controls the guns, controls Thailand
Thaksin, Samak and Somchai could not get the army under government control. So far, Abhisit has not had to face such problems, and despite looking like being in considerable trouble during the April 2009 riots, he came through that with flying colours (no doubt with a little help from those who know who owns the horses, and who are just jockeys)
Have things changed since then? Just how split is the military, and what can be made of the recent (unsubstantiated?) grenade attack at army headquarters?

Sorry, lots of questions - does anyone have the answers????

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Double Standards Thailand

Why is it that Thaksin's wealth & financial affairs have been thoroughly investigated, studied, even had books written about, yet the question of how various Generals (including Privy Councillors like Surayud) obtained their wealth is just swept under the carpet?

In fact, Thaksin's financial dealings have been so thoroughly investigated that the only way his enemies can get him is by spurious or overly technical nitpicking type legal arguments.

It astounds me that a prima facie case can clearly be made against the Generals just by a simple calculation of their wealth compared to their salaries, yet they are left alone - a protected species!

On the other hand we have Thaksin: How he got his wealth is well documented (including a little help from a certain General:)
He was already fabulously wealthy before he became PM, and does not appear to have increased that wealth during his term in office by any more than similarly wealthy peoples fortunes increased during the same time.

If there really was a benefit gained from policy corruption under Thaksin, then the prosecutors need to show not just a loss to the state, but they need to show where the money has gone.
To my mind, something just doesn't add up between Thaksins assets from before becoming PM to after he was ousted. The only conclusions I can draw are either that there was no actual benefit from the policy corruption, or a lot of his wealth had already been squirreled away before he was ousted.

Prima facie there seems to be no case against Thaksin, and a clear case against the wealthy Generals - thats a double standard in my book!

Other clear examples of double standards are:

- TRT & PPP get dissolved, while The Democrats evade punishment for what appear to be much worse corruption deals, and they even got all manner of outside help to form a government!

- PAD/yellows invade/occupy an international airport and the leaders are still roaming free after refusing to acknowledge any charges against them, and have even formed a political party (yet when the UDD/reds merely mention they will hold a rally, the Internal Seturity Act gets invoked, or threatened to be invoked)

- Sondhi Limthongkul and other PAD/yellow leaders are free (encouraged even) to make hateful speeches, drag the monarchy into politics, and almost start a war with a neighbouring country, yet others like Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, Suwicha Thakor & Boonyuen Prasertying are locked up for years, and they and their families forced to endure great hardships all because they spoke their minds, wanting a free & fair country for all Thai's.

- The 2003 'war on drugs' resulted in many extra-judicial killings, and Thaksin was heavily involved in its implementation. Like Thaksin and others, I hate drugs, but I could never set myself up as judge, jury & executioner. The fact that nothing has come from any of the investigations into the war on drugs is another double standard, although this time Thaksin is also a protected species!

Rant over

Friday, January 1, 2010


New Years Eve with the Reds in Chiang Mai.

It was a well organized event at the 700 year Stadium on the outskirts of Chiang Mai city.

Despite competing with numerous other New Years Eve events, like the Thepae Gate public celebrations and a large Fair less than a kilometre away, there was still quite a crowd of well behaved red shirt faithful.

Many had made the trip from the villages and had set up tents outside the stadium to stay over for the night.
I'm hopeless at estimating crowds, so all I could say is that there were several thousand there (definitely more than 8,000 but less than 20,000 IMO - the ground area of the stadium and the grandstand seating areas were 2/3 to 3/4 full in my estimation)
There were also several hundred people outside the stadium area where there were the usual food and red merchandise stalls.

The crowd numbers were even more respectable when you consider it was NOT a free event - the cost of a ticket to enter inside the stadium was 100 baht, which included a red t-shirt with Thaksin image, and a red glow stick.

Much of the crowd were families enjoying the entertainment, and there were no visible signs of alcohol intake (something I found most unusual compared to other New Years Eve events I have attended over the years, but it was also a very pleasant surprise) .

The entertainment was in the form of a concert featuring various politicians and entertainers singing & dancing, including at least one comedy skit where Abhisit was mocked.
The main themes were Democracy and 'we miss Thaksin' or 'we want Thaksin back', and rather than pure entertainment, most of the proceedings related to these underlying themes.

I'm not familiar with all the entertainers/politicians/activists presented on stage, but some of the names I think were involved were Adisorn, Wisa, Paijit and maybe Chuwit (someone more knowledgeable than me may recognise some of the faces in the photo's, and let me know who they are?)

As I need my beauty sleep and wanted to avoid the inevitable traffic jams, I left early and before the planned midnight phone-in from the man himself (who was apparently watching the proceedings from wherever he was).

On the way out, I noticed that the stall with the biggest line up was the sign-up area for new Reds members - this red movement is not going away, and I sincerely hope that, if Thaksin ever does return to power, he has enough humility and good sense, to repay the love and faith that has been invested in him.

Seasons Greetings to all

(Click on photo's for larger image)