High tension in Thailand – February 27-March 8, 2006

Luangta Maha Bua asks Thaksin to resign - The Nation, March 8, 2006
News about this influential abbott is always front-page news in the widely read Matichon and other Thai-language newspapers.
...The abbot of Wat Pa Ban Tat, in Udon Thani's Muang district, said it was time for Thaksin to abandon the "rotten system he is presiding over". He described the government as "wicked, corrupt, power-hungry and greedy"...

On the forum: Boycott list
This is the boycott list mentioned in this AFP article.
March 14: a big day for many reasons - The Nation, March 8, 2006
...The second part of the Temasek's buyout is a mandatory tender offer for the remaining 51 per cent of Shin from other shareholders. Temasek could have to dish out another US$1.8 billion (Bt70.6 billion) for the remaining shares. This part of the takeover closes today, with payment due to be made on Tuesday (March 14).
If the tender offer ends well by March 14, then Thaksin will no longer have any obligation to remain in office amid mounting pressure for him to resign. He can't weather the political storm ahead without backing off because the country is enduring a political crisis of enormous magnitude with a bitter divide among the populace and various institutions...

Shin deal 'is starting to unravel' - The Nation, March 8, 2006
...Since March 2, Cedar Holdings and Aspen Holdings have been tendering for Shin stocks at Bt49.25 a share. They have set 4.30pm tomorrow as the deadline for them to "alter the terms of the tender offer" in case that there are incidents that might affect the status or the assets of Shin.
It is not clear what they mean by "altering the terms of the tender offer". But rumours in the market are that Temasek might call off the tender if there is a mass demonstration outside the Singapore Embassy, attempts to destroy Shin's assets or to boycott its products and services.
After the March 9 deadline, the deal is considered done.
People familiar with the deal could not confirm whether there is any similar clause or "put option", which would allow Temasek to terminate the deal with the Shinawatra and Damapong families in the event of unexpected incidents that affect the status or assets of Shin.
"Only the Shinawatras and Temasek know about this detail. But I believe the Shinawatras would never make a buy-back deal," said one financial source.

On the forum: Hostility toward Singapore
...There even was a racial slant to the editorial. ''We should be aware of the danger from the black-haired and small-eyed foreignersa` ''We won't have anything left over the next few years because those black-haired and small-eyed foreigners came to be involved in every single policy in Thailand...''

Army chief orders Channel 5 to cover anti-Thaksin protest - The Nation, March 6, 2006
Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Sondhi Boonyaratklin has instructed the editorial department of Channel 5 to cover and report on the demonstration against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra at Sanam Luang.
A well-informed source said Sondhi ordered the editorial staff to make reports accurate and fair to all sides.


Talk show is axed for being too heavy on politics - Bangkok Post, March 8, 2005
... Mr Piroon said several radio programmes on FM 94 have been scrapped as part of the station's restructuring plan.
He admitted the talk show was removed because it focused too much on politics and this went against the light-hearted concept of the programme...

Show 'too serious' for Open Radio - The Nation, March 8, 2006
...Piroon said the programme was too serious and no one had forced him to axe it...

Blowing up Thaksin - Chang Noi, March 6, 2006
...An upcountry vendor said to Chang Noi a few days ago, The only thing this guy ever gives us is our own tax money back. This vendor had formerly been a strong Thaksin supporter. A business friend recently asked, Suphanburi is smothered with hospitals, schools, and bus shelters supported by the charity of Banharn and his wife Jaemsai. Where do you ever see something sponsored by Thaksin and Pojaman? They dont give, they only take...

Thirteen locations in Pattani torched - translated and summarized from Thai Rath, March 3, 2006
Early on Thursday morning a blaze was reported at the car park of the Pattani province branch of the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT Public Company Limited), damaging seven cars and a motorcycle. Five of the cars belonged to TOT. A gallon of oil was left abandoned at the scene. Shortly afterwards, mobile phone signal towers and relay stations owned by AIS, True, and DTAC in the same province were also torched. In Pattani's Yaring district, a wooden one-story building in the Ban Ta Dan School complex went up in flames. The building was badly damaged. A post office was also a target of arsonists, but no damage was reported. Also in Pattani's Panare district, a public telephone booth and a telephone line connection board were torched. While the police are hunting for the arsonists, mobile phone networks in the area are being restored.

