Update 2: This Bangkok Post report gives details of the equipment the government lost in their 'non-violent' dispersal attempt on that Saturday:
"Among the firearms and other equipment claimed to have been lost during the clash were nine M16 rifles, 25 Tavor rifles, six anti-aircraft guns, 116 shields, 105 batons and 80 body armour suits.
The army also lost control of six personnel carriers and three high-mobility multi-purpose vehicles when troops abandoned them in the face of angry red shirts.
Ammunition also went missing, including 580 rubber bullet rounds, 600 anti-aircraft rounds and 8,182 M16 rifle rounds"
Any conclusions other than:
(a) government had violent 'intentions', and was incompetent?
(b) the equipment was left behind by watermelon soldiers to help in subsequent battles?
Update 1: This post was originally posted before the crackdown as a plea for it to not happen - after the actual crackdown, and especially after Abhisit's late night tv speech, all I can say is that I've completely given up on him. It's hard for me to believe he is even human, he's certainly no better than Thaksin, and probably much worse. Thaksin's drug war killings at least had a noble intention - there is nothing noble about Abhisit's killing to avoid going to an election!
How long can things go on like this, without one side going for broke and the shit hitting the fan?
Abhisit is the new face on an old playbook - the old style crackdowns are no longer viable, so it needs a respectable face to try to spin it as though there was no alternative but to crackdown.
I hope the red leaders are fully switched on to that aspect of what Abhisit is doing, because even though the pro-democracy side of this conflict has right on their side, they must also be seen to be reasonable.
(To spell it out: Abhisit wants to appear reasonable, and make other side appear unreasonable - the emphasis is on 'appear' in both cases)
Abhisit knows very well this aspect of the political game. He came to power promising reconciliation, he appeared very reasonable, but his real actions have not been about reconciliation at all:
- How does appointing, then keeping Kasit as FM, help reconcilation?
- How does stonewalling on the constitutional reform help reconcilation?
- How does closing PTV help reconcilation (when ASTV & NBT are still on air)?
- How does blocking Prachatai (and hassling the webmaster with lengthy jail terms) help reconciliation?
- How does stalling on bringing PAD international airport invaders to justice help reconcilation?
- Now that the boot is on the other foot, how does a complete about-face shown on statements he made regarding protesters rights, and PM's resigning, help bring about reconciliation ?
(for more examples see this revealing piece by one of Thailand's best journalists)
He is doing it again - appearing reasonable, but the reality is very different:- He offers to talk with red leaders, but creates excuses why elections cannot be held till at least 9 months have passed.
Forget about 9 months! How can the red masses, who have had their votes usurped so blatantly, be forced to endure another month, week, or even a day of living under a military/judiciary coup installed puppet PM who talks reconciliation, but in reality does everything he can to keep those masses disenfranchised?
PM Abhisit has also appeared very reasonable in dealing with protestors over the last few weeks, but if you look at all the other times he appeared reasonable, the reality was much different - you get my drift ?- the stakes have been upped in recent days - quite scary don't you think?
The world must not let him, or his minders, get away with thinking that a crackdown against pro-democracy protesters can ever be acceptable - especially when an easy solution is readily available.
I have focussed on Abhisit because he is the face of the current military/royalist overlords - we know he is expendable, but right now he's the man in the box seat, so he still has a chance to gain real legitimacy with the people. If he acted with integrity, you never know, the Thai people might warm to him, and he could one day even become a legitimate elected PM.
His first step on that road to legitimacy should be to offer dissloution/election within 3 months (Dr Weng has already said reds would accept that).
The people will never be more informed than they already are. The air would then be cleared, and the new parliament could then embark on the genuine constitutional reform process so the country can start moving forwards again.
That is the obvious solution, it is also the right thing to do given the considerable doubts as to his legitimacy arising from military & judicial interventions over the last 4 years.
No amount of smooth talking spin will ever justify a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters when there is a viable solution readily available.
Remember, no redshirt has ever said they will not accept the results of a fair election, so it should be abundantly clear they are not the real problem in Thailand.
The real problem is that there is no culture of democracy. Such a culture can only begin to develop when all sides accept election results and reject military coups or other forms of higher authority interference.