Thailand: Crackdown And Aftermath

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May 28, 2010: The populist red shirts are dispersed in the capital, but not defeated. In the week before the final crackdown, most of the 150,000 red shirts left the capital, with only about 50,000 were left to confront nearly as many police and soldiers. Those red shirts who already left, do not feel defeated. The risk of civil war continues. The Royalists (yellow shirts), who are in power (via a coup in 2006, followed by tainted elections) are trying to capture Populist (red shirt) leader, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The royalists and urban elites believe that the capture, trial and imprisonment of Shinawatra might break the will of the populists, or convince Shinawatra to switch sides. Back in March, the courts moved to seize half of Shinawatra's fortune ($1.4 billion) as a fine for being corrupt. This was an unpopular move, since nearly all Thai politicians are corrupt, and people wonder who is going to get the $1.4 billion. The red shirts threatened violence over the seizure, although Shinawatra, from exile in Dubai, urged calm and only non-violent demonstrations. Many Royalists believe that Shinawatra was financing the populist violence with this money. The royalists have contempt for the poor and less educated red shirts, and this is returned with resentment and growing anger towards upper classes. This anger has not been extinguished by the government use of force against those demonstrating for fair elections and a restoration of democracy. Such class warfare is nothing new. There were similar outbreaks in the 1970s and 1990s. But the current one is more widespread and having more of a negative impact on the economy.

The government assault on the red shirt camp found little evidence of planned rebellion, or weapons. And what was found and displayed for the press is suspect. The current government is considered, by most Thais, as a fraud that cannot be trusted.

The economy is taking a big hit. The stock exchange, and the biggest shopping mall in the capital, were destroyed in response to the army assault on the red shirt camp. At least three dozen other major fires broke out. Tourists are staying away, and revenue for tourism related business is down more than 20 percent. Several large manufacturing facilities have been shut down, and foreign investment plans are on hold. The government has had most of the country under curfew for nearly two weeks.

The government is moving police and troops to the north, where most of the population lives, and where the red shirt movement has most of its support. Government intelligence believes that the red shirt movement is planning more unrest in the north. There are already local red shirt organizations in the north, and these are now the center of the red shirt movement. The leaders of the red shirt demonstrations in the capital are now either under arrest or being sought by the police. But the government fears that the red shirts will now undertake a terror campaign, and perhaps even link up with Islamic terrorists in the south, if only to obtain help in carrying out terror attacks against government targets. Unlike the Moslem terrorists in the south, where nearly all the police and soldiers were non-Moslems, most of the security force troops come from the same social class (poor and rural) as the red shirts.

May 26, 2010: In the south, two bombs went off, leaving two dead and over forty wounded. Things have been quiet in the south for the last two months. The Islamic terrorists apparently realize that the red shirts are grabbing all the media attention, and that's what terror operations seek.

May 19, 2010: The government orders the army to shut down the fortified red shirt camp in the middle of the capital. It takes most of a day to do this, leaving fifteen dead and about a hundred wounded. This is on top of 80 dead (and over a thousand wounded) from two months of street violence.

 

 

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