Had Yai on watch around the clock - Twenty locations in Pattani in flames - translated and summarized from Komchadluek, March 3, 2006
On March 2, two mobile phone signal towers belonging to AIS and DTAC in Songkhla province were in flames. Shortly after that, two more mobile phone signal towers owned by AIS and a public phone booth in the same province were also torched. On the same day in Pattani province, several locations were set ablaze. The first blaze was reported at the car park of TOT Public Company Limited, Muang district branch. Seven cars and a motorcycle were damaged. A gallon of oil was found at the scene. Mobile phone relay towers owned by AIS, True and DTAC were also set on fire. A primary school in Yaring district was severely damaged in a blaze. A Molotov cocktail was thrown into a post office, but fortunately it caused no damage. The police are trying to arrest the arsonists and patrolling the area around the clock to prevent more arson attacks.

TRT: PM has accepted almost all demands - TNA, March 5, 2006
Santi Asoke threatens to distribute anti-Thaksin shame file - TNA, March 5, 2006

(Photo: GWR)

Democrat rally in Hat-Yai - March 3, 2006
GWR writes: The Democrat rally in Hat-Yai seems to have been aimed at explaining the boycott to voters. This is a rather poor shot at twilight (18:15). The crowd swelled to about three times this size in less than an hour and when I left it looked like it was going to get a lot bigger. Speakers were shuffling back and forward between this rally and another in Songkhla.
The rally was held on the playing field of Engsiang School, which was originally a Chinese school. It is now a Tessaban school, but uses its sports field for rock concerts and political rally. As you will see from the picture, Hat Yai's Central Mosque is just over the wall, so Friday prayers were having to compete a bit with speeches... After prayers, many Muslims congregated on balconies to listen to speeches.
Opposition leader to take responsibility for boycotting snap election - TNA, March 3, 2006
A tale of two sources: Postcards from the people

Public flock to mail peace-loving messages to government
- TNA, March 2, 2006
Postal officials claimed Thursday the government has received at least 500,000 letters and postcards sent by the public, bearing peace-loving messages and expressing opposition against violence.
The letters, they said, would be handed to caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra this evening.
Prime Minister Thaksin yesterday opened and announced PO Box 888 and asked the public to write the government that they love democracy, peace and they wish to see no violence and bloodshed.
The prime minister promised to display the letters and postcards in front of Government House.
A TNA reporter said officials have erected tents and a giant metal cage in front of Government House to contain the peace-loving letters and postcards.
Officials said the public could also drop by the tent to hand in their letters in person.


300,000 postcards mailed to Thaksin
- The Nation, March 3, 2005
...Many of the cards contained similar messages and were in similar handwritings. Most of them had no addresses of the senders.
However, a number of the postcards sent to Post Box 888 of the Government House Post Office urged the prime minister to resign "as a way to end on ongoing political crisis".
Some of the cards called for a salary raise for civil servants, and some others were obviously delivered to a wrong address; they were entrants for lucky draw prizes...


ThaiDay as rabid as Manager? - March 3, 2006
We have noticed that ThaiDay (a supplement to the Thai version of International Herald Tribune) tends to be as rabid as its parent newspaper, the Thai-language Manager.
For instance, overstated or overblown headlines: Thaksin is doomed, say diplomats - ThaiDay, March 2, 2006
Articles that either do not really explain the situation or that downplay the real story: Apirak hopes new team will revitalize City Hall - ThaiDay, March 2, 2006
The article quotes Apirak that the reshuffle "was done because the new policy of 2006 is not focused on megaprojects but community development.” Only after 11 paragraphs is there a passing single mention of corruption allegations in the BMA.
In contrast, the Post gives the reason for the reshuffle in its first paragraph: "The top-level changes were prompted by a high-profile graft row involving the e-auction of 16 city megaprojects worth 20 billion baht." ("Apirak orders revamp of BMA's operations", Bangkok Post, March 3, 2006)

Protests may provoke 'silent force' to react - Bangkok Post, March 3, 2006
Any protest action in breach of the constitution, including the sealing-off of Government House, could provoke ''the silent force'' to express its dissatisfaction with the protesters, government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said yesterday. Mr Surapong said article 65 of the constitution allows anyone who disagrees with the protesters to peacefully express their displeasure with actions not in accordance with the modes provided in the charter. ''The silent force could show their disagreement in the forms of work stoppages, turning on their car headlights or putting up posters in protest at the anti-government rally,'' he said...

