Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oct 8: Much ado about nothing

Despite speculation to the contrary, Oct 8 will just be another day

Nobody really takes it seriously, except Premier Yingluck Shinawatra perhaps. But again, she might have heard it from her elder brother, Thaksin.

But once he told Thai Rath online that anti-government forces have set Oct 8 as the deadline to topple the Yingluck government, Thaksin set off a series of speculation, mostly by his own people.

Political observers were naturally puzzled that this prediction by one astrologer has been picked up and given credence by Thaksin despite the fact that nobody else had considered it anything more than just a juicy gossip.

One Pheu Thai MP went so far as to say that an astrologer had said the Yingluck government’s stars will be thrown into a crisis during Oct 7-9.

“The astrologer says that during that period, the government will be at its weakest point. Any attempt to topple it will have to be carried out then,” said MP Vorachai Hema of Samut Prakarn province.

He also claimed to have gathered his own “intelligence” pointing to the link between the current political problems with the rallies being held by rubber planters in the South.

He also the”plot” to use the southern protestors to undermine the government apparently failed. Therefore, the next move to subvert the government would be taken up by independent agencies.

By that he meant that the Anti-Corruption Commission will be handing down its decision on the validity of the petition by the opposition to rule against the government’s controversial rice-pledging scheme – which is also expected to fall between Oct 7-8.

According to this conspiracy theory, if the ACC finds the government guilty one way or the other, the red-shirts will launch street protests, prompting the military to move in to quell unrest. He predicted that the subsequent chaos will end in a military coup.

Thaksin only had to drop a hint. It would then be very easy for his followers to add colour to complete the story. There will always be those ready to believe that the plot is real. And there will always be people who think it’s too far-fetched to believe that another coup could take place.

But if one read his interview with Thai Rath carefully, the former premier who was ousted in a coup exactly 7 years ago, was in fact adopting a “talk-talk-fight-fight” strategy.

On the one hand, he was pointing an accusing finger at those he believes are intent upon ousting his sister’s government. On the other, he was handing out an olive branch, insisting once again that he was ready to give up politics if he could return home safely and without guilt.

Thaksin repeated his stand of not taking revenge – “I am ready to forgive everybody,” he declared. But, as usual, he didn’t admit any wrongdoing, raising doubts as to how he could come home under his conditions without creating a new round of turmoil in the country.

The ruling Pheu Thai Party has targeted independent agencies such as the ACC and Constitutional Court which would have to be removed from the new amended charter – or if they remain, would be rendered powerless. Under the scenario painted by the pro-government MPs, the rewritten charter will have to get rid of “independent agencies” that could interfere with the power of the executive branch.

In effect, that would mean that the checks and balances considered crucial in a vibrant democracy would be removed once and for all.

That has sent a wave of protests from those who see this as an ominous sign of a relentless attempt to allow the ruling party to gain full control of the country’s three pillars of political influence.

But despite all the wild speculation, part of which might have been a pre-emptive move, Oct 8 will be just another day on the Thai political calendar. It has long been established that Thai governments usually crumble from within. External factors are mostly a nuisance, never a real threat

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