High tension in Thailand – February 13-26, 2006

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Thaiinsider.com has not been "closed down" (yet) - February 26, 2006
At the beginning of each recent anti-Thaksin protest, The Nation reports cryptically that Thaiinsider.com and other rabidly anti-government sites have been "closed down by the government." It is never clear if they mean the site has been blocked or removed from local servers, etc. And since they always get the url wrong (this time is was "Thaiinside.com"), it does give someone the impression the site is down. However, this time, as in all previous times, the site is still up.

Websites gear up for the protests - February 26, 2006
The Nation has recently started creating unintentionally humorous Flash intros to their site during anti-Thaksin protests. As of 17:30, their latest Flash intro locks people out of their site. The link to their protest coverage is broken and "Enter the Nation website" replays the Flash intro. "Gallery" is not linked at all.
18:37 - Some of the links are working now...

AFP's photo of tonight's protest - February 26, 2006
At 1:22pm Bangkok time, AFP already has a photo of tonight's protest (and an article here). The photo must be a stock photo from an earlier protest.

Chidchai claims third party plans to create violence - The Nation, February 25, 2006
Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya said on Saturday that a third party group had planned to create disturbance and violence during the anti-Thaksin rally on Sunday.
Chidchai said he received a report from Armed Forces Security Centre; under supreme command that a third party wanted to create disturbance and violence on Sunday.
When asked why the government would not arrest the group first, Chidchai said the government learnt about it through intelligence sources so arrests could not be made now.

Quick analysis: While 'third party' violence is a real possibility at this point, such pronouncements have also been used as a way to discourage people from attending anti-government rallies. Before the first anti-Thaksin rally on February 4, a first-hand source revealed to 2Bangkok that police had been ordered to spread rumors via taxi drivers that people should not participate because of the danger of violence.
However, the fact that a prominent cabinet member is now publicly making this kind of statement is probably an indication of government unease over how untoward incidents at the rally could impact the government now that so many powerful factions have committed themselves to toppling Thaksin. These factions probably cannot wait until the upcoming elections and risk another mandate for Thaksin so the desire for destabilizing factors between now and the elections is high... and the sooner the better.

What will happen today?

6:16pm, February 24, 2006 - The Nation reports: Urgent: Thaksin announces House dissolution - The iTV station announced that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has announced a House dissolution. More details to follow.

Earlier: 5:17pm, February 24, 2006 - The Nation reports that only cabinet appointments will be made tonight: A new Cabinet line-up expected to be announced this evening

Earlier: 11:32am, February 24, 2006 -
Our sources indicate that Thaksin will dissolve the house tonight and call for new elections.
Quick analysis: This would be the type of action to take on a Friday night so markets can recover and assimilate the change over the weekend. This action is the best way out for Thaksin and punishes TRT MPs agitating for his ouster by leaving him firmly in charge and locking them into their party affiliations. The gamble is that TRT will not necessarily be in a position to control the inevitable investigations of Thaksin's business dealings and other TRT missteps after the election.
Sources also inform us that TRT power brokers have been negotiating a soft landing for Thaksin to step down and leave TRT in power. However, it is difficult to make a deal with someone who is already a billionaire. If Thaksin were to step down, TRT MPs could stay in control, blame Thaksin for everything, and also guide any future constitutional reform.
Thaksin, not being a political animal, but a business leader not adverse to failure, is more interested in regrouping and staying in charge where he believes he belongs. He will not step into the shadows like a canny career politician, but try to weather the storm like an embattled CEO guiding his company through a sales downturn.
This is where the eventual conflict could come because Thaksin will not play by Thai political rules and step aside once 'society' (academics, politicians, and activists, but not necessarily voters) has judged him to have lost legitimacy to rule.




(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Left: Get out from the People's Alliance for Democracy.
Right: Yik Thaksin - Yik is Southerner's dialect meaning to chase or drive out.

Anti-Thaksin rally in Songkhla - February 20, 2006
Mr. John reports: These leaflets were handed out to persuade people from Songkhla and nearby provinces to gather to drive out Thaksin. On February 19, students and the Alliance to Restore the Nation joined with the People's Alliance for Democracy to stage a rally demanding the PM to quit and have political reform. This gathering started at 16.00 at Lotus Pool, Samila Beach, Songkhla
.



(Photo: 2Bangkok.com)

Above: Chamlong during the 1992 Black May protests

ANTI-THAKSIN MOVEMENT: Chamlong demands Thaksin's resignation - The Nation, February 19, 2006
Former Palang Dharma Party leader Chamlong Srimuang, who brought Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra into politics, Sunday called on the prime minister to resign and threatened to lead his "Dharma force" to join the anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on February 26...

Government: This isn't 1992 - Bangkok Post, February 19, 2006
The Thai government is urging those planning to attend a mass rally demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra next Sunday to remain peaceful and not carry weapons.
Government spokesperson Surapong Suebwonglee's raised the question of a repeat performance of the bloody May 1992 uprising only hours after 1992 hero Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang turned against his old friend and protege Mr Thaksin.
Maj-Gen Chamlong, meanwhile, said he believed there would be no bloody violence next week, as there was in May 1992. But if there is violence, "The government will have to take responsibility..."


(Photo: Mr. John for 2Bangkok.com)

Protesting Thaksin at Thaksin University - February 19, 2006
Mr John reports: Last Sunday (February 19) the student community of Thaksin University, Songkhla launched an anti-Thaksin protest saying he used dishonest tricks to get votes. They propose he step down from a political role and open the way to have the second political reform, and warn him not to insult student power. The student insisted to continue meeting although being pressured by the university. They said they protest the PM and also can protest the executives of the university and distribute statement to the people there.

Historic Thai protests dwarfed by shopping mall democracy - Pacific News Service, February 17, 2006
[An odd interpretation of the current situation...]
...Thai citizens are trying out new democratic methods in the recent mass protests against their government. But will it trump the greater democratic pastime embraced by the Thais: shopping for Western products?


Money no longer talks for Thai PM - The Age, February 18, 2006

Manager gains from Sondhi's campaign - Bangkok Post, February 16, 2006
...Krungthep Turakij, the perennial leader, has slipped to second place and Post Today, the sister daily of the Bangkok Post, from second to third...

PM prolongs political game by playing golf - ThaiDay, February 14, 2006
..."There is no special political significance," Thaksin told newsmen at the Lakewood golf course on the Bang Na-Trat highway. "The armed forces commanders had asked to play a round of golf, and so, since we are all free today, we decided to get together to do it. The various ministers are here just to help entertain the [military] guests."
All the senior top brass were present, including Supreme Commander Gen Ruangroj Mahasaranont, Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratakalin, Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sathiraphan Keyanont, Air Force Commander-in-Chief ACM Chalit Pukpasuk and National Police Chief Pol Gen Kovit Watthana. Among the ministers present were Defense Minister Gen Thammarak Isarangura Na Ayutthaya and Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal...


Chang Noi: Ten easy steps to selling the country - The Nation, February 13, 2006
...10. There is one regulatory body not under your control. The big one. There's some risk you could come back as a flea, or even get stranded in the Lokanta depths. Try bargaining. Promise to give away all your property several times over in your next life. This is only a bit more outrageous than what you promise the people at election times. It might work...

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