NOTHING less than a chaotic and disgraceful farce describes yesterday’s violent clashes in Pattaya.
This would-be venue of the Asean summit, convened for heads of government in Asean and its dialogue partners, erupted in a series of violent melees as planned by anti-government protesters.
Demonstrators battling in the streets stormed a hotel armed with Molotov cocktails, slingshots with bolts and other weapons.
And yet the government must have seen it coming. The tide of protesters, supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra hoping to topple Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, had been building for days in the area.
Official preparations for security, if there had been any at all, seemed amateurish at best. If such incompetence was what the protesters wanted to expose in destroying the government’s credibility, they succeeded impeccably.
The Abhisit government is now the laughing stock of the region and the world, allowing among other things Pattaya’s loss of an estimated 200bil baht (RM20.3bil) in tourist receipts for this year alone. A further implication: if the government cannot even secure a conference venue, how can it hope to do so for an entire nation saddled with myriad challenges?
No other country would allow public safety and the security of visiting foreign leaders to be compromised so shabbily.
For months already, the government seemed to stand idly by as two of the country’s biggest airports were hijacked, key government offices occupied and Bangkok traffic disrupted. And the shocking collapse in public order continued, without any apparent rectification or safeguards against future incidents.
What happened to law enforcement? How Thailand deals with its dissidents, miscreants and malcontents is its problem, but it cannot assume any right to host an international summit and risk the safety of its many guests in the process.