Thailand: The Generals Are Scared

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December 2, 2010:  The royalist government is still a military dictatorship, which people are reminded of every day by the many army checkpoints around the capital, and other parts of the country. The military has also created an electronic eavesdropping program to keep tabs on officers and troops. The generals and their royalist allies are getting nervous, as well they should be. The populist red shirts are still around, despite the arrest of many red shirt leaders. The populists still have the support of most Thai voters, and this is not good for the royalists.

Police broke up another false passport operation (long a popular criminal activity in Thailand). This one was headquartered in Thailand, and supplied Islamic terrorists worldwide. Six Pakistanis and a Nigerian were arrested in Spain, while two Pakistanis and a Thai were arrested in Thailand. This operation was not as big as the one taken down two years ago. When that forgery gang was busted, 21,000 fake passports (largely for France, Suriname, Norway, Belgium, Italy and Myanmar), in various states of completion, were seized. A dozen arrests were made, most of them men from Burma. Some members of the gang were also involved in drug smuggling and gun running (to Sri Lankan rebels). This earlier group also supplied Islamic terrorists, but usually through middlemen.

December 1, 2010: After two years of armed stalemate, Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to reopen border crossings at the site of the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the border. The two countries have long argued over who owns how much of the ancient site. Each side has about 3,000 troops near the temple site, and there have been a few shooting incidents since 2008, but nothing serious. The two countries are still negotiating the withdrawal of troops. The site ownership issues are still unresolved.

November 30, 2010:  In the south, five policemen were wounded when a bomb, hidden under a park bench, was detonated via cell phone. Islamic terrorists are suspected.

November 24, 2010: In the south, gunmen killed three Moslem men, including a popular religious teacher. As the Islamic militants lose popularity in the Moslem community, they have made more of an effort to terrorize Moslem leaders into backing the radicals again. This is not happening.

November 20, 2010: Nearly 20,000 red shirt demonstrators hit the streets in the capital, to mark the six month anniversary of the government crackdown on the populist movement. The red shirts were not defeated, and keep holding legal, or illegal, demonstrations.

November 16, 2010: Notorious (and very successful) Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was finally, after 30 months of legal battles, extradited to the United States. The Russian government fought a long, and dirty, legal battle to try and prevent Bout going to the U.S. for trial. Bout had the unofficial backing of the Russian government, and several prominent Russian politicians took bribes from Bout to provide that support. In the last two years, Russian agents have bribed Thai witnesses at extradition hearings, to testify against American claims that Bout was involved in illegal gunrunning. But the U.S. did have a mountain of evidence, including former Bout employees and lots of wiretaps. Most importantly, the U.S. has been a good friend of Thailand for a long time. That made it difficult for the Russians to get away with just bribing judges or senior Thai officials to get Bout out of this mess. The Russians could have gone further, as Russian criminal gangs have established themselves in Thailand over the last decade (following, or joining, the growing number of Russian vacationers coming south). If the Russian government used the Russian gangsters for anything, it was information, not for muscle.

November 14, 2010: The Burmese border is a mess again, as renewed fighting in Burma has interrupted trade and sent thousands of refugees into Thailand.

 

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