High tension in Thailand – March 9-20, 2006

High tension in Thailand: March 9-20, 2006
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Is the end really near? - March 20, 2006
The Thai press has been telling its readers over the past few weeks that Prime Minister Thaksin will be stepping down any day now, but it has become increasingly clear Thaksin will not budge and is deftly responding to public expectations.
Thaksin has been raising public hopes he might step down at times when anti-Thaksin sentiment is high--and then shortly afterwards he clarifies the statement to indicate he will not step down. This cycle has been repeated many times over the last three weeks and has effectively kept pro- and anti-Thaksin forces, as well as other institutions that might mitigate the crisis, at bay. This is also an effective way of keeping Thaksin's internal enemies off balance.
The slow, gradual way the pro-Thaksin farmers were brought into town follows this tactic as well. First the movement of the farmers raised tensions that a showdown was on the way. Then it was announced they would be staying outside of town. Then they were on the move again finally ending up in Chatuchak Park. In between these movements were various pronouncements, just at times fears were highest, that the sides would not be allowed to clash.
Ultimately, maneuvering the protesters into Bangkok in an opposing venue shows Thaksin is serious in contending he will not allow "the mob" (as a Thai press puts it) to force him out of office. (The appearance of a pro-Thaksin group also plays well in the foreign press which almost universally has a simplistic reading of Thai political events based on Western models.)
This adept use of information and public opinion is in keeping with Thaksin's skill in public opinion and indicates, despite continual assertions in the press (at least in the Thai-language press and The Nation), that Thaksin fully intends to stay. It is likely that internal dissension with Thai Rak Thai party is lessened now that Thaksin has shown he will not bow to traditional political norms and allow a Bangkok-based "elite" to declare he has lost the legitimacy to rule.
The fact that we are halfway through March and Thaksin is still in power is a testament to his skills and is probably making the opposition--particularly the political bigwigs who broke with Thaksin--feeling a bit desperate.
This means that the desire for and reaction to untoward or violent incidents would be high. Both sides will have to choose their moves carefully as the line between success and failure is very fine. A likely upcoming event could be the postponement of the election (hints of this have been trickling out for several weeks), but this would still allow Thaksin to hang on as P.M.

Beyond the business of politics - Chang Noi, March 20, 2006
...Private business-owners account for only 3 percent of Thailand's working population, but they occupy about 70 to 80 percent of the seats in parliament.
Over-representation of one group -- especially on such a staggering scale -- means under-representation of everybody else. Only 2 percent of MPs claim to be farmers, and none is truly representative of the small farmers who are the single largest segment of the population. Only a couple of MPs are representative of the small-scale family businesses and others in the urban informal sector who are the second largest population group. There's not one from the private business employees who are the third largest.

RP and Thailand - different systems, different outcomes? - Manila Bulletin, March 18, 2006
...As a consistent proponent for meaningful reform through Charter change, it is my belief that Thailand will probably have an easier time than the Philippines in overcoming each other's political crisis. Compared to our presidential form of government, Thailand's parliamentary system offers a non-violent, legal, and constitutional alternative: The "confidence or no-confidence" vote, to effect regime change without the need for police-military intervention. The Philippine system, in contrast, may lead to the fragmentation of our armed services, the adoption of extra-legal measures, and the eventuality of bloody civil strife.
Within six months, Thailand could again be "up and away," while the Philippines may still be stuck in stalemate up to 2010 and even beyond.

Thailand protests put Asia's democratic ideal at crossroads - Sydney Morning Herald, March 17, 2006
"Thaksin aok bai." What happens then is an open question. Amid the clamour, concerns are quietly being raised on whether Thailand's new protest movement could be throwing the baby out with the bathwater in its unwavering desire to unseat the Prime Minister.
"I am very concerned; this is unprecedented," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, who teaches political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "This has the potential to undermine Thailand ... We have had mass movements in 1973 and 1992. But this is a democratically elected prime minister who remains popular..."

Bangkok and Caracas: A comparative analysis - axisoflogic.com, March 15, 2006
[A hilarious take on the current political crisis: The CIA is meddling in Thailand's democracy by trying to unseat Thaksin.]
...The result is an eye opener for Doubting Thomas’ who refuse to believe that the US is meddling in the internal affairs of many emerging nations with recent examples being the Ukraine, Georgia, Haiti, Venezuela and now Thailand.
Update: Bangkok Pundit writes: I am not sure whether that Axis of Logic website is just political satire. See Does Google News Have a Sense of Humor?

