Thursday, August 28, 2008
After a stand-off, who will be the first to blink
12:30 PM: The capture of the Government House enters its third day. There have been no signs that the police would exercise stern measures to force their way into the Government House to take away the nine leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy in handcuffs.
Chamlong Srimuang, one of the PAD's leaders, has tactically exploited the pscyhological warfare. He warned, with true information or with disinformation, on Wednesday that the police would storm the Government House
If we hold on together...
at 9:00 PM to arrest him and other co-leaders.
But nothing happened. Then he warned again that the storming would take place at 11:00 AM. Again the police took no action.
Today, Chamlong hinted that the police would made their way into the Government House to disperse the crowd. Again, nothing happened.
He announced that Gen Pallop Pinmanee, his long-time comrade in arm, would serve as the new PAD's leader in the event that he is taken away by the police.
There were reports that air force officers and military officers from Second Army Region were standing by around the Government House throughout the night of Wednesday to provide protection to the PAD.
Kowit Watana, the interior minister, has vowed to take stern action against the PAD protestors. He gave the protestors a six o'clock deadline on Wednesday August 27, 2008 to leave the Government House before the police would force their way in. The authorities would only want the heads of the PAD's leaders.
But, like Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister, Kowit has started to wobble. The words of the prime minister and Kowit start to carry little weight. They are at their wit's end as to how to deal with the protestors.
The Thai people are inclined toward showering sympthy toward the underdog. The public opinion is split: The protestors are a big nuisance who should be quashed; the protestors are the underdog.
If the authorities are to use force against the protestors, most of the public oponion will shift to supporting the protestors. The government will lose out immediately. And Samak would have to resign.
In 1973, Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, the then prime minister, made a mistake by using force to quell off the student uprising. He lost his legitimacy immediately when the first blood poured onto the Rachadamnoen Road. The Thai people would not forgive this mistake.
In 1992, Gen Suchinda Khraprayoon, the then prime minister, also lost legitimacy when the authorities exercised force to get rid of the protestors, led by Chamlong. He had to resign afterward because bloody crackdown against the innocent protestors, no matter what their motivation was, was something the Thai public could not accept.
Samak understands this situation well. He hates the PAD to the core of his rotten bones, but he has to play soft stick.
Nobody can guarantee that fatal death or human injuries would not happen if the police were to storm the Government House to disperse the crowd and to arrest the PAD leaders.
The PAD must hold on as long as possible and hope for the impossibility that Samak would resign on their unconditional demand.
Now we are witnessing a stand-off. Yes, who will be the first to blink.
Time is now on the PAD's side. The longer they can fortify at the Government House, the worse Samak will look. A prime minister cannot run the country and gain respect if his office is ransacked.
Practically, this standoff must be put to an end before the end of this week.
In the meantime, the Office of the Prime Minister resorted to the legal means. It filed an emergency complaint to the Civil Court on Wednesday to ask for a court ruling to order the protestors to leave the Government House compound.
At around 10:00 AM, the Civil Court did issue an order for the protestors to leave the Government House compound immediately and to also dismantle their rally stage and equipment. The protestors must also clear the traffic along the Rachadamnoen and Pitsanulok roads.
With the Civil Court order, the government hopes to pin down on the protestors, who risk violating the law. But after being charged with treason, the Court's order to leave the Government House looks like peanuts.
The PAD, as expected, is appealing against the Civil Court order. The protestors will have to drag out the delay tactics as long as possible.
What does the PAD want exactly?
Chamlong Srimuang and Sonthi Limthongkul (who among them is the prime minister?) held a news conference inside the Government House to make clear the standpoint of the protestors'.
First, the protestors want the politicians to assure that they would not amend the Constitution.
Second, the Samak government must resign without any condition.
Third, the protestors do not want the military to stage a coup.
Judging by the demand of the PAD protestors, we can make the following conclusions. The PAD is afraid that if the Constitution is amended, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the 111 politicians banned from politics from five years might return to power.
The PAD only wants Samak to resign rather than to dissolve Parliament altogether. If Samak were to resign, his entire Cabinet will have to go with him. Parliament then will have to pick a new prime minister. It will be old wine in a new bottle because the People Power Party and the coalition partners still control a majority. A new prime minister and Cabinet would not be acceptable to the PAD.
If Samak were to dissolve Parliament, the old politicians will return to power again. This won't be acceptable to the PAD too.
So the PAD must want a kind of "National Government", formed by all the political parties in Parliament at the moment. A new prime minister from the outside, respectable at home and abroad, will have to step in during this transition to forge Thailand to achieve new politics of true democracy and governance.
Who is this outside candidate as PM? Will the politicians agree to this proposal? Are we going to experience bloodshed?
Treason versus Civil Disobedience
1:00 PM: The PAD protestors are claiming that they are pursuing civil disobedience to forge political change because the Thai public no longer want the "thieves" to continue to run the government. The Samak government has dug into the law to bring out the harshest measures against the protestors by charging them with having committed an act of treason against the state.
Where is the borderline between an act of treason and an act of civil disobedience?
But obviously, the charge of treason against the 84 men and women, who invaded the premise of NBT Channel 11 in the early morning of Tuesday, August 26, 2008, was too harsh.
The PAD blundered badly in this move to capture the NBT with an aim to switch its signal to broadcasting the programme of ASTV instead. ASTV, sponsored by the Manager Media Group, is the official TV satellite signal of the PAD. Men from the Srivichai Warriors, who dressed themselves in black and covered their faces with black cloth like the guerillas, carried weapons -- knives and gun.
These people could be a "third party" sneaking into the scene to destroy the PAD's momentum.
Anyway, somebody breaking into a property of a government agency with knives and guns should not be charged with treason, although it is a criminal offence.
Again, what would happen if protestors take over the White House or the Kremlin?
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