The unrest that is going on here in Thailand has become violent. By now most readers of this blog will have known that the clash last night between the members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the National Democratic Front against Dictatorship (NDFD) resulted in one dead and more than forty injured. This was the government’s report. Some reports had it that as many as three were killed, but this was not confirmed. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has decreed a state of emergency and has appointed the chief of the army to head a committee that enforces the Emergency Decree. However, by now the army chief has declared nothing and has remained very quiet. This is unusual because in the same kind of events in the past, the army chief was very much a key person, and played a strong role. But now all the spotlight has been on Samak himself.
In support of the PAD, a loose federation of all state enterprise unions declared that tomorrow there would be a general strike all over Thailand. That is, all buses and trains will stop, except for some essential lines to help the most affected people. Most significantly, they said that they would stop working on providing utilities such as electric power and water, especially to government agencies. Even union leaders at Thai Airways have joined the fray, and they said that they would slow down or cancel some flights. Now we are talking about a really major setback for the whole country if the unions made good their claims. Let us wait and see what will happen tomorrow.
On the surface what the PAD wants is that PM Samak resign. But many doubt that this is not the only motive. They claim that the Samak government was protecting Thaksin Shinawatra from court cases, but that happened anyway and the court actually handed a sentence on Thaksin’s wife, Khunying Potjamarn, for a land deal case. Recently the Attorney General handed the court a very large amount of files and evidence for many more cases, and the court is working hard to examine them. This has prompted Thaksin to stay in the UK, saying that he did not trust the court system in Thailand. But it was he who said that he relied on the court to help him bring justice back.
So getting Samak out will not help with the court cases, because even with Samak in power the court is doing very well, even without the PAD support. So why does the PAD really want to oust Samak? After all there is no evidence of Samak tampering with the court’s independence. So this is difficult. They have not so discreetly indicated many times before that they would like to welcome the military back to politics, through another coup d’etat. Of course they could not state this directly, because their very name is People’s Alliance for Democracy. But there were many indications, such as early on when they just started the demonstration they cheered when a number of military people showed up, and they tried to invite high ranking officers to get on stage and talk to the demonstrators.
But why do they want the military to stage another coup? To get rid of Samak? But is Samak really that important? To prevent Thaksin from ever coming back to power again? That is a bit likely, but when we consider what the attorney general and the court are doing it looks the opposite. I don’t believe Thaksin ever has any chance again in Thai politics. It’s all finished for him. Finito. That’s why he is seeking political asylum.
Or perhaps the PAD wants to bring Thaksin back to Thailand to stand trial and to go to jail. But now that Thaksin is not in Thailand and the chance of getting him back to the country is very remote to say the least, the PAD still keep on demonstrating and in recent days they have stopped talking about Thaksin and focused their attention on Samak instead. Before it was Thaksin who was thought to be the top dog and Samak the tail. But now it looks like Samak is now top dog. What has actually happened?
At first the general public in Bangkok was sympathetic to the PAD. After all they were instrumental in getting Thaksin out two years ago by creating a momentum which led to the coup in September 2006. But this time it is different. The tone of the PAD was much more angry and it has looked quite desperate. It seems that they really want to achieve their goals (whatever they are) at whatever cost. So the goals must be really important for them. But what are they? What are these goals that the PAD want to get so much that they have resorted to desperate means such as seizing the Government House, attempting to seize the National Broadcasting of Thailand, and last night clashing with the NDFD where according to a report they inflicted a lot of injuries on the NDFD?
I don’t know the answer to this question. But I know it is something really BIG for Thailand. We can only wait and see, and hope that there’s no more violence.