The Final of the Final Showdown

suvarnabhumi_pad

It is a rare event in Thai history when people try to kill each other just because they wear the shirts of the different colours. The polarisation is so intense even in Bangkok.

November 26, 2008 

6:30 PM: PM Somchai Wongsawat’s aircraft has already landed in Bangkok. It was diverted from Suvarnabhumi to the Air Force’s runway adjacent to the Don Muang Airport.

Somchai flees to Chiang Mai after Bangkok landingImmediately, the PM flew off again with his encourage from the Cabinet and People Power Party, who all headed to Chiang Mai. They would be plotting a counter-attack strategy from there.

Army Chief Gen Anupong Paochinda has called for the government to dissolve the House and the People’s Alliance for Democracy to end its protests.
 
He said at a press conference that this is a best way out of the political turmoil as the rival camps will have to simultanously cease their fights.

He led a panel which brought together the public and private sector representatives including academics to discuss the way out for the country.

Anupong expects the government to take the first move on the House dissolution, followed by the PAD to completely stop the opposition movement.

He wouldl submit the proposal in writing to the government. The proposal is based on hope that should the government fails to heed the advice, the bureaucracy might resort to civil disobedience to stop implementing government orders. And in case the PAD fails to end the protests, social sanction will be imposed.

Anupong emerged after two-and-a-half hour meeting with academics and leading civil servants at the Army headquarter. He was last week named by Somchai to head the task force to monitor the volatile political situation which culminated in the PAD seizing the Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday.

“The country is being affected by this crisis, which involves the government and the PAD,” Anupong said. “It is therefore their responsibility to try and solve the conflict. The government should return power to the people and the PAD should end its activities. This is our proposal, not an attempt to put pressure on them.”

Suraphol Nitikraipot, Thammasat University rector and a member of the panel, said he hoped society will come up with its own form of pressure if both sides remain stubborn.

“We think that if the government returns power to the people, the PAD automatically will have to end its campaign, otherwise the movement will not be able to answer social questions,” he said.

Meanwhile, the People Power Party’s executives are feeling high blood pressure. Who would dare to tell us to dissolve Parliament?

Eye to eye meeting between army chief and PM

2:00 PM: What is General Anupong Paochinda going to do when he meets Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat tonight? Somchai is expected to land at Suvarnabhumi Airport at seven o’clock this evening, after which he would not waste a minute to discuss with Gen Anupong about the way out of the deepest crisis situation.

The shutdown of the Suvarnabhumi Airport is tantamount to attacking the nerve system of the Thai economy. Already, hundreds of flights have been cancelled and thousands of passengers have been left stranded. This situation cannot last for more than two or three days otherwise Thailand will go down the hill without any hope of salvation.

Let’s have a party at Suvarnabhumi.

suvarnabhumi2

The PAD has embraced the dirtiest tactic. Many certainly would have to go to jail after this airport takeover.

Which brings the political crisis to a final either/or situation. The crisis can only be resolved if Somchai resigns or if the military steps in to quash the anti-government protesters, who have successfully caused the Suvarnabhumi Airport to suspend its operation.

Throughout last evening, the government would like to dig into the internal security law to declare the state of emergencty surrounding the Suvarnabhumi Airport. But Gen Anupong was fighting back like crazy. If he had concurred, he would have to lead military troops into Suvarnabhumi Airport to quash the protesters.

When Samak Sundaravej, the then prime minister, announced a state of emergency in Bangkok on September 2 to attempt to remove the protesters out of the Government House, Gen Anupong put up his resistance. He refused to bring his troops into the Government House to carry the protesters out for fears that it would lead to bloodshed, which would have undermined his army chief status.

When the Somchai government attacked the protesters on October 7 in front of Parliament, the most Gen Anupong could do was to go on TV to make a polite suggestion that Somchai should step down. It proved to be just a theaterical show. Somchai simply brushed aside as “an opinion of one person”. After that, the army chief and the PM got back to business as usual.

It is now clear that Gen Anupong has a closer relationship with the Somchai government than the protesters under the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

But Gen Anupong has been sandwiched in between the Somchai government and the anti-government protesters. Somchai would like the military to quash the protesters. On the contrary, the protesters would like the military to force, at gun point if possible, Somchai out because he is alleged to serve as a nominee for the Thaksin regime.

So Gen Anupong is now facing a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. He has called up the country’s top policy makers, bureaucrats and security business leaders for a meeting at the army headquarters at 2 o’clock this afternoon to seek their opinions.

It is inevitable that he will have to confront Somchai later this evening when Somchai arrives in Bangkok. Somchai would not resign easily. The political stake is so high. If Gen Anupong does not go along with the government’s order, he will certainly be sacked.

