Thaksin Shinawatra’s tactic of using urban terrorism, aimed at creating widespread rioting in Bangkok and paving the way for his return, is facing a setback.
His strategy is simple. After torpedoing the Asean Summit in Pattaya, the red-shirt anti-government protesters stage urban-style terrorism around key points in Bangkok so that Abhisit is forced to declare a state of emergency. Then the military has to be brought in to quash the red-shirt protesters. When the military suppresses the protests, there will be bloodshed and the situation will spill out of control, creating a state of anarchy.
Finally, the strategy goes, Thaksin’s supporters petition His Majesty the King for a royal intervention to end the crisis.
Under this plan, Thaksin is seeking to hold Thailand hostage as he bargains for his amnesty. When the worst came to the worst, a military coup would be launched to bring down the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.
But Thaksin’s game plan is not working. First, the red-shirt protesters’ urban-terrorism tactics have spiralled out of control to create an effective state of civil war inside the capital. Second, they have failed to mobilise enough critical mass support. Third, the Thai public – appalled by the violence and the protesters’ clashes with the security forces – does not support the red shirts.
Yet the most important factor is that Prime Minsiter Abhisit has managed to consolidate his power. He is now being advised by a specially assembled unit consisting of old veterans and retired generals.
Army chief General Anupong Paochinda, General Prawit Wongsuwan and Police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan have been left out in the cold. They were conspicuously absent during the red shirts’ ambush of the Asean Summit venue in Pattaya, at which the police and security forces turned a blind eye to the red-shirt protesters’ ambushing the Royal Cliff Beach Resort.
Anupong wore a tense face when he appeared on television last night with Abhisit, who was trying to assure the public he would be able to bring the crisis situation under control. Anupong is believed to have been kept out of any top-level decisions to manage the crisis in Bangkok.
The situation in Bangkok was tense all day, with many department stores closed and several roads blocked. The red-shirt protesters employed urban-terrorism tactics to ravage the capital in different locations, ranging from Din Daeng, Ayutthaya Road, Victory Monument and Phan Fah, to Yommarat and the Royal Plaza.
They used public buses to block the streets, installed three gas trucks at Din Daeng, Ayutthaya Road and Soi Rangnam near Victory Monument and threw petrol bombs, sticks and bricks at the security forces.
The tactics are similar to those employed by the Krathing Daeng Group, which during the October 1976 crisis played a catalytic role in suppressing students at Thammasat University.
An ex-general by the abbreviated name of PP is believed to be the mastermind behind the current use of these terrorist tactics.
As for the three gas trucks, authorities identified them as coming from Siam Gas, at which General Chaiyasith Shinawatra serves as chairman. Chaiyasith, a cousin of Thaksin, denied he had anything to do with the trucks being used for this purpose.
Suchon Chaleekrua, a former Senate speaker, led a group of Thaksin’s supporters, including Police General Salang Bunnag, to submit a petition to His Majesty the King. The language of the petition was vague, requesting that the King make a royal intervention to end the crisis.
General Somjet Boonthanom, a September 2006 coup-maker, came out to question the motive behind the royal petition, as Suchon and other petitioners all have close ties with Thaksin.
Military personnel from Lop Buri, Prachin Buri and Nakhon Ratchasima have been brought into the capital to reinforce the security forces. The authorities will be using both soft and harsh measures to disperse the protesters, who have used the areas surrounding Government House as their headquarters.
Abhisit is now determined to quash the red-shirt protesters rather than allow them to prolong the crisis further.
By Thanong Khanthong
Published on April 14, 2009