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An update on the current political situation in Thailand 2008 | Somsri Hannanantasuk


Dear Friends,

This will be an update on the current political situation in Thailand.

Some of us in our individual capacities have come out to call for non violence from all groups. We have also proposed the idea that a team of mediators should sit and talk with the government and groups protesting against the government (PAD).

In the last few weeks, Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) raided the premises of NBT for their biased broadcasting. PAD has also occupied the premises of the government house and made it a site of their protest. 82 members of PAD were arrested on 26th August. The Court also issued arrest warrants against 9 leaders of PAD. On 28th August the Civil Court ordered the protestors to move out from the Government House. However after an appeal against the Court order by PAD, the Court suspended the implementation of the order. The 9 PAD leaders have challenged the police to come inside the government house, which is full of protestors, to carry out the arrest. The Police have not made any attempts to arrest the leaders.

Meanwhile during the past week PAD supporters caused the closure of some airports in the South. Train services were also disrupted because of strike of workers. Some state enterprises joined the strike action too.

On 2nd September there was a clash between PAD and the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD which is perceived as pro-government) resulting in the death of one person of UDD and injuries to many. After this clash, PAD seemed to gain more political momentum and more sympathy from the people. As usual, the group who strikes first is the looser. But many people have blamed the PAD for provoking the violence.

This month is the fourth month of PAD’s protest against the government. Everybody knows that the Court is proceeding on the cases against the former prime minister. People are beginning to question the grounds of PAD’s protest and their demands for ‘new politics’. People are aware that PAD does not trust PM Samak and the Peoples Power Party (PPP) Cabinet which wants to amend the Constitution and pave the way for their former leader Thaksin Shinawatra to be saved from the scrutiny of the Courts.

But now, people are questioning what the PAD wants – do they only want PM Samak to resign or do they want something more than that? There are questions whether PAD will end the protest if PM Samak resigns and a new PPP leader is appointed to be the PM. The PAD seems to have lost trust in not only the PPP but also on Thai money politics in which only the rich party wins the elections. Many people think that the PPP will be reelected if there is another election even if they get less number of seats.

The PAD needs to clarify their proposal of “NEW POLITICS”.

At present the PPP and PM Samak are facing with many uncertainties. Recently the Election Commission of Thailand (ECT) took a consensus decision to ban the PPP and the case has now been sent to the Constitutional Court. The PM may have to resign from his post if the Supreme Court considers that his TV program on food cooking “Shim Pai Bont Pai” is a conflict of interest. The constitution does not allow the cabinet members to receive money from any work while they hold cabinet position.

For opposition party, the Democrat party has already made it clear that if we choose to dissolve the parliament and go to another election, they will accept the result even though they see that the party will need to find money to go for another election within one year and they do not have much money to contest compared to PPP who has Thaksin to back up. The Democrat knows they will not win majority because the people at the North Eastern part and the Northern provinces will vote for PPP. However, Mr. Apisit (leader of democrat) and his party do not agree with the PAD on some point about the New Politics that the PAD mentioned, 70/30 proportion for the parliament seats. They want the PAD to clarify what is the meaning of “New Politics”.
However, the government is now condemning the PAD who are breaking the rules and who do not respect the judicial system. They call PAD leaders to surrender as they feel that it is not civil disobedience. Many NGOs have not joined the PAD but many middle class people have been participating in the protest and still donate money to the people.

Government Announcement for Emergency Act in the Capital (Bangkok) area.

The government planned to have both militaries and police to assist them to control the situation. It is clear that the police are listening to the government instruction but the military wants to be independent. Even after the declaration of Emergency in Bangkok area on the 2nd September 2008, the PAD still does not want to move out of the government house. But the anti PAD group has assembled themselves outside the capital at Samut Prakarn province. PM Samak appointed Gen. Anupong, Army Commander, to implement the Emergency act, but the General did not want to crack down on the demonstrators. He threw the hot potato back to the PM to solve this problem because he knows that if he uses violence against a big group of people, many people would be killed and thousands would be injured. It is clear that the military do not want to have another coup.

This week more people have joined the PAD to call upon the PM to resign. This week many medical doctors and lecturers called for PM to resign or dissolve the parliament in order to end the immediate conflict/tension even though nobody knows what is going to be next. Many senior citizens and civil society set up urgent meetings every day while the anti-violence group comes out to call for peace. They are mourning the death of one person who died during the fight between both sides last weekend (many injured) and tonight will be another night that we will go out to the democracy monument to call for peace.

The parliament may call for public referendum asking people if they want the government to stay or to leave. Several schools open today and the workers of state enterprises still wait and see if they want to go on strike or not. Bangkok is now set for local election for governor. Two key parties sent their candidates to compete in this crucial election but they could not start their campaign yet because such Emergency Act does not allow people gathering more than five. In fact not many people care about this Act, the NGOs still continue their activities on the street, no police arrest them.
I hope this give some picture to make you understand better,

Somsri Hannanantasuk

4 September 2008, Bangkok
Before taking peaceful action at Democracy Monument at 7 pm