Another ad from Thai Rak Thai - March 18, 2006
An ad from TRT in Komchadluek and Krungtepturakit - The headline says: Forward to reform of Thai politics
A contract with the people: "If I do not get half of the vote I will not be prime minister." One year and three months then immediate dissolution. When there is a new constitution, new role open to the neutral person to investigate the work transparency... Believe and respect in the decision of the nation for the future.
1. Forward to reform Thai politics to rectify the nation's problems.
2. Forward to find a neutral person. After one year and three months there was dissolution and later there will be a new constitution and new rules.
3. Forward to administer with transparency and ability to be investigated. Any project of over 100 million baht, the media will be invited to be on a committee to oversee it.
4. Unite on April 2 to vote at the general election with the heart of love for the nation and democracy.
Earlier: Ad from Thai Rak Thai - March 10, 2006

Thaksin seeing a turning of the tide on the airwaves - The Nation, March 15, 2006
...Yongyuth Tiyapairat, the minister for Natural Resources and Environment and a staunch protege of Thaksin, last week blasted Channel 7, a television station owned by the Royal Thai Army, for interrupting a popular prime-time soap opera with a news update on the anti-Thaksin rally at Sanam Luang. He also faulted Channel 9, which is operated by the Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand, for airing an interview with a 10-year-old boy from Khon Kaen who has been a regular at the Sanam Luang rallies.
With the exception of Channel 11, which is run by the Public Relations Department, all the free TV channels seem to have made extraordinary efforts by Thai broadcast journalism standards to cover the anti-Thaksin activities...
Earlier: March 5 - What is on Thai TV now? - March 14 - What is on Thai TV now?

Many Thais weary of 'CEO Prime Minister' - AP, March 16, 2006

(Photo: Jokey)

(Photo: Jokey)

(Photo: Jokey)

(Photo: Jokey)

Rally at Government House - March 15, 2006
"Pro-PM farmers" - March 16, 2006
We note that an article about pro-Thaksin farmers coming to Bangkok is accompanied by the largest photo we have ever seen on the TNA/MCOT site. The article further notes that anti-Thaksin protesters will demonstrate at "several up-country military bases."

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

Anti-government protests then and now - March 12, 2006
Mr. John writes: Above is the atmosphere of the anti-Thaksin gathering organized near the Hadyai Railway Station where there are lots of people monitoring the live situation from Bangkok. This railway station has been the place to display political opinion from October 1973, Black May 1992 and nowadays...

(Photo: Unknown)

(Source: The Nation)

The Nation glories over Thaksin's possible downfall - March 16, 2006
Above is an image from another one of the peculiar Flash intros The Nation website has been running during the recent protests. The Nation has special reason to rejoice over Thaksin's downfall--within months of coming to power Nation principals found themselves being investigated by a government money-laundering watchdog in what was seen as a government attempt to intimidate critics. To protect itself and highlight the situation, The Nation ran many unflattering headlines day after day including the giant block-capital headline "THAKSIN-GATE."

Royal Hotel feels impact of political unrest - Bangkok Post, March 15, 2006
... The hotel's average occupancy rate throughout the year is between 70% and 75%. The hotel projected that political rallies in the old city area during the past two weeks could bring down the occupancy rate by between 2% and 3%...

Negotiation to replace embattled PM is on the way - The Nation, March 14, 2006
Negotiation is taking place to ease political crisis with a change in the prime minister, a highly-placed source said on Tuesday.
The negotiation is at a high level to find potential candidate to replace embattled caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The list includes Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Bokhin Palangkura.

What is on Thai TV now? - 7:54 am, March 14, 2006
Tale of two cities in protest-hit Bangkok - AFP, March 13, 2006
[No public transportation downtown?]
...The anti-Thaksin rallies have been confined to a part of the city rich in symbolism -- near royal palaces, historic temples, and the Government House -- but far from residential neighborhoods and the main commercial district.
That historic part of the city has no public transportation, with a tangle Bangkok's traffic separating it from the rest of the city, meaning most people only see the rallies on television...

'No time for neutrality' - The Nation, March 13, 2006
...Speaking at a seminar yesterday titled "Human Rights Look at the Media, and the Media Look at Human Rights" held at Chulalongkorn University, Anand said both human rights advocates and media professionals must prioritise their search for truth and integrity.
"The media have to be confident with the truth they are going after. They cannot just try to stay neutral in the face of right and wrong. There is no neutrality between good and evil," he said...

Thaksin's challengers have responsibilities, too - International Herald Tribune, March 13, 2006
HM's mediation of May 1992 bloodshed replayed on TV pool - The Nation, March 12, 2006
..."You two should get together to talk it over how to restore the country. This is the reason why I have summoned you. Now we have to rebuild the country from shambles," the King said.
Thaksin on CNN - March 13, 2006

(Source: CNN)

CNN, still completely unable to add any insightful perspective or background to any Thai story they broadcast, had an interview with Thaksin on TalkAsia, one of the most vacuous of CNN shows. The PM seemed a bit tired, but still feisty.
The transcript has not been posted yet, but here are some highlights:
In answer to the question "who is showing up at the anti-Thaksin rallies?"
Thaksin: Some are from two companies who oppose me, some recruited by politicians, some just want to see, some convinced by one sided arguments.
Mike Chinoy: You never met anyone from Tamasek to discuss it [the deal to sell Shin Corp]?
Thaksin: No.

Thaksin denies he plays to enter a live debate with opponents - The Nation, March 11, 2006
Earlier: Debate set for March 24
- March 11, 2006
Off the newswire: PNET [The People's Network for Elections] has offered itself to be the monitor between PM Thaksin, Mr. Abhisit, and Mr. Sondhi during the debate on March 24.

