Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thailand - A nation cursed to live in constant state of anxiety

The Thaksin camp is in disarray |and that could be dangerous, too

One bomb has exploded, a couple more have been found, direct, blatant threats have been made and a "blacklist" has been circulated. How many of these Thaksin Shinawatra was really involved with we don't know. The aftermath of judgement day is just what many had expected - tension, provocation and more tension. The Thai public must have learned to live with constant anxiety. The knowledge that another Songkran turbulence is not that far from reality will be too much to bear.

Again, the optimist and doomsayer within us are competing to assert themselves. The post-verdict incidents could be just normal aftershocks, some say. It would have been too good to be true if nothing had happened after Bt46 billion of Thaksin's "assets" were practically declared the wealth of the state. The situation was so inviting, to begin with. And it could have been anyone - from Thaksin's "warriors", or from those who wanted the public to think that it was done by Thaksin's "warriors", to a third party pretending to be Thaksin's "warriors".

The bombs and threats posted on the Internet have made next week's planned gathering of the red shirts a far more worrisome event.

The pro-Thaksin movement has come out to deny involvement with the bomb, and it has been widely known now that the movement's leaders are singing the same tune as the hard-liners in uniform who have been threatening to stage acts of terrorism against Thaksin's rivals.

The ousted leader's political presence in Thailand is facing a crisis. The planned gathering of the red shirts has received no committed support from MPs from the Pheu Thai Party. Having been advertised as an event that will show the world how much Thaksin is still loved, Pheu Thai insiders have admitted to reporters that the gathering would amount to nothing if the protesters "who come with their hearts" are not supported by those mobilised by MPs.

There have been requests, the party insiders claimed, for MPs to help in the mobilisation for the last time, but this time the MPs are more reluctant than ever to help. The key reasons reportedly are that recent Thaksin setbacks such as the Cambodian farce have raised questions on whether the man remained the best selling point, and that the MPs don't want to pay out of their own pockets, which has been increasingly the case lately.

Without deep funding and systematic mobilisation, the red shirts will find it difficult to mount the "biggest ever" show of force as intended. As their stakes are the highest this time and they really need to make an impact, many people fear the movement may resort to violence to make a loud statement. But again, if they choose violence, the question is "what's next?" There is no subsequent scenario that will be in favour of Thaksin.

The weakened red shirts is question No 1 and the Pheu Thai Party's internal strife is question No 2.

Chalerm Yoobamrung, the only real veteran available to challenge Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, is said to have upped the ante against the banned politicians, most of whom are Thaksin loyalists.

Their conflict has nearly torpedoed preparations for a censure campaign against the Democrats and badly affected the party's support for the red shirts' activism. Some of Chalerm's opponents have gone as far as claiming he harboured an ambition to take over Pheu Thai from Thaksin.

Desperation may call for desperate measures, however. That's why a lot of people are taking a look at the Thaksin camp in disarray and fearing the worst. Having said this, another theory - that the climate of fear is being created by Thaksin's opponents - should not be discounted.

In either case, though, it's better to be scared and then relieved, than to be complacent and then sorry. The Nation, Bangkok editorial

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