Thailand: Fighting On Three Fronts

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April 13, 2009: In the capital, up to 100,000 populist demonstrators continued to roam the streets, and surround the offices of the royalist prime minister, in the last week. The government, angry over the cancellation of the ASEAN conference, ordered the army to clear the streets with force. Nearly a hundred demonstrators were injured, and former populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra called for a revolution.

In the capital, three small bombs were thrown into the compound of the Constitutional Court. One went off and injured a security guard. The government wanted to avoid violence, especially the use of troops to clear the streets. That's because most of the soldiers are from the poor rural areas, and are in sympathy with the demonstrators. Already, some soldiers have deserted and joined the populist mobs.

The prime minister had offered to negotiate with the populists, but was turned down. The populists accuse the royalists of stealing the last round of elections, after forcing the populist government to quit (by using massive demonstrations in the capital), and forcing out the populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with a military coup three years ago. The populists are backed by the majority of voters, but the royalists have the support of most military officers, businessmen and educated urbanites.

Today is the beginning of the annual three day New Years festival. But all festivities in the capital have been cancelled. Cell phones and the Internet have enabled the populists to stay connected, despite government control over the traditional mass media. The economy, already in trouble because of the global recession, and the demonstrations of royalists last year, is expected to take another hit. Tourists in the capital have been advised to stay indoors.

April 12, 2009: The government ordered the arrest of opposition leaders responsible for leading the demonstrations that aborted the ASEAN meeting.

April 11, 2009: The demonstrators also forced the ASEAN meeting (to discuss the global recession) to break up early, with foreign dignitaries being evacuated from the beach front conference center by helicopter and boat. This was a very public humiliation of the government.

April 8, 2009: Anti-government demonstrations increased in the capital, as tens of thousands of red shirted populists arrived from rural areas.

April 4, 2009: In the south, security forces ran into a group of armed Islamic terrorists, killing two of them, arresting one and setting off a manhunt for four others. Elsewhere in the south, Islamic terrorists killed two Buddhists.

April 3, 2009: There was fighting on the Cambodian border, apparently started when Thai and Cambodian soldiers both mistakenly believed the other side had crossed the border. Several hours of shooting left three Thai and two Cambodian soldiers dead, and several more, on both sides, wounded. The troops from both countries are facing each other over a disputed bit of territory near an ancient temple. Over the next few days, commanders met to calm things down.

 

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