Monday, December 28, 2009

Rogue generals on former Thai PM Thaksin's payroll cry for final showdown

A NEW battle line has been drawn, with the sound of war drums beating, and the red shirts dancing around the bonfire. Their spirits are high, hoping that the showdown this time will be final and victorious. It does not matter to them whether there will be bloodshed or if the nation faces ruin.

The red-shirt battle cry this time came from a rogue junior Army general, and a number of retired military officers on the payroll of fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. They don't mind being branded traitors. The tidy sum from the man in exile is considered worthwhile.

The other day, the rogue soldier, commonly known as "Seh Daeng" warned that the battle this time will be open, with advance warning when shots will be fired upon the enemy, or whoever dares to move against the joint push for power at the command of Thaksin.
"Seh Daeng", Major General Khattiya Sawasdiphol, is a self-styled warrior, seeking the full blaze of publicity. He commands a group of militia being given political indoctrination as well as basic arms training.

He brands his warriors as "Ronin", the legendary leaderless samurai warriors of ancient times, and also soldiers of King Taksin the Great, who fought to free Thailand from Burmese occupation before the Chakri Dynasty. Some of the rogue general's fighters are mere thugs with no honour and or valour. It is sheer brute force inspired by cowardice.

The warning, of course, should cause considerable unease among those who know about Seh Daeng's notoriety. His claim to fame was an ability to predict when grenades would be launched at the rallies of the People's Alliance for Democracy. He denied with a deadpan face, of course, that he had any part in the action. There was no proof, due to lukewarm investigations by law enforcement officers.

When should the mayhem and bloodletting take place? There are variations in terms of timing for the strike. Seh Daeng said it should be sometime after Valentine's Day, as instructed by Thaksin. Another ageing general said April would be judgement day, and that would be the time for Thaksin's return to triumph.

The red shirts are not quite sure. The leaders are obviously not happy that their thunder has been stolen by soldiers. That means the credit sought will be shared together with the prize for victory. The red-shirt leaders are known for their heavy campaign expenses sought from Thaksin, and they have pocketed huge chunks much, to the chagrin of other group leaders.

One of them said the showdown day had not yet been decided. It must be decided by the red shirts at a meeting. Sounding arrogant, he uttered that Thaksin was just a red-shirt member and must heed the joint decision. Such insolence could be dealt with when all political scores are settled.

What is the government doing to prevent possible chaos? Nothing yet. Army chief, General Anupong Phaochinda, reckons there will not be any trouble, and no bloodshed. At the same time, he also assured the public through a radio interview that there would not be a coup either.

Nobody is quite sure what basis the general - who is due to retire at the end of September, 2010 - used to predict what is to come, especially when the public has seen all along that nothing much has been done to subdue Seh Daeng.

No preventative measures have been meted out yet. Prime Minister Abhisit still takes things lightly, as if he bases his hopes on the readiness of the military; and he has yet to complete the appointment of a new police chief.

Everything is hanging in the balance. The red shirts and Thaksin might overestimate their potential and ability to mobilise enough support to hold massive rallies at various locations to force out the government. There is a slim chance of success as long as there is no widespread violence, and the military refuses to take action to quell the uprising.

At least, there will be some time yet - until mid-February - if the words of Thaksin and his thugs are to be believed. But this must terrify many people, especially business people, who have been disheartened by the red shirts' unending hate campaigns.

This time around, Abhisit's political future will be put on the line. If he survives with some bruises, it should be the end of Thaksin's attempt to return to power. From now on, Abhisit must prove that he is worthy enough to lead the country against the spectre of Thaksin's political cronies ousted by court decisions.

If he can prove a higher degree of leadership and take full charge, he will not fight the battle alone - failing which, he will be another part of Thailand's tragic history. By Sopon Onkgara
The Nation

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