La Stampa via Bangkok Pundit
Let’s call things with their right names. What the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) did on August 26 by storming a TV station, assaulting many ministries and then camping in the gardens of the government house was a putsch. It is only unclear whether the putsch was successful or not.
If the democratically elected Prime minister feels powerless and steps down, the putsch was successful. If the PAD leaders are arrested and their demonstrations disbanded the coup failed. Short of that, if only a compromise is reached, then government will still be alive but hardly in control – it would be as if it were hooked on a life supporting machine, under the constant threat of the next push by the PAD.
A coup d’etat in Thailand would be dangerous in normal circumstances, because it would push back the regional process of democratization, because it would be bad inspiration for Filipino or Indonesian generals eager to grab back political power thanks to the barrels of their tanks.
Now, a putsch could be worse, a disaster as it would greatly enhance global instability by opening new fronts, new fault lines in this semi-new cold war period with Russia.
The putsch in Thailand must be stopped.
In 1981, only a few years after the demise of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and the then brief return to the democracy in Spain, the military staged a coup d’etat. The national TV showed lieutenant colonel Antonio Tejero holding the elected parliament at gun point and claiming he was acting on behalf of the King. In those times putsches were more “acceptable” than nowadays. However, the King of Spain announced he did not back any coup and Tejero got arrested.
Can the King of Thailand stop the putsch now? The PAD has put the King in a bind. The PAD people claim to be royalists, they even don a yellow shirt, in respect of the King, then how can a King, who keeps himself out of politics, move against his most loyal subjects?
Moreover, the PAD accuses Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej of plotting to turn Thailand from a monarchy to a republic. Samak denies it, the PAD does not believe it. What is true?
Actually, Thailand is a democracy, and thus all opinions can be expressed, if the Prime Minister wanted to turn Thailand into a republic he could voice his opinion and campaign for it. If he doesn’t then evidently he wants the monarchy.
However, if PAD members claim to be royalists in this forceful way they accuse all their enemies of being “republicans”. But shouldn’t be the king the one who judges who is royalist and who is not? What grounds has the PAD for branding its enemies with convenient labels? In fact, the behavior is old and experimented. The Italian fascists in the 1920s claimed to protect the national interests and accused all their political enemies of being traitors of the motherland. They brought Italy to ruin and caused the end of monarchy.
Today the situation in Thailand is even more serious. The government has been democratically elected just seven months ago; opinion polls show that over 70% of the people are against the ongoing protest and in favor of the government; the PAD makes no mystery of upholding a strongly authoritarian agenda asking only 30% of the parliament to be elected – the rest should be appointees.
Although, the tradition in Bangkok is different, now it should be time for the King of Thailand to take a cue from his Spanish colleague: step in and stop the coup once and for all. If he does it with clarity and determination he will have assured Thailand’s future stability as no-one will be tempted to abuse his name in the future. It could be a strong historical legacy for the region and the world in these very confusing times.
If nothing moves, and the elected government is forced to step back, if the situation is allowed to fester on, it would be the second putsch in less than two years. The stock exchange already lost over 25% in a few days, the baht is tumbling down against the already weak dollar, business confidence is collapsing and even ever buoyant tourism could start to suffer. Thailand could soon become the new sick man of Asia – with all its consequences.
Protesters storming Phuket Airport
A number of protesters pushed through police barriers and stormed into the runway and the passenger building at Phuket Airport on Friday.
They committed vandalism by breaking windows at the VIP room.
The provincial governor was trying to negotiate with organisers from the local chapter of the People's Alliance for Democracy. Protesters said they were angry that the airport allowed the state carrier, Thai International Airways, to continue its flights.
Concentration of Power in the Military:
Anupong shows that he's the boss with military reshuffle
By Avudh Panananda
The military line-up is a clear indication that Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda has managed to consolidate his military leadership.
Unlike past rotations, which were often politicised, this year's reshuffle saw the reverse: the military has emerged as a force that could tip the political balance.
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was distracted by political turbulence, specifically the opposition movement led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). As a result, Anupong had free rein over the list of military assignments.
It is now evident that Anupong has practically emerged as the commander of commanders among the three wings of the armed forces.---------
Disappearances: (Unrelated to PAD, but disturbing nonetheless)
At the UN level, Thailand has a dark record when it comes to the issue of disappearances. The country has been noted for having made no progress in investigating its cases of disappearances since 1992. Other UN signatories that had a similarly poor record have since made progress. The fate of Thanong Po-arn, a labour leader during the 1992 Bloody May uprising, is still unknown 26 years later, not to mention that of Somchai Neelaphaijit, a Muslim human-rights lawyer, who disappeared in March, 2004. Repeated investigations have produced nothing tangible. The culprits are still walking free and enjoying their official status at police headquarters.
Each year, there are numerous cases of disappearances. So far, only Somchai's case was pursued at the court level. Other reports have not been considered. If Thailand wants to join the international community, which respects human rights and good governance, we need to ratify the new convention as soon as possible. If necessary, the country must enact new laws or amend existing ones to ensure compliance with international standards and norms.
Attacks on the media and other "ultra-nationalist" behavior:
Finally, the PAD shows its true colours
The raid on the headquarters of NBT on the morning of Aug 26 by a group of anti-government protesters alleged to have carried guns and long knives, has struck alarm among human rights and media freedom groups.
