28 May 2010

Thoughts on Thai Violence, #6

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Cast of Characters in Thai Crisis:
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(This post will give context to later ones.)
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Abhisit: Prime Minister and member of Democrat party. Educated at Eton and Oxford. Became PM by parliamentary coalition after Red-allied governments had been removed for corruption by courts. Reds do not accept his legitimacy as PM. He seems like a good guy who got mixed up in the dirt of Thai politics.
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Suthep: Deputy PM.
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Yellow Shirts: Ultra-conservative royalists and Bangkok elitists. To protest former governments they didn’t like, they used mob demonstrations in 2008 to take over Government House and the airports. They recently have thought PM Abhisit was too soft on Red Shirts.
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Red Shirts: A conglomeration of factions against Abhisit government, usually united by being supporters of former PM Thaksin. There are several Red factions:
1) There are many poor rural and urban folk who have never been included in political processes, and who see the democratic dream promised them by Thaksin as new hope. Thaksin became popular with them because of his government hand-out goodies and by his arrogance against the traditional corrupt Bangkok elites. So, many Reds are Thaksin fans who have been manipulated by the violent factions.
2) Many communists like Dr. Weng are leading the large leftist Red faction.
3) Many rogue military/ police. 4) “Men in black,” snipers and M79 grenadiers who used deadly fire against Army from the shadows. 5) Thugs, plain thugs who like to break things, burn things and hurt people.
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Thaksin: former PM and main leader of the Red Shirts. Ex-police officer and billionaire electronics tycoon. Did his post-grad police studies in the USA. Very popular among rural Thais and urban poor. Clever at demagoguery and winning support by giving out goodies. Elected PM in 2000 and 2004. Infamous for his blatant lying. A killer, who when PM presided over a “war on drugs” that resulted in 2,700 extra-judicial killings of alleged “drug lords”; he gave district police leaders quotas, numbers of suspects to get (very Stalin-like); no trials, no due process, just gunning them down; very few casualties in this “war” were cops. He made the southern separatist violence worse by his heavy-handed policies of killing Muslims there. Ousted in military coup in September 2006. Later convicted of abuse of power and corruption while a PM, and sentenced to 2 years in jail. On the run in exile ever since. Desperately wants to be back in power. Thaksin needed a bigger bloodbath to discredit Abhisit government, but the Army actually showed great restraint in the end. Now Thaksin is charged with being a “terrorist” under a law he designed earlier as PM against his enemies. Kind of a karma boomerang. There was nothing in Abhisit’s 3 May peace deal for him, so he is suspected of spoiling it from abroad.
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Gen. Khattiya: Known as “Seh Daeng” (Red Commander), he was a suspended Army general who always talked violence and said he took orders only from Thaksin. Claimed he was Reds’ military advisor. Probably trained and commanded the Reds’ “men in black” armed faction, who started the killings of April 2010. In this role, he probably planned the 10 April killing of the Army CO on the scene, Col. Romklao, when the Army tried to move protestors out with only batons and shields. This incident started the cycle of armed conflict as armed soldiers came in to back up the unarmed ones. It was probably a later Army plan, learned from him, that had a sniper take out Seh Daeng himself on 13 May – both as revenge and as eliminating a key violent player. Another karma boomerang. Seh Daeng is quoted as saying earlier: “Brother Thaksin doesn’t want the protests to end. If they do, he cannot return home.” He was probably a key spoiler of the attempted peace initiative by Abhisit.
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Other Red Shirt leaders:
Veera: the most peaceful Red leader, who left the stage when Reds turned violent.
Weng: hard-core Red, communist leader of the Reds’ leftist faction.
Arisman: hard-core Red, he called for burning Bangkok as well as mosques.
Natthawut: hard-core Red, he called for widespread arson.
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Thai police: They did very little to stop the Reds at any time, and they are considered “tomatoes,” i.e., red. Some police actually shot at the Army.
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Royal Thai Army: They were very slow to follow Abhisit’s orders to clear protestors. They did not want a massacre and only moved when ready. Some elements in the Army, including some generals, are “watermelons,” i.e., green outside but red inside, so it took a while to get into gear.
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