Red shirts crank up tension for latest anti-govt rally


The red shirts are developing a dangerous pastime – organising street protests for the pleasure of exacting revenge rather than to advance any worthy cause.

No government in the world can allow a state of lawlessness to go on indefinitely. The line must be drawn somewhere – and the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration is sending out a clear signal to curb the abuse designed to advance vested interests under the pretext |of pushing democratic principles.

For the planned red-shirt rally on Sunday at the Royal Plaza, the government will use the Internal Security Act to handle the mob.

Reading between the lines, sol-diers will take the lead role in peace-keeping. Police will play a supporting role to the military, instead of the other way around.

One of the dire consequences of political turbulence is a police service high polarised by the red vs yellow rivalry. During yellow-shirt protests, ineffectual police crowd control led to the botched anti-riot operation and much bloodshed on October 7.

When the red shirts took to the streets in April to vent their anger at the Abhisit government, police put on a show of trying to rein in the mob when pro-red officers were in cahoots with rally organisers. That led to the collapse of the Asean Summit and the Songkran mayhem in Bangkok.

A month earlier, Chiang Mai police stood idle while red shirts blockaded the main police station. Police from Lampang had to be mobilised to disperse the mob.

Police oscillated between two rival camps and – based on their track record – lost the public’s trust in effective crowd control.

Lawlessness, if allowed to per-sist, will encourage unruly crowds; and vengeance will plunge politics into a bottomless pit.

The red shirts may voice noble words on democratic principles. But serious doubts linger about their motives.

They were acquiescent when the pro-Thaksin camp won the 2007 general election, then suddenly cried foul about injustice, pseudo democracy and a flawed political system when the Democrats out-witted the Pheu Thai-led coalition to grab |power.

Ex-premier Shinawatra Thaksin came out to declare himself the true leader of the main opposition party and has done everything in his power to fuel the red shirts in a bitter campaign aimed at undermining the Privy Council, particularly its president General Prem Tinsulanonda.

They are scheduled to dress in black tomorrow under the pretext of condemning the yellow-shirt seizure of Government House – a campaign timed to coincide with Prem’s birthday rather than the actual date of the seizure.

Are they snubbing just Prem? Or are they attacking him as a decoy for a larger scheme?

The red shirts, especially those linked to the October 6, 1976 stu-dent movement, appear critical of the monarchy’s role in the demo-cratic process.

In the United Kingdom, republi-can vs royalist arguments have been raging since the 17th century.

But the debate in Thailand has taken a strange turn. Communist sympathisers are adopting the cloak of democracy to invoke a class-struggle theory to smear the monarchy. It is quite a paradox to advance democracy by using communist ideology as a looking glass. Yet the red shirts seem to have no qualms about it.

On top of their questionable ide-ological stand, the red shirts have suspiciously timed their protests as if they wanted to prod the mili-tary and provoke an uprising.

Rally organisers “insist” on mobs remaining peaceful. But they will march to Government House. Is a new blockade in the offing?

Behind the scenes, the red shirts are reportedly working hard to sow dissension within the military.

If the red shirts have their way and politicise the military, then the country may be heading toward a meltdown since there will be no vestige of authority left to draw the line and curb street protests.

By Avudh Panananda
The Nation
Published on August 25, 2009


Govt may have to invoke security law

Suthep, Abhisit fear red shirts plan to blockade Govt House, incite unrest

The government had no choice but to invoke the Internal Security Act to maintain peace during the red-shirt rally on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday.

Cabinet is expected to debate the move today and approve enforcement of the draconian security measure under which the military plays a key role in crowd control.

“I have spoken to the prime minister about security concerns and measures to prevent riots because I don’t think society will tolerate any more mayhem,” Suthep said, following a meeting with PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.

He said he wanted every contingency measure to be put in place to handle unruly crowds.

Judging by remarks made by certain red-shirt leaders, he said, the protests were being organised as a pretext to cause disturbances instead of making genuine demands.

So far, the government had not ignored any demands, and yet the red shirts were determined to carry on protesting, he added. Suthep also voiced suspicion that the red shirts might try to repeat a blockade of Government House because they planned to gather at the Royal Plaza nearby.

He said he did not wish to cast doubts by saying the red shirts sought to incite riots, but it was his job to brace for all eventualities.

With regard to ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s attempt to bring the red shirts together for a beef-noodle lunch, which he meant to host via a video linkup, Suthep said all Thais wanted to see unity in society.

Abhisit, meanwhile, said he was concerned about the upcoming rally because certain red shirts were determined to instigate violence.

He said he had instructed Suthep and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan to have measures ready to rein-in disruptive crowds.

Though the PM would not go into details about security measures, he said his bottom line was that the protesters should in no way be allowed to disrupt work at Government House. The government would not impose a deadline on how long the protest could last, but a repeat of the mayhem in April would not be allowed, he said.

He reminded red-shirt rally organisers that a number of them were obligated to abide by their bail conditions.

Senate Speaker Prasobsook Boondech said the government should not invoke security measures ahead of the rally because it would become a pre-condition for the red shirts to mobilise mobs.

However, the government should be ready to invoke the security law should violence erupt, he said.

He said rival camps should have learnt a lesson from the Songkran mayhem. He did not expect the red shirts to provoke another riot.

Published on August 25, 2009


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