Thammarak warns top brass against coup bid
- Bangkok Post, March 3, 2006
Caretaker Defence Minister Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya yesterday held an urgent meeting with top military leaders to discuss security measures for two major rallies today and Sunday and warned them against staging a coup. Present at the meeting at army headquarters were permanent secretary for defence Gen Sirichai Tunyasiri, supreme commander Gen Ruangroj Mahasaranont, army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, navy chief Adm Sathiraphan Keyanont, air force chief ACM Chalit Phukphasuk and national police chief Pol Gen Kowit Wattana.
Speaking after the two-hour meeting, Gen Thammarak said: ''I told them we have been on a democratic path. Whoever is foolish enough to stage a coup will end up in jail. I know they will definitely not do it...''
More on High tension in Thailand

Denying rumors
Govt spokesman denies rumor PM to resign - The Nation, March 1, 2006

Supreme commander insists no coup will be staged - The Nation, March 1, 2006

Thaksin denies he plans to resign - The Nation, March 1, 2006

Army chief denies asking Thaksin to resign - The Nation, March 1, 2006

Govt 'interfering' with ASTV's signal - Bangkok Post, March 2, 2006
The government is trying to disrupt the operations of Manager Group's ASTV satellite TV channel, according to Pramen Pakdiwapee, the station's director. Mr Pramen says ASTV's internet connections are mysteriously degraded every time it reports important news that could be viewed as anti-government...

Left: Thai Rath - Three in alliance break with Thaksin, do not cooperate

Today's headlines - March 1, 2006

Right: Daily News - Three parties boycott - old opposition parties hand-in-hand not to apply for the general election - Toeng [nickname of Banharn] says that he cannot believe Maew [nickname of PM Thaksin]

Left: Matichon - Three parties overthrow the general election, break up with Maew - 26 senators join the fray against the Committee of Election and urge to "quit "


Analyzing Thailand - March 1, 2006
We review many analysts' comments about Thailand and it is clear that most simply have no idea what is going on concerning the present political situation. Local security companies take a single article from the Bangkok Post or Nation and turn it into a series of bullet points. It is also fascinating the number of analysts who thought (and still think) that the dissolution has solved the political situation and everyone will just wait for a new election mandate. For example: Thai stocks may rise this week after snap election is called - February 26, 2006
... "As an investor, what you want is stability,'' Kerley said. "Change and uncertainty are never good. What Thaksin has done will take away some of that uncertainty.''

Thaksin advised to get plenty of sleep - The Nation, February 28, 2006
Dissolution headlines - February 26, 2006

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.

Estimates of crowd numbers vary wildly - The Nation, February 28, 2006
Was it 20,000 or 100,000 or 200,000?...
This Nation article is similar to the 2B article on the February 11 protests (Gaining strength or losing steam? 5,000 or 100,000?, February 13, 2006) and mentions an interesting site: ThaiGoogleEarth.com

Panlop: Military coup possible - Bangkok Post, February 25, 2006
A military coup may be unavoidable if Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra refuses to budge and political instability persists much longer, said Panlop Pinmanee, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc)...

Blast shocks rally site in Bangkok - Xinhua, February 26, 2006
[There was no "explosion"--just a fire in a generator truck.]


Protest leaders apologize to iTV - The Nation, February 27, 2006
...4:40 pm: iTV submits a letter of complaint to the Broadcast Journalist Association of Thailand about the case that its TV crew were besieged and intimidated by protesters at Sanam Luang Sunday night. The station asks the association provide protection for reporters who are doing their duty.
5:00 PM: The Hyde Park at Sanam Luang resumes. Two announcers, Samran Rodphet and Suwit Watnoo, tell the demonstrator that they have reviewed tape of iTV and found that the station did not report the number of protesters Sunday night. They apologise iTV reporter Thapanee Iadsrichai for the misunderstanding and intimidation against her and her crew by demonstrators Sunday night...


Earlier: Angry crowd turns on iTV crew - The Nation, February 27, 2006
Mobs yesterday ousted an iTV news crew from Sanam Luang after its reporters claimed that only 6,000 people had joined the anti-government rally yesterday. Mobs yelled at the reporters, scolding them for having "no ethics", while others tried to physically attack the crews as they bustled them from Sanam Luang. Police rushed in to protect the journalists.
iTV stopped its broadcast and negotiated with the protesters to leave its broadcast van opposite the main stage but the request was rejected, with people screaming they had to leave because their reports were biased.
The crew decided to leave the site with their facilities for fear of their safety. They accused the protesters of being drunk.

New Thai parliamentary polls set for April 2 - AFP, February 24, 2006
Earlier: Despite ridicule all day long, 2Bangkok.com's prediction of a house dissolution on Friday was accurate.
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