Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Irish Times on the Thai Crisis

Protesters prepared for further battles in divided city

Irish Times

The Thai capital is seething with tension as anti-government groups continue to clash with riot police, writes David McNeill in Bangkok

SEKSAN JITJAMONG and his comrades are tooled up for battle: combat fatigues, masks, slingshots, metals bars and water for washing tear gas from the eyes - the arsenal of a street fight, topped off with crash helmets emblazoned with the words "cop killer".

"We don't want to use violence but if the police use it against us we have no choice but to defend ourselves," he warns. His friends nod in agreement. Some show scars from bloody clashes with Thai riot police this week, in which two were killed and 480 injured. Pictures of amputated limbs and battered protesters have been circulated, inflaming already bitter feelings against the authorities.

Bangkok is a city divided, with talk of more violence to come and even another coup. Thousands of Thais like Jitjamong occupy the area around government buildings, making it a no-go area for the police. In August, supporters of the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) stormed these buildings armed with machetes and golf clubs, chasing the occupants out and sparking Thailand's worst political crisis in a generation. They are refusing to leave until the government falls.

New prime minister Somchai Wongsawat has been forced to lead his cabinet from a makeshift parliament near the old Bangkok airport, as the protests grow.

"This government has no legitimacy to rule," explains PAD leader Somsak Kosaisook. "They got into office by fraud, and under the constitution we have the right to challenge them. We will keep going until they are gone."

When Somchai turned up on Tuesday to give his first policy speech, the crowds erupted in dawn-to-dusk protests, barricading MPs and ministers inside, cutting off their supplies and reportedly dumping the contents of a sewage truck on the steps of Government House. Somchai fled, dealing a perhaps fatal blow to his credibility. "Whatever dignity he had left was lost as he scrambled over the fence and on to the waiting helicopter," said political analyst Suranand Vejjajiva.


The government's deputy prime minister was so angered by Tuesday's bloodshed that he has resigned and now demands another coup to end the political strife. "There is no other way out," Chavalit Yongchaiyudh told the Thai press yesterday.

To the relief of many, army commander-in-chief Nupong Paojinda has waved such talk away, and ordered his troops to wear white ribbons around their left arms to show that they are neutral. Around the government buildings, PAD supporters are digging in for a long fight. A makeshift protest city has grown up, festooned with flags and portraits of the Thai king and equipped with weapons depots and free-food tents.

Many are gearing up for a protest on Monday, when they will march on the police headquarters to demand the names of those responsible for Tuesday's violence. The protest is another potential flashpoint. "We want peace but will match violence with violence," says Seksan Jitjamong.

Outside protest city, PAD leaders are accused of using young hotheads like Seksan to provoke the government and force the army to again step in. Somchai's government believes pro-PAD arsonists tried to torch the education ministry several times this week in a bid to create more chaos.

The editors over at The Nation must be going crazy since the international media is not goose-stepping in line behind their lies and propaganda.

I'm sure Yoon and company are gearing up for a week's worth of anti-foreigner and right-wing nationalist criticisms in response.

I have been reading a lot of foreign media this week from newspapers all over the globe. It really amazes me how good the reporting has been, especially in comparison to the PAD propaganda that The Nation and Bangkok Post have been producing. In light of YouTube and other forms of media, it really is shocking how the editors at those two newspapers cling to their lies when people can see for themselves that not everything is in black and white, and that the PAD is not this democracy loving peace movement engaged in the non-violent civil disobedience like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC seems to agree:

Media quiet

There is little doubt that the police were reckless in the way they moved against the protesters.

But there has been surprisingly little condemnation in the Thai media of the PAD's own tactics: the construction of tyre-and-barbed-wire barricades to blockade MPs inside parliament, the use of guns by some PAD supporters against the police, video showing a PAD truck ploughing into a line of police then reversing over the injured body of one officer.

There has been no attempt by the Thai papers to trace the source of the PAD's very substantial funding, or of the obviously expert paramilitary training given to some its followers.

It is true there is little public affection for Thailand's corrupt police force, and even less, in Bangkok, for the members of the new cabinet, who astonishingly seems even less convincing than their inept predecessors.

When this crisis is over and the history of the period is written, I think many will be grateful to the internet for providing an alternative version of events.

1 comment:

Farouk Mogheth said...

It is quite true... the situation is sadly even getting worse.. I am an exec here and so many fellow businessmen are trying to consolidate what they have and simple jump ship!!! I am trying the same ... look at this article below from the Thai media.. we have posted it in major newspapers!!! shows exactly in simple terms how hard is the situation..the numbers are exact!

Alarming decline in recruitment amongst political unrest.

JOBSEARCH, Thailand’s only vertical search engine indexing major Thai job offers on the internet has registered an alarming decline in job postings in the last week. According to Mr. Farouk Mogheth, Managing Director, this is attributed to the global economical slowdown however the last numbers are connected mainly to the serious political unrest and panic amongst the business sector. “Jobsearch is a very good barometer for the general attitudes towards hiring” said Mr. Mogheth as its is an automatic listing indexing around 175 000 – 200 000 jobs on a daily basis and is updated every 15 minutes. The system monitors other job websites and HR pages of individual companies and lists all their job openings on a single page for a concise overview.

He mentioned, that the during the last system check there has been a remarkable 58% drop in companies advertising job vacancies (job posting insertions) compared to the same period last month. The numbers as well show a steady rise of at least 42% in the activity of jobseekers subscribing for added job alerts.

“Our system contains hundreds of thousands of registered jobseekers and we can agree that the activity has been a clear indication of a wave of layoffs and downsizing in almost all sectors raising nervousness amongst workers and forcing them to seek alternatives and sort of looking for a plan B” he added. The most hit are the travel and hospitality sectors as well as logistics and heavy industry. Most companies have a definite freeze on their recruitment for this year and the outcome on the 1Q in 1009 is not at all optimistic as businesses are very cautious. The only thing that companies now are concerned about is lowering costs and see where to save. “This is the input of many HR specialists in Thailand” said Mr. Mogheth whose company recruits mid and top managers for the biggest names in the industry through Start Recruitment.

In case the current political standoff continues, then the economical outlook in 2009 will be more grim on the Thai economy as a whole. Unemployment rates will rise faster than the labour market’s ability to absorb the numbers of jobseekers as well as fresh graduates thus creating a major strain on the government and its resources. At the moment there is no creation of new job vacancies, on the contrary many investors has put Thailand on the hold until there is a clear indication that the situation has calmed down and that there will be a viable government to continue with reforms and steps to attract foreign direct investment.