THAKSIN Shinawatra’s periodic phone-ins seem to have profoundly negative effects on the stability of the Democrat-led coalition. They began with tirades, then disclosures of internecine events relating to coup plots over two years ago. Whether the issues have become credible or otherwise, some people think the fugitive has gone too far.
What can the government do as a counter-measure? So far, nobody seems to care much about the phone-ins and video links Thaksin uses to rouse his supporters all over the country, begging for them to rise against the Abhisit Cabinet.
The Democrats have been traditionally regarded as very crafty in the blame game and smear campaigns. It is not so this time around. They have become politicians displaying gentlemanly conduct, standing on the high moral ground, shrugging off the guerrilla tactics used by their chief adversary in self-imposed exile.
Thaksin’s verbal salvos have hurt a lot of people in high places. He must have been trained well by his international media consultants, possibly the Baker Botts firm. Whatever he says, it will be enough to create “reasonable doubt” about his enemies. Obviously, his accusations stick.
Now that red-shirted supporters of Thaksin have begun to gather in many provinces to demand dissolution of the House of Representatives or the resignation of the Democrat-led coalition, the venom of the fugitive’s hard-charging tirades poses a political threat. It started in many provinces in the North yesterday, and surely will spread to the Northeast and other regions like wildfire.
Who is to blame? The Democrats have got themselves in deep trouble after underestimating the real potential of Thaksin, and his huge war chest, to stir up dissent.
The Democrats have been too slow in responding to Thaksin’s challenge, failing to use the state-owned media as a retaliatory measure, especially against his disinformation and propaganda campaigns.
Thaksin must be beaming over his success in creating a new political crisis for the Abhisit Cabinet. Had he known that his wild charges against the government would be so powerful, he would have made them long ago.
Now that the Democrats feel the heat and are sweating, it is almost too late for their crisis response. By being complacent and allowing Thaksin’s supporters to hold key positions, especially in the Public Relations Department, the police and other agencies, the Democrats have found the rude awakening with the rise of “red power” is their own fault.
The Democrats have been cocky and overconfident since they gained power. Now, after 100 days in office, with their position seemingly impregnable, they have found that their real status is quite vulnerable. Thaksin will instigate his rural supporters to provoke the government into using force to quell their dissent, if not their rebellion.
Abhisit leaves today for the G-20 summit meeting in London. While he expects to gain a higher profile on the international stage, he will be deeply perturbed by the ongoing crisis back home. He will face questions about the unsettled political situation. Doubts over his government’s stability could even crop up.
The immediate problem is how to do something that will shut Thaksin up, for good if possible. That might also be too late. His supporters would be even angrier, now that they have become addicted to the fugitive’s moaning about unfair treatment and the call for insurrection.
The protest rally in front of Government House also takes deeper root. The heat from the scorching sun has failed to drive them away. The rally thins during the day, but swells during the night, with several thousand people gathering to hear more verbal attacks against people in high places. Never before has the Privy Council, especially the president, judges and other respected figures, been lambasted by such crude words in public. Thaksin’s cronies and goons have been doing so nightly.
The public, especially the business sector, needs urgent reassurance from the government that the crisis is not getting out of hand. Intervention by the armed forces would be gleefully welcomed by Thaksin’s cronies and supporters. It would allow them to rise in full force and Thaksin could either form a government in exile or ask for international assistance.
The Democrats have got their backs to the wall. They will need more than crafty skills and scheming to get out of trouble. Thaksin has lit his fire of revolution. As a man with nothing to lose, he has burned his bridges while his adversaries feel the heat.
Are we headed for a new crisis of unknown proportions? We will certainly know before Songkran day. It will not be fun this year.
By Sopon Onkgara
Published on March 31, 2009