Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Round 3 Talk on April's Fool's Day?

Will Round 3 of negotiations between the government and red-shirt leaders take place? If so, it will be on April 1, according to Chmani Sakdiseth, one of the PM's aides attending the first two rounds of talk.

Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva says he is ready for another round of talks. Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan says no more negotiations are set since the gap is too huge between the protestors' 15-day deadline and the government's 9-month proposal for a new election.

Chamni, however, insists that there is still room for discussion and he is still hopeful that the differences can be ironed out.

The red-shirts haven't totally rejected a new round of talk. They are simply "reconsidering their position."

Who's making the final decision? Critics says it's Thaksin Shinawatra who is stalling. But Weng Tojirakarn, one of the three red representatives, insists decisions are being made by collective leadership.

The Reds are also suggesting that Abhisit can't make his own decision either. Some influence above him is dictating things, they claim.

But if the 3rd round of talks happen on April 1, will it be just an "April's Fool's joke." I hope not.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everybody wants to go home!

Bangkok Post cartoon Yoot reflects the real personal side of the ongoing protest: What do the protestor, Thaksin and Abhisit have in common?

They all are dying to go home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The day Reds ask Greens to leave

The Red Shirts hailed their move today as a big victory after they persuaded soldiers in seven locations around Bangkok to go back to their barracks. The atmosphere was amicable though it was officially stated later in the day that the military personnel were simply "relocating" and not "evacuating" back to their camps.

The reds, however, weren't successfully in flushing soldiers out of Government House in the evening. After an hour or so of a face-off, the red-shirted leaders called off the move to force soldiers out of the Govt House when the government stood firm that Government House is an important official building that has to be protected at all cost.

The critical move is tomorrow when the reds plan to march to the 11th Infantry Regiment headquarters where PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has used as his operation centre in the past two weeks. Red leader Veera Muksigapong just announced on stage that they will be going there to ask the PM to fulfil his promise to hold talks with the protesters about their demand for him to dissolve Parliament to call new elections.

Some red leaders have threatened to "climb the wall" if they weren't given a chance to meet the PM. But Veera, the UDD's chairman, was more conciliatory in his statement just now. "We just want to sit down and talk with the PM about the House dissolution. I hope the PM will keep his promise to talk," he declared.

The red leaders appear to want to draw the protest to a close as soon as possible now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The new move called "DE-THAKSINIZATION"

Thaksin Shinawatr was back in his video link connection to the red-shirts last night, after a three-day "sick leave," amidst rumours that he had been advised to lower his profile in this ongoing protest.

"This march isn't about me. It's about democracy," he declared. And when Nattawuat Saikua, one of the core leaders,said Thaksin was "only one of our resource persons," the speculation about "de-Thaksinizatin" of the red protest movement was more or less confirmed.

Behind-the-scenes discussions among some factions of the red movment have centred on how to "go beyond Thaksin" in the protest to pressure the Abhisit government to dissolve the House to call a new election and to make the protest a much more effective and credible movement.

It was agreed that as long as it's seen that the whole protest march was to benefit Thaksin, it could never grow - and couldn't possibly pull the urban "middle class" into the anti-Establishment movement.

Thaksin has heeded that piece of advice to draw in more progressive elements to come forward and join the protest, realizing that the "Trio" -- Veera, Jatupon and Nattawut -- could only go so far.

But that also means that it's going to be more difficult for Thaksin to win back his assets and avoid jail terms with the "de-Thaksinization" strategy.

Things are going to be tougher for him from now on because on the on hand,it's all about Thaksin and on the other, it's not going to be about him anymore.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Believe it or not, the negotiations have begun

Not many people might have noticed it but,as far as I am concerned, the "negotiations" between the government and the red shirts have begun -- albeit on television.

Nation Channel invited Charan Dithavihai, one of the core leaders of the protestors, and Education Minister Chinnaworn Bunyakiat to the "Kom Chat Luek" talk programme Monday night. They both maintained their positions but the atmosphere was friendly and the exchange was as fruitful as one could expect under the circumstances.

A well-known polititical scientist,Dr Pichya Pongswasat,and the anchor, Jomquan Laopetch, tried to "mediate" between the two. It was significant that their tones were accommodating rather than hostile.

The Red Shirts had earlier said they would not accept Chinnaworn as PM Abhisit Vejjajiva as a mediator. But the fact that Charan and Chinnaworn did meet and exchanged ideas rather amicably, to me, was a positive signal.

The talks have started. They need to be followed up. Both sides need a ladder to climb down on.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Abhisit: This isn't a 'class war'

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva, in an interview with "Frost over the World" programme on Al Jazeera TV, says it's "clearly not true" that the ongoing protest is, as billed by the red-shirted leaders, a "class war," reflected by the recent election results and majorities of by-elections in the rural areas last year by his Democrat Party.

"And I find it ironic that some of them say they are fighting for a billionaire...and they claim they are fighting a class war," he said.

Abhisit also said Thaksin Shinawatra, in Montenegro last week and now in Dubai, is "hardly suffering the things that the protestors here are going through and things that the Bangkok people are going through."

Friday, March 19, 2010

If one picture is worth 1,000 words...

These pictures remind all political observers of Thai politics that there was a time when Thaksin Shinawatr, when he was premier, was very respectful towards Gen Prem Tinsulnonda, president of the Privy Council.