The action is one of the few cases of direct harassment of the media in contemporary Thai political history.
The raid conducted by members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) on the NBT public television station was among a series of raids on government offices, ministries and roadblock protests across the country.
The raid was seen as an unbelievable act, carried out by an anti-government group which has been quite popular among middle-class Thais and Bangkokians.
While the PAD has always told the public that it is a coalition which supports the use of non-violent acts of civil disobedience, these series of key incidents reveals how far the PAD will go in fighting to achieve its goal: the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his entire cabinet; in other words, an end to this government.
To PAD watchers like Professor Prabhas Pintoptang of Chulalongkorn's faculty of political science, the coalition has been seen as planting structural hatred and division in society on a scale far worse than that ever achieved by the previous government under ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
In his interview with Thai Post last month, Prof Prabhas said the PAD had become ''an ultra-nationalist movement''.
He said the PAD was using the same demonisation tactics employed by the right-wing militia to crush the pro-democracy student movement in the mid-1970s, which ended in the lynching of student activists near Thammasat University on Oct 6, 1976.
Those seen by the PAD as their enemies have been branded as thieves and bandits, and therefore were eligible to be subjected to the worst kind of treatment. Vulgar words have been used against respected figures in social movements, such as Jon Ungpakorn, a former senator of Bangkok who founded the independent online news source, Prachatai.
Prachatai has been presenting views critical of the PAD's use of acts considered tantamount to lese majeste in their attacks on political enemies.
1. The next government must revoke the current Cabinet’s resolution that gives approval to the Thailand-Cambodia Joint Communiqué that supports Cambodia’s bid to list the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site with the UNESCO;
2. A neutral, independent committee must be set up consisting of socially accepted persons to investigate wrongdoing, and then notify the United Nations that Thailand does not accept the UNESCO Committee’s decision to grant the World Heritage status to the Preah Vihear temple at Cambodia’s request, and that Thailand wishes to reopen the ruling by the International Court of Justice in 1962;
3. An official letter must be sent to the UN Secretary-General for Thailand to withdraw from UNESCO, and cancel all recognition that the UNESCO has ever granted to Thai archaeological sites;
4. The Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand must be summoned to be informed that Thailand has never accepted the French map to which Cambodia has referred;
5. A special delegation must be set up, including the (new) Prime Minister, to visit countries which are members of the UN Security Council to explain to them, maybe behind doors, and ask them to choose between Thai or Cambodian friendship;
World-famous public relations firms should be hired to bring up the story of French bullying of Thailand through the media worldwide, and a website should be created called ‘www.realfactsofkhaophraviharn.com’, filled with the correct information;
Academics in the field of geography and experts on satellite photography should be invited to a seminar in Bangkok, or Hong Kong, or New York, or Sydney, hosted by Thailand, to insist that watershed lines are universally accepted as border demarcation lines, and to prove that, if the watershed line is used, together with satellite photos, Preah Vihear is on Thai soil;
A meeting should be called of Thai ambassadors from all over the world to assign them to explain Thailand’s stand and the facts regarding the case to the media in each country, and point out that the dispute is a consequence of French colonialism, and set a 30-day time frame for the ambassadors to accomplish the task, in pain of immediate removal;
6. Thai investors in Cambodia must be informed that Thailand has no policy to promote investments there because the dispute is likely to erupt in the future, and advise them to withdraw, or forgo Thai government help;
Thai people doing business along the border must be told to be prepared for border closures in case the conflict escalates;
7. A commission must be set up to invite Cambodia to bilateral negotiations. If the dispute cannot be settled, Thailand would, temporarily adhering to the ICJ’s ruling, mobilize Thai troops, push Cambodians back from Thai territory, and formally inform Cambodia that, apart from the Preah Vihear temple, the surroundings belong to Thailand, and Thailand would pay any price to protect its sovereignty, even at the cost of war.
I will give Not the Nation the last word:
NTN: Wasn’t Thaksin, as well as Samak, elected?
SL: Elections are the enemy of democracy. Thaksin used promises of prosperity to the poor to win popularity, which is illegal and an-Thai and upsets the natural order of things. This is why we must save the nation with our “Final Solution.”
NTN: Who is “we”?
SL: The PAD, and our troops of Yellow Shirts. Also, the PAD Youth Wing, which supports our activities with added loyalty enforcement. We are also working in creating a Ministry of Correct Information, which will issue news that is fit for the Thai people.
NTN: What is your ultimate goal?
SL: The establishment of a National Social Thai State, with the King as head, or “The Leader.” A strong army that serves only The Leader, and a population that takes pride in its Thai purity.
NTN: Sounds ambitious. How can you achieve this?
SL: Our “Final Solution” will simply separate the impure elements of society, round them up if you will, and hold them in camps, maybe upcountry. These elements will include the aforementioned groups, as well as Muslims, who are a parasite race incompatible with the ideals of our state. Also, those who create art or ideas that are contrary to the state, they will also be removed.
NTN: So you intend to suspend the Constitution?
SL: Constitutions are the tools of Republicans, and siphon power away from The Leader, where it belongs. We intend to set fire to Government House.
NTN: How do you know you have the support of the people?
SL: They will support us when they see the rise of the new Age of Thailand. Imagine the glorious day when our military storms across the Cambodian border with “lightning” speed to reclaim Preah Vihear and all the lands of our forefathers. I truly believe this Age can last a thousand years