April 8 March: Abhisits first big test; Thaksins last hurrah

abhisit_redshirt

THE red shirts have designated their April 8 “Big March” as the last battle between what they describe as “genuine democracy” and “amatayatippatai”, which has been translated loosely as “bureaucratic polity”.

Nobody is quite sure what that means. I am almost certain that even the red-shirted core leaders – who have been throwing these phrases around over the past few days in their unrelenting verbal assault on the privy councillors – if pressed, couldn’t tell you what it’s all about.

But for the protest leaders it may not really matter whether the captive crowd gets the meaning – as long as the rhetoric gets them all stirred up.

Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former premier, has been using video links to urge his supporters to come out in full force yesterday to “make history” that could be likened to the October 14, 1973 student uprising.

His lieutenants tried to describe yesterday’s rally as “the people’s war” or “people’s revolution”.

All these claims, of course, are nothing but pure hogwash invented by Thaksin and his aides to drum up a street demonstration big enough to enhance his bargaining power with the powers-that-be.

The thinly-veiled goal is unmistakable. The former prime minister wants to pressure the Abhisit government to:

1. Step down to allow his Pheu Thai Party for form a new government, or

2. Dissolve Parliament and call a new election in which he hopes his party will win a majority that will change all the rules to free him from the two-year jail term and delete all the pending criminal charges against him, or

3. Stir up the crowd enough to bring about a violent confrontation with law-enforcement officials. Any ensuing bloodshed would open up a chance for him to overthrow the current administration.

None of these scenarios will take place, however, if Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva follows the ground rules he laid down in his television speech on Monday evening.

His counter-strategy is clear and simple. But it will win the day only if Abhisit possesses the kind of “crisis leadership” that is required of a premier handling this kind of highly sensitive situation.

Abhisit, declaring that the government was “100 per cent ready” to cope with the situation, was “conditionally firm” in his statement: His government will respect the protestors’ rights to hold their demonstration that was due to begin yesterday. But he won’t tolerate a “civil war” or a “people’s revolution”. However, he insisted that soldiers and police have been given clear instructions to avoid using force to disperse the crowd, unless laws are clearly broken and innocent lives are put at risk.

Abhisit also made it abundantly clear that the red-shirted protestors would not be allowed to lay siege to the houses of such “senior citizens” as Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda. Any attempt to cross the legal line will be dealt with firmly, he said.

Abhisit’s dilemma is clear. He has been accused by some of being “too soft” on some of the protestors and Thaksin, who, through his video links, has already “crossed the legal line” by openly attacking General Prem and some other privy councillors.

How, the critics asked, can a man fleeing a two-year jail term handed down by the court, be allowed to repeatedly incite a mob to carry out what could arguably amount to an open revolt?

On the other hand, Abhisit would risk playing into Thaksin’s hands if he ordered a crackdown on the demonstrators. Such unprovoked action could boomerang and deteriorate into a real “civil war”.

When all is said and done, Abhisit can win this “war” only if he can disperse the smokescreen put up by Thaksin; a smokescreen of claims that this is a battle between democracy and “bureaucratic polity”, or a clash between the powers-that-be and the once-powerful.

In its crudest form, the ongoing confrontation is nothing but an ugly and ruinous power struggle between Thaksin and everybody else he considers his enemies.

By: Yoon, Thai Talk

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