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ASEAN ANALYSIS 23 June 2010

Uncertainty in Thailand

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs  23 June 2010

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A chance e-mail from an American relative enquiring if I were anywhere near the “political unrest” in Bangkok, brought a quick response from me, “Where have you been since May 19?”

That was the date the Thai army moved to disperse the main body of protesters at the Rajaprasong intersection, resulting in 89 deaths and 1,800 injured, followed by arson attacks by well-organized groups, ending the overt protest in Bangkok.

Since then, life has returned to a normal state in Thailand’s capital. Everyone goes to work, but handbags, backpacks and any carry-on luggage is checked upon entry to the city’s subway system, something that wasn’t done before the red-shirt protest.

This type of normality is tinged with a tinge of uncertainty The emergency decree remains in effect enforced by the Center for Resolution of Emergency Situations, allowing protest leaders to be held for 30 days and a battle in the courts is ensuing on allowing key leaders in the UDD protest movement to be granted bail. The government admits to holding 400 persons.

A reconciliation panel has been established to unite the country headed by former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, without, however, the participation of protest leaders.

On June 22, an explosion occurred in front of the headquarters of the Bhumjaithai Party, one of the partners in the ruling coalition. A fruit vendor from an eastern province, Chonburi, said he was approached to travel to Bangkok with the petrol container in his cart. The container prematurely exploded, injuring only the vendor, who is now recovering in police custody.

A red-shirt co-leader and member of parliament for the opposition Pheu Thai party immediately said the explosion was a government ploy to continue the emergency decree. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva maintained there was no government involvement and further questioned if the event was a terrorist act.

The political jockeying continues and charges and countercharges fly in what seems an endless circular pattern with few answers and even less resolved. Such is politics.

With the police largely discredited as a reliable security force, even though they observed the funeral for the cremation of a renegade general on June 22, the security of Thailand lies with the Thai army.

Uncertainty remains.

Will there be renewed attacks, especially in the provinces, perhaps planned by red-shirt leaders supposedly in hiding in Cambodia?

Will anything come from the reconciliation process?

When will the next general election be held? The constitution calls for a general election no later than December 2011.

Will fugitive former prime minister ever be extradited from his home bases in Dubai and Montenegro?

All good soap operas should always end with a “hanger,” a question to leave the audience hanging to maintain interest for the next episode.

There are more questions than the four listed above hanging in Thailand.

Life goes on, everyone is watching the World Cup and the Thai economy remains robust. What next?


 


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