Thai PM accuses critics of resorting to black magic - INQ7.net, March 10, 2006
Embattled Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a firm believer in astrology and the supernatural, conceded Friday that the stars have not been in his favor lately, but said his political enemies were taking it a step too far.
"They are using all kinds of means to try to destroy me, including black magic and the supernatural," he told a meeting of civil servants at Government House, the prime minister's offices. Without naming names, Thaksin said his critics were using photographs and voodoo-like dolls to cast spells.
"But don't worry, I have talismans and various Buddha amulets with me to ward off their magic," he said...

Thaksin on Sorayuth's show - 23:00, March 10, 2005
PM Thaksin explains his positions on TRT-friendly Sorayuth Sutassanajinda's television show.

How many demonstrators? - March 11, 2006
700 march on Singapore embassy - Bangkok Post, March 10, 2006
Hundreds of demonstrators marched on the Singapore embassy this morning to demand the reversal of a $1.9 billion sale by the prime minister's family of a stake in Shin Corp to Temasek Holdings, an investment arm of the Singapore government...

Thousands protest over Shin Corp deal outside Singapore embassy - AFP, March 9, 2006
Thousands of Thais have demonstrated outside the Singaporean embassy, demanding a state-linked investment firm scrap the takeover of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's telecoms giant Shin Corp...

Singapore says Shin deal purely a business matter - The Nation, March 10, 2006
In spite of demands from thousands of protesters, a Singaporean envoy told their representatives that the government would not interfere in state-run Temasek Holdings' decision to take over Shin Corp, reasoning that the decision was purely business...

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate at Singaporean Embassy in Bangkok - TNA, March 9, 2006
...About 500 protesters are rallying in front of the embassy, demanding a response from the embassy after they presented a letter of ultimatum to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Singapore Embassy on Tuesday to request cancellation of the deal between Shin Corp and Temasek, an investment arm of the Singapore government...

Thaksin's retort? - March 11, 2006
A measure of Thaksin's relative lack of strength can be seen in his reaction to the latest U.S. human rights report on Thailand. In previous years, in a position of greater power, Thaksin struck back forcefully against negative claims with strongly worded retorts in response to local and foreign criticism.
For example:
The accusation about a secret prison and criticism of Matichon - November 8 2005
Thaksin is upset and cries out that the media are dishonoring the government by quoting World Bank statistics that Thailand is getting more corrupt - Matichon, May 12, 2005
A tale of two newspapers: US 'error' - March 25, 2004
While many condemned his swagger, unusual for a Thai leader on the international stage, others felt it signaled a new independent-minded Thailand. Thaksin's quick, straight-spoken retorts to overseas comments on "Thai affairs" became one of his trademarks and recalled the tactics of Malaysia's Mahathir.
This month, the human rights criticism of Thailand is some of the toughest yet, but Thaksin, under extreme pressure to resign, is in not in a position to offer any forceful comments. The response is a traditional statement from the Foreign Ministry saying they are disappointed.

Bombing at Prem's house - March 11, 2006

Above: Komchadluek - Someone stirs up the hot situation - Bombs Pa’s [Prem's ] house - Audacious in the daytime - Police kiosk and car are damaged

Below: Daily News - Bomb in front of Pa Prem’s house [pa or dad used for people who are old and like a father] - Chaianand bombed also - Firecracker used to terrorize - Maew [nickname of PM Thaksin] apologizes to Pa

Bomb at stateman's residence unfavorable to government - TNA, March 10, 2006
Firecrackers lobbed into Chai-anan's residence - The Nation, March 9, 2006
Bomb blasts at Gen Prem's residence - The Nation, March 9, 2006
Chamlong says bomb at Prem's residence same type with that at Santi Asoke - The Nation, March 9, 2006
Bombing incidents during anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements - The Nation, March 9, 2006
More on High tension in Thailand

Ad from Thai Rak Thai - March 10, 2006

Left: Thai Rak Thai's full page ad placed in many newspapers yesterday.

The headline says: Information from Thai Rak Thai - issue 1 - Hold on to Democracy, keep the rules, go on to reform Thai politics

The four major points discussed:

1. The important difference between the constitution of present and democratic constitutions of the past

2. Authority and reason to dissolve (parliament)

3. Creating political reform and the way of telling people not to vote

4. Trust and respect the decision of the people

As the Bangkok Post explained (March 8, 2006) ...In the advertisement, Thai Rak Thai asked why parties such as the Democrats and Chart Thai fielded candidates in past elections under dictatorship regimes, but planned to field none in the upcoming election. ''Will this lead people to understand the parties supported the dictatorship system in the past?'' the advertisement reads...

Thai email forwards - March 10, 2006
Left: "Subject: FW: Thaksin get out !!!!!!!!!!" Contains a series of graphics:
More Thai emails forwards

"Dragonstea Din Taksin" - March 10, 2006
Gigabyte points out this Karaoke Thaksin.
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