Thailand: The Soft Coup Slogs Forward

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February 11, 2014: The royalist and nationalist politicians and parties (yellow shirts) that lost the national elections in 2011 have spent the last three months on the streets trying to overthrow the government by force. The government responded by trying to contain the disruptive demonstrations using non-violent methods (to prevent escalation and possible military intervention). This did not work, so new elections were called for February 2 nd . Knowing they would lose such an election the protestors concentrated on disrupting the elections. This was successful to the extent that the results have still not been announced and the government is unable to pass laws to deal with economic problems until the vote is settled. More people are losing money (from unemployment or lost business activity) because of the demonstrations, although the losses are not major. Arrivals at the main airport were down 4.3 percent in January and at least half the tourists that would normally be visiting the capital have stayed away. But most factories and other large enterprises in and around the capital continue to function.

Back in 2013 some 12,000 royalist (yellow shirt) demonstrators assembled in the capital (Bangkok) to overthrow the government, but were confronted by 17,000 police. The demonstration was considered a failure. Since November 24th the yellow shirts have been on the streets in large numbers again, assembling up to 160,000 people in the capital. But after all that only a few thousand yellow shirt demonstrators were left by late December. Then protests picked up again in January with the expressed intent to shut down economic activity in the capital. This did not work, but it was very disruptive and the demonstrations continue.

Protest leaders are running out of time and need a win. Their main demand is that the elected government step down and allow an unelected council rule long enough to impose anti-corruption measures. This is unpopular with most voters. As a result of all this many of the middle-class yellow shirt supporters were getting discouraged, especially because of how the demonstrations were hurting the economy and the quality of life in Bangkok (a largely yellow shirt place.) The January scheme involved bringing in enough protestors to shut down the capital for up to a month, or until the elected government resigned and allowed the minority parties to appoint one to their liking. This massive and sustained protest is meant to halt the February elections the beleaguered prime minister has called. That effort was a partial success.

The protestors know they do not represent a majority of voters and did not want to be reminded of that by another election. The protestors have most of their supporters in central Thailand and especially the capital. In most of the country the protestors are seen as a political minority trying to overthrow a majority government. With that in mind the government has discouraged its supporters from coming to the capital for counter-demonstrations. The police have orders to avoid violent confrontations. Bangkok is huge, with 12 million people and the protestors have provided great photo ops but have not yet seriously disrupted the city. The government is trying to negotiate with the protestors, but has refused demands to resign or that elections be delayed a year. This second surge of protests has left at least ten dead and several hundred wounded. Some 20,000 police are deployed near the protests and 15,000 soldiers are on alert, most of them away from the city center where most of the protests are. Companies of soldiers have been seen deployed around government ministries.

While some yellow shirt politicians still believe military takeovers remain a viable option, most do not. The 2011 elections had done more than just remove yet another military government. Those elections made it clear that the trend was against such takeovers. There have been ten such military governments in the last four decades and 18 coups or attempts since 1932. Most Thais are tired of it and have demanded reforms to curb the ability of the military to take over. Trimming the power and influence of the military has not been easy, and despite the possibility of triggering yet another military takeover “for the good of the country” the military has concluded that they have been losing a lot of the power and popular respect it long enjoyed. Most Thais want the military out of politics for good. This time around the military has refused to take sides and has largely remained neutral. This was mainly because the generals have realized that many of their troops are hostile to the anti-democratic yellow shirts and more military intervention might tear the military apart. 

In January 35 people were killed by Islamic terrorist violence in the south and 46 percent of the victims were Moslem. There were 68 Islamic terrorist attacks. Peace talks are still stalled, largely because of the anti-government demonstrations in the capital had distracted the government. Since the Islamic terrorist violence began in the south over 5,400 have been killed.

February 10, 2014: For the first time one of the leaders of the 11 weeks of anti-government demonstrations was arrested. The government issued dozens of these arrest warrants in the last week but most of those sought have gone into hiding. Until now the government did not go after protest leaders in order to avoid triggering more violence on the part of the demonstrators. The protesters have escalated anyway and seem determined to bring down the government no matter what. 

In the south (Narathiwat province) the wife of a policeman was shot dead and set on fire in a marketplace. A note left by the killers said this was revenge for the shooting of a Moslem family on the 3rd. The Islamic terrorists like to blame the police or Buddhist vigilantes for terrorist attacks on Moslem civilians. The accusation is believed by a lot of Moslems, even when the victim was a known government supporter or openly hostile to Islamic terrorists. Most of the Moslems victims are killed by Islamic terrorists in an effort to discourage pro-government activity.  

February 9, 2014: In the capital two grenades were thrown into crowds of anti-government protestors, wounding 28 people.  

February 8, 2014: In the capital there was an explosion within a crowd of anti-government demonstrators, injuring two of them. This may have been a grenade tossed by an anti-protest activist.

February 5, 2014: In response to anti-government protestors efforts to disrupt the February 2nd elections the government decided escalate and issued arrest warrants for 19 protest leaders.

February 3, 2014: In the south (Narathiwat province) a Moslem family was fired on while returning from the local mosque. The three children were killed but the parents survived.

February 2, 2014: Anti-government demonstrators disrupted a lot of polling places for the national elections today. There were some disruptions in 39 percent of the country. It was worst in the capital where seven percent of the polling places were unable to operate at all. Over 400,000 people were prevented from voting.

February 1, 2014: In the south (Pattani province) an Islamic terrorists ambush using a roadside bomb and gunfire killed three soldiers and a government official.

January 22, 2014: China has warned its citizens to avoid Thailand, especially the capital, and get out if they are there unless their presence in Thailand is essential.

January 21, 2014: The government declared a 60 day State of Emergency in the capital to make it easier for the police to restrict the disruptive activities of the

January 20, 2014: In the south (Pattani province) two civilians were shot dead in public in what was believed to more Islamic terrorist violence. Elsewhere in the area five soldiers were wounded as a bomb went off inside a school.

 

 

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