Thai PM’s car attacked by protesters

Two developments here in Thailand today:

First, Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s car was attacked by ant-government red-shirt protesters in Pattaya this afternoon. It was the first violence targeted at Abhisit since he came to power in December. Reuters has the story.

And second, tension is mounting ahead of a massive red-shirt rally planned here in Bangkok tomorrow. Abhisit has vowed to prevent a “civil war.” The AP has this story.


Thai PM Abhisit: no “civil war” or “people’s uprising”

Many people here in Bangkok are talking about the large UDD (anti-government) protest planned for tomorrow (Wed. the 8th).

Today’s Bangkok Post has this story: “PM ready to quell uprising

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insists the government will not allow “a civil war or a people’s uprising” as fears of a possible bloodbath were raised ahead of Wednesday’s major red-shirt protest at Government House.

In a special televised address to the nation Monday night, Mr Abhisit said there were concerns Wednesday’s rally would escalate into civil war or a people’s revolution but he wanted to assure that the government would take steps under the law to stop this happening.

The prime minister also urged the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters to refrain from any actions deemed to affect the country’s key institutions and national security.

He assured people that security forces were well-prepared and would work in unison to ensure the red-shirt protest proceeded under the rule of law.

For background information, here’s a recent CSM story: “In Thailand, populist protesters turn the tables on the government.”


Thailand protests: PAD to return?

Today’s Bangkok Post has a story about a UDD (anti-government) rally planned for Wednesday, April 8 and the possible return of the PAD: “PAD plans revolt against red shirts” Sub-hed: “Fears of bloodshed spark comeback plans

The People’s Alliance for Democracy is pledging to stage a comeback and mount a counter-rally if the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s political gathering on Wednesday escalates into violence.

The PAD, which has kept a low profile since the Democrat-led coalition government came to power in December, fears the red-shirt rally could deteriorate into violence and lead to military intervention.

Supporters of Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda will also hold a rally on Wednesday, raising fears they could be on a collision course with the red shirts.

The PAD, you’ll recall, is the group that shut down Bangkok’s international airport for a week in late November.


Thai government offers talks with Thaksin

Reuters: “Thai govt seeks talks with Thaksin to end protest

BANGKOK, April 1 (Reuters) – Thailand’s government offered on Wednesday to negotiate with exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to end a week-long street campaign threatening its efforts to stave off an economic recession.

The offer was swiftly rejected by a leader of the pro-Thaksin group that has surrounded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s offices in Bangkok to force him out, the latest escalation in Thailand’s three-year-old political crisis.

“Our objective is to remove them. Why would we talk to them?” said Jatuporn Prompan, a leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), an extra-parliamentary group that accuses Abhisit of being a pawn of the military.

Police have taken no action against the thousands of red-shirted protesters despite a court order on Tuesday that they allow ministers to enter Government House.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the government wanted to avoid violence and he offered talks with Thaksin, who has exhorted his supporters to “bring back democracy” in nightly video speeches from an undisclosed location.

“If talks can bring peace to the country, I am ready to meet him anywhere, because Thaksin is the only person that can end the siege,” said Suthep, who is in charge while Abhisit attends the G20 Summit in London.

There’s also a story from the BBC and one from the FT. And here’s one from VOA about politics and the Thai economy.


Thailand protests and the economy

Here’s a story in today’s WSJ: “Thai Protests Build on Economic Crisis

BANGKOK — Tens of thousands of antigovernment protesters sang and danced through the weekend outside Thailand’s main government complex, cheering on ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and offering the nation’s new leaders — and others in Asia — a jarring reminder of the political risks accompanying the region’s sharp economic decline.

Local businesswoman Darunee Kritboonyalai, a founding shareholder of a Thai iced-tea brand and an active supporter of Mr. Thaksin, said the protests against Thailand’s government could grow as the economy worsens. “We’re just part of a global situation, true. But this government doesn’t know how to handle it properly,” she said.

The protesters are mainly seeking to restore Mr. Thaksin — a multimillionaire businessman who was removed from office in a military coup nearly three years ago — to power. They object to the way Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power and are disenchanted with how he is handling the country’s economic downturn, and so are hoping to fuel wider discontent.

Many of the 30,000-strong crowd mocked the government’s latest stimulus efforts as, at best, an imitation of policies Mr. Thaksin championed before he was ousted in 2006. Some protesters handed 2,000 baht ($56) cash handouts from the government to rally organizers instead of spending them in Bangkok’s stores, as the government intended. One elderly woman, Ananya Mhanpadungkit, climbed onto a makeshift stage to say she couldn’t accept money from what she described as an “illegitimate” government. Protest leaders said they would continue their nighttime rallies indefinitely.

Thailand’s lingering conflict between Mr. Thaksin’s populist supporters and its more conservative, military-backed government shows how the world’s economic slump is complicating a series of political battles across Southeast Asia. The region is especially dependent on trade, providing electronic components, raw materials and skilled labor for the global supply chain, and several countries are feeling the strain.

There’s also insight into how economic woes in Malaysia and the Philippines are affecting politics there.


ASEAN summit kicks off in Thailand

BBC: “Asean opens with economic agenda

The 10-member Association of South East Asian nations (Asean) has started a summit meeting in Thailand.

They will discuss how to address the impact of declining global demand on their export-dependent economies.

This is the first summit since Asean implemented a charter making it a legal entity more like the European Union.

But human rights groups say there is still no mechanism for dealing with routine abuses inside Asean member states like Burma and Vietnam.

With some Asean members dependent on exports for as much as three quarters of national income, the global economic crisis hangs over this summit meeting like a thunder-cloud.

Rights rules?

But there is not much the member states can do to soften the blow – whereas human rights groups say they should be doing a lot more to give their new charter teeth so that fellow members can be held accountable for abuses of their citizens.

In case you’re curious about the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), you can find some background info here. ((By the way, did you know there’s an official ASEAN flag?))


Wearing red and yellow in Thailand

Time: “How Not to Make a Political Fashion Statement in Bangkok

Last year, a swarm of yellow-clad demonstrators massed in Bangkok, taking over the international airport and virtually paralyzing the Thai capital for a week. Today, the color of protest is red. As bigwigs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) began gathering at a seaside resort near Bangkok on Feb. 26 for an annual summit, thousands of anti-government protesters wearing crimson shirts congregated at the Thai Prime Minister’s office, demanding that Abhisit Vejjajiva hold elections soon. Thursday marked their third day of protest, and the red-hued demonstrators vowed not to cease until their demands for fresh polls were met.

This week’s new spate of color-coded dissent underlines not only the political instability that has marked Thai politics for several years now but also the tricky task of what to wear in Bangkok.


After a new administration aligned with the yellow-wearing royalists came to power in December, the new opposition began staging its crimson protests. Local pundits kid that P.M. Abhisit is being deluged by a Red Sea. The joke among journalists who try to maintain their reportorial objectivity is that orange, a mix of yellow and red, may be the best color to wear when reporting on Thai politics.

The hijacking of red and yellow by political groups has forced some Thais to give up wearing both colors, lest they be erroneously placed in one of the two political camps. The number of people who would normally wear yellow on Mondays to honor the King has dropped considerably, not because they respect the monarch any less, but because they don’t want to be associated with the PAD. Likewise, soccer-mad Thais who would usually wear red Arsenal or Manchester United jerseys have been forced to think twice about supporting their favorite sports team.