So what would Gen Anupong do? Keep your fingers crossed. The military is not enjoying any unity. Other military colleagues do not always go along with Gen Anupong.

Shutting out Suvarnabhumi

suvarnabhumi31

4:00 PM: It has been a game of wits. The PAD has announced the Final War to bring down the Somchai government, while the PM is away attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

On Monday and on Tuesday, the PAD’s protesters seemed to be in disarray. They marched to Parliament to disrupt the legislative function, to Metropolitan Police Command Centre, to the temporary seat of the government at Don Muang, to the Finance Ministry, to Chat Thai Party. Everywhere they went, they did not face any resistance from the police forces at all, though there were sporadic shootings between the Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt people along the way.

Not a good time to be entrapped at Suvarnabhumi

It is a rare event in Thai history when people try to kill each other just because they wear the shirts of the different colours. The polarisation is so intense even in Bangkok.

If you look at the latest result of the Bangkok governor’s election, you would find that Prapat Chongsanguan of the People Power Party mustered 600,000 votes, compared with 900,000 votes for the incumbent Abhirak Kosayothin.

The government’s tactic was to let the PAD’s protesters do the shadow boxing alone. They might be able to takeover Parliament or the temporary seat of the government at Don Muang, so what? The public opinion would go against the protesters. After the protesters got exhausted, the police would step in to quash them afterward.

But the PAD would outwit the government, which in the absence of the prime minister, has not real command centre. Deputy Prime Minister Chaovarat Charnveerakul was a sitting duck. He is a businessman and he is not the type of a person, who would be handling the political crisis of this magnitude.

I have talked to a PAD protester. Here is the account from the interview:

An Eye-Witness Account of the Suvarnabhumi Takeover

The takeover of the Suvarnabhumi Airport was largely the work of the Bangkok middle-class, Poo told me. He was completely exhausted after three days of little sleep.

Poo, a 44-year-old Yellow Shirt zealot, did not pay much attention when Chamlong Srimuang, one of the leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, told the crowd at the Government House on Sunday to bring along their cars if they had them. He only understood the point on Tuesday when he joined a caravan of more than 3,000 cars to block the Suvarnabhumi Airport, effectively shutting Asia’s fourth largest airport.

Poo has been driving his Honda Civic to the Government House and parking the car near Wat Benajamabophit. He attends the rally until three to four o’clock in the morning, dancing in front of the stage every time the bands take over from the speakers. He quickly rushes back to his home in Taopoon area for a quick nap before going to work. In the evening, he returns to the Government House again, where he has made friends and shared the zeal to bring down the Somchai government.

On Monday and on Tuesday, Poo was among the PAD’s protesters, who seemed to be in disarray. They marched to Parliament to disrupt the legislative function, to Metropolitan Police Command Centre, to the temporary seat of the government at Don Muang, to the Finance Ministry, to Chat Thai Party, and the Army Command Centre. Everywhere they went, they did not face any resistance from the police forces at all, though there were sporadic shootings between the Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt people along the way.

On Tuesday evening after protesting at the Army Command Centre, Poo was told to head to the Suvarnabhumi Airport. The PAD was about to shut out the airport, Thailand’s window to the world.

Poo brought along five other protesters in his cars. The PAD earlier conducted a survey among the crowd and found that the regular protesters owned more than 3,000 cars. If each car carried five Yellow Shirt protesters, the PAD would have 15,000 at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

At five o’clock, Poo raced his Honda Civic across Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport. When he arrived there, thousands of the vehicles had already been parking on the elevated way blocking the way to the terminals. The security guards’ cars of the PAD arrived there first to subdue the airport’s security officials, before other cars of the Yellow Shirt protesters queued up stretching to several kilometres.

Poo blinked his car lights to send out a signal that he was one of the protesters. He was allowed to queue up. From the spot he parked, it was three kilometres away to the cars in the first row. When he and his friends got out of the cars, he saw more several thousands of Yellow Shirt protesters standing on the elevated way leading to the Terminal.

The PAD quickly set up a mobile truck to start the rally in front of the Terminal. The Suvarnabhumi Airport was soon rendered obsolete.

There was a mobile toilet on the elevated way for the protesters. Food supply came shortly, with rice and pork.

Poo heard gun shots from below the elevated way where he was standing. The protesters were warned not to stand too close to the rim of the elevated way because they might be a target of random shootings.

Soon the Suvarnabhumi Airport was rendered obsolete. The government was caught completely off guard. The political crisis plunged to the deepest level ever.

Thanong Khanthong

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s