05 May 2010

Thai Army Wins: by doing nothing

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Hopefully, this ongoing Thai political crisis of 2010 may now be seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and the Royal Thai Army has been the power behind the scenes, stubbornly holding out for a peaceful solution. Today is Coronation Day, a national holiday commemorating the crowning of the King and Queen over six decades ago, and it is an excellent time for political compromises and saving face for all concerned. A most auspicious time for peacemaking.
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This week, PM Abhisit compromised by announcing that new elections will be held on 14 November 2010, with the House dissolving around the last half of September. The Red Shirt leaders compromised by giving up their call for immediate House dissolution. After a few more details are hammered out, perhaps the Reds will go home and end the mobocracy of recent weeks. The government’s position has been hurt by the Army’s refusal to use more force, and the Reds’ position has been hurt by some of them invading a major hospital last week.
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The Army chief, Gen. Anupong, as well as many Army officers at all levels, have been against any forceful removal of the Red Shirts from their barricaded camp in the middle of Bangkok’s premier shopping district. It would be a terrible fight because of the lay of the land, and many Thais would be killed. Right after the 10 April fatal fight elsewhere between the Army and the Reds, Gen. Anupong declared that the situation demanded a peaceful political solution rather than a military one.
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Times have changed. In the 1970s, the Army would simply lock, load and gun them down. Over the last several weeks, the PM and Deputy PM have repeatedly ordered the Army to forcefully evict the Reds. But the Army has hardly budged since the 10 April surprise of well-armed Reds and 25 fatalities. The Army’s recent actions have been only defensive, i.e., holding the Reds back from invading the financial district. By not moving, the Army underlines its key role in Thai politics – you can do nothing without them.
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Gen. Anupong is due to retire in September or so. He does not want a bloodbath as his final legacy as Army chief. He may be eyeing a future role in politics. He may be refusing to take more lives, finding himself in the uneasy position of being both a soldier and a Buddhist. Whatever his motivations, he has helped to keep the peace and to keep the Army’s reputation untarnished. The Royal Thai Army has staged a “coup” that is not really a coup but has shown where the true power lies.
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-Zenwind.

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