Today, Thaksin is calling for the "dismantling" of the "amataya" (elite) headed by Gen Prem.

Ironically, Thaksin has appointed himself "head of the grass-roots people" aimed at overthrowing the "elite" led by Gen Prem.

Even more paradoxical is when Thaksin claims: "The struggle is not about me. It's about democracy."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Be very careful what you ask for....

The cover of "Nation Weekender" this week provides a poignant headline:
"Chase Away the Amataya; What You Get is Amataya."

What that really means is that the Red Shirts' campaign to get rid of "amataya" -- the so-called "elite" -- may end up with their getting "amataya" any away.

If the protestors think Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is the biggest "amataya" to topple, thy may find that Thaksin Shinawatr isn't much different in the context of being an elite.

If this is a "class war," as the Red Shirts say, then it's not clear what class Thaksin belongs to. One thing is clear: He doesn't belong to the class of "grass-roots."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thaksin targets Prem as his No 1 enemy

Thaksin Shinawatra just did his videolink to the red-shirted protestors...and he made it very plain that his biggest enemy is Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda.

Thaksin said this protest isn't just for him. "I am just the symbol of the mistreated and downtrodden while Gen Prem is the symbol of the amataya (loosely translated as privileged elite)," he declared in his hour-long monologue. He didn't say where he was speaking from -- Switzerland or Cambodi?

The former premier repeated a few stories he had relate before including the suggestion that he was the target of an assassination attempt. He made it plain that Gen Prem was behind most of the alleged plots to topple him, including the Sept 19, 2006 coup that ousted him.

While he told the mass rally to protest peacefully, Thaksin made no mention of the Red-Shirted leaders' announcement that if PM Abhisit Vejjajiva doesn't comply with the demand to dissolve parliament by noon tomorrow, they will lead the protestors to confront the PM and the military leaders at the headquarters of the 11th Infantry Division.

Chances of a violent confrontation are looming if the threat was carried out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cambodia now finds fault with Asean Sec-Gen Surin

The Cambodian government has now taken on Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan.

Phnom Phen Post says that Surin was quoted by Malaysia's Bernama news agency as expressing concern that military exercises held last week in Kampong Chhnang might have been designed to provoke Thailand.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong subsequently sent a letter to Surin dated Sunday saying: "I strongly believe that in your capacity as secretary general of ASEAN, you should not make any wrong statement which may bring about a bad image to an ASEAN member country. Moreover, you should not make any statement which can be considred as an interference in the internal affairs of Cambodia."

Bernama had quoted Surin as saying: "We're very concerned with such development," referring to Cambodia's firing of about 200 rockets near the Thai border last week.

Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva did not raise an issue over the incident.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gen Kattiya's 3-day action plan to bring back Thaksin

Maj Gen Kattiya Swasdiporn -- better known as Seh Daeng -- says he has proposed to Thaksin Shinawatra a "3-Day Make-or-Break Plan" that will bring him back as prime minister during his latest trip to Dubai last week.

Thaksin apparently didn't take up the offer because Seh Daeng told a radio programme on Saturday that Thaksin had responded by saying that he would for the time being let the Red-Shirts' United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) take the lead in his political movement.

What's his 3-Day "do-or-die" plan all about? Sen Daeng told the radio programme hosts that his action plan would involve getting Gen Chavalit YOngchaiyudh to publicly stop the soldiers from making any move to protect the current government. Family members of the military officers would then be asked to keep their husbands at home. "Then, I will personally accompany Thaksin back to Thailand..." he declared.

For now, Sen Daeng says, he will just have to wait and be patient. "The Red Shirts have publicly told me they don't want me as part of their movement. Well, they don't want me. But I want them...."

You can't find a more colourful army general!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Live-blogging Thaksin's talk show...

I am blogging live as Thaksin Shinawatr speaks on his video link from Dubai. He starts with repeating his accusations that he remains the victim of the Sept 19, 2006coup.

"This is an unfinished coup. They want to get red of all Red shirts. That is of course impossible," he declared.

Thaksin said since he was overthrown in the coup, he should be the plaintiff.
"But I am not the accused. That's strange, isn't it?" he said.

Thaksin again laments about the court' verdict to confiscate Bt46 billion of his assets. But he refused to say he would drop his plan to lodge an appeal. "My friends say I should raise this issue in the international arena," he said.

Again, he said: "Let me be the last victim...."

Thaksin asked: When will this come to an end? He then answered his own question:"If what they want is to get rid of me, that would not happen."

He then took on Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanija for having said if it was up to him, he would seize Thaksin's entire Bt76 billion assets. "I don't know why he is so revengeful against me."

Thaksin then said: "Now, it's beyond just Thaksin. It's an issue of social justice..."

If Thaksin keeps up his nightly 30-minute show, he would be repeating all these night after night. So, he announced that he would halt the nightly programme and would only host the weekly one-hour programme on Tuesday.

He said he would be busy throughout the next week and would speak to red-shirts rallying in Korat tomorrow instead.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The "civil war" clip

He identifies himself only as "K. Thong." He posted this video on Youtube dated Feb 26, declaring that a "civil war" was breaking out and bombs would hit the city "every day" from now on.

A blog later identified him as a close aide to Maj Gen Kattiya Sawadiphon who today said if this person was arrested, he would react negatively.

Deputy Premier Suthep Thuagsuban told police to hunt down the man.