Red-shirt rallies will soon run out of steam

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Over the next few days, the protesters should disperse as the money runs dry and their leadership is nowhere to be seen. Besides, they are looking forward to spending time with their families during the Songkran festival next week.

OUSTED prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s attempt at the final blitz to regain political power may be coming to a futile end.

All of the Shinawatra clan members including his ex-wife Pojaman and her children, General Chaiyasith Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra, Somchai Wongsawat and Yaowapa Wongsawat, have already left Thailand and sought refuge elsewhere. Yingluck and Yaowapa appeared at the rally on Wednesday. At the moment, most of the family members are believed to be fortifying themselves in Singapore, waiting for further political developments.

But they must have sensed by now that the tide is going against them. They have played their trump card.

The red-shirt protesters who have been ravaging Bangkok over the past two weeks are being left behind to take care of themselves as the paymasters jump ship.

It sounded like a perfect plot from the beginning. Thaksin and his clan believed they could take over Thailand through the red-shirt revolution. To succeed, they would have to mobilise 300,000 protesters, who would then create a scene to justify a military intervention.

The protesters have begun to make their presence in Bangkok streets felt over the past two weeks, concentrating their rallies at the Government House, the Royal Plaza and the Si Sao Theves residence of General Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council. A military clique belonging to the Thaksin camp would stand ready to come out with the tanks. The privy councillors would have to be held hostage.

Almost incidentally, General Jongrak Chuthanont, deputy national police chief, reported that the police had uncovered an assassination attempt against Privy Councillor Chanchai Likhitjittha. The three men allegedly involved in the plot were identified as Kamik Sukkanjanakas, 33, Panupong Rattanapaiboon, 32, and Sakchai Lim, 29. They were described as the gunman, the driver of a getaway motorcycle and the contractor.

But you can sense that the timing of the police arrest of the three suspects is rather questionable amid the ongoing momentum of the red-shirt rallies. The protesters demand the resignation of General Prem, the former prime minister General Surayuth Chulnanont and Chanchai, as privy councillors because they believe that the three were allegedly involved in the 2006 coup. They also demand that Abhisit Vejjajiva resign from his premiership.

On Tuesday, police arrested Major Thienchai Muangchantuek at an army camp for allegedly being the mastermind. The arrested men told the investigators that a group of military officers wanted to instigate turmoil ahead of today’s rally by the red shirts.

Commodore Chakkrit Sekhanan was further implicated. On Thursday he reported to police in order to acknowledge charges relating to the contract on the life of privy councillor Chanchai. Chakkrit denied any involvement in the assassination plot. He said he volunteered his surrender as proof of his innocence. He said he did know Major Thienchai, the go-between suspect, who blamed him for putting out the contract on Chanchai’s life.

Chanchai, a former president of the Supreme Court, along with other senior judges and a few privy councillors, was accused by Thaksin of plotting the 2006 coup.

After the discovery of the assassination plot, the police want to provide protection for the members of the Privy Council. Will the members of the Privy Council trust the police’s protection?

Anyway, the military clique belonging to the Thaksin camp has been subdued. The protesters have widened their rallies to strategic locations in Bangkok, covering the Victory Monument, the Democracy Monument, the Foreign Ministry, the Constitution Court, the Democrat Party’s headquarters and Hualamphong Railway Station. But their rallies, which reflect the dao krajai (widespread) rallies of the yellow-shirted PAD protesters last year, could be running out of steam soon. It costs about Bt50 million a day to organise the rallies.

Over the next few days, the protesters should disperse as the money runs dry and their leadership is nowhere to be seen. Besides, they are looking forward to spending time with their families during the Songkran festival next week.

The red-shirt subcontractors (Do I hear Veera?) who have organised the rallies and taken turns to attack the privy councillors and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, are likely to be purged afterwards.

After Songkran, you will see that Thailand will gradually return to normalcy. The Abhisit government will ride out this wave of political turbulence.

The yellow-shirt protesters ended their rallies in December last year with the removal of the Somchai government. The red-shirt protesters should end their rallies in this hot month of April, with Thaksin and his clan suffering from a bitter defeat that will be beyond any repair.

By Thanong Khanthong
The Nation
Published on April 10, 2009

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