The Petition: Brace yourself for an anti-climatic finale


IF YOU START telling everyone that Thaksin Shinawatra has decided to do everything possible to rock the boat because he has nothing to lose but his jail term, then you’re taking a very controversial position. If you think he has decided to push for a petition to seek a royal pardon because he has run out of options, then you may be accused of being politically naive.

By getting his lieutenants to gather lots and lots of signatures to show how popular he still is, he has resorted to his now-familiar tactic: Show them the money and freebies. Don’t confuse them with facts. In more ways than one, the petition is nothing but a political marketing gimmick at its very best – especially if the anti-climax finale plays itself out.

A number of pundits have in the past few days predicted a twisted ending to this ongoing political drama. And I am here to warn you against any great disappointment.

When I first heard about this new theory, I dismissed it as being too much of a well-orchestrated melodrama. But when I started checking with some “alternative” political analysts (a new breed challenging the mainstream gurus), the proposed dramatic ending of the ongoing controversy over the clemency petition for Thaksin might not be all that implausible after all.

If the plot plays out, the red shirts will keep up the tempo of the move to petition for a royal pardon until it reaches a peak in another week. They were originally supposed to submit the document to the Royal Household’s Secretariat on August 7. Now the date has been postponed to August 17.

The 10-day gap will see the red shirts turn up the heat on the confrontation with the Abhisit government, to portray popular support for the ousted ex-premier.

The real goal has now shifted. Now, they realise that there are no real legal grounds for such a move. Anyone seeking royal clemency must have first served his term according to the court’s verdict. Besides, such a petition can only be submitted by the convict himself or his relatives.

There has been no precedent for a self-exiled convict asking members of the public to sign a petition to seek a royal pardon even before he has admitted to his guilt, escaped to a foreign country and condemned the judicial system as being biased against him.

Thaksin and his clan members aren’t even signing the petition. But he was on the phone earlier this week condemning the authorities for trying to block the process to help get him off the hook.

Doesn’t he appear to be the main force behind the move? No, he says, he has nothing to do with it. It all started because “the people” want him back to run this country again.

Read very carefully between the lines now. Thaksin says he isn’t the man who started the “Pardon Thaksin” movement. None of his family members or even distant relatives have signed the petition. Dates have been shifted around. Can you guess the dramatic ending to this episode?

Now, before we jump to the heart-rending, concluding scene of this high-school play, the hero/villain unexpectedly gets some support from his arch rival. Premier Abhisit’s declaration that the government will do everything to block such a “clearly illegal, obviously misleading and highly divisive” move just plays into the hands of the protagonist.

The “hero on the white horse” will “ride into town” in the next few days to announce that the unprecedented and highly popular and symbolic petition will now be called off – for the sake of national unity.

The episode will end with a bang. The public will get to pick their own villains and heroes. The “show of political force” will have served its purpose. The worsening divide will deepen. Everyone will brace for the next drama, as if the previous episode had not taken place at all.

This was never supposed to be a run-of-the-mill soap opera in the first place, right?

(Check out my tweets around the clock at: I am following tweets by PM Abhisit and Thaksin with great enthusiasm.)

By Suthichai Yoon
The Nation
Published on August 6, 2009


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