Thailand: Cleaning Out The Palace

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January 4, 2015: The military government has made some serious efforts to control the media. This has included imposing site blocking and other censorship on local Internet access. The main purpose of all this is to curb access to news about former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been in exile since 2008, as well as any criticism of the military government. The generals do not like Thaksin Shinawatra and have staged two coups (2008 and 2014) because of that dislike. In 2010 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 wondered who was going to get the $1.4 billion. Populists threatened violence over the seizure, although Shinawatra, from exile in Dubai, urged calm and only non-violent demonstrations. Many royalists (especially the military) believed that Shinawatra was financing the populist violence with this money. The royalists have contempt for the poor in general and even the less educated royalists, and this is returned with resentment and growing anger towards the wealthier and better educated urban population that opposes majority rule. This anger was not diminished by the military government use of force against those demonstrating for fair elections and a restoration of democracy before 2011. Such class warfare is nothing new. There were similar outbreaks in the 1970s and 1990s. But the current anger is more widespread and having more of a negative impact on the economy. The 2011 elections did more than just remove yet another military government. Those elections made it clear that the trend was against such takeovers. There had been ten such military governments in the last four decades and 18 coups or attempts since 1932 (plus seven attempts that failed). 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 in early 2014 there was yet another military takeover “for the good of the country.” Many in the military leadership believe that they have been losing a lot of the power and popular respect they have long enjoyed. It is becoming obvious that most Thais want the military out of politics for good. The military tried to remain neutral after elected government was restored in 2011. This was mainly because the generals feared that many of their troops were hostile to the anti-democratic royalists and more military intervention might tear the military apart. Eventually the generals decided to take over again anyway, urged on by persistent royalist street demonstrations. But now, as usual, the populists are enraged and civil war is again a threat.  

The Islamic terrorists remain active in the south but are growing weaker. This situation is not unique to Thailand. There are plenty of other Islamic terrorists operating, often in small numbers, wherever there are Moslems and non-Moslems living close together. This violence comes and goes over the century but the potential is always there. That’s why much of the Thai Islamic terrorism is about Moslems attacking Buddhists. Also note that twenty nations account for over 95 percent of terrorism activity in the world. Of these twenty (Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Yemen, Iran, Uganda, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria. Palestinian Territories, Congo, Central African Republic, Colombia, Algeria, Thailand, Philippines, Russia, Sudan, Iran, Burundi, India, Nigeria and Israel), all but four of them (Congo, Central African Republic, Colombia and Burundi) involve Islamic terrorism. In terms of terrorism fatalities, the top four nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia) accounted for 75 percent of the world total of terrorism related deaths.

The government has agreed to negotiate a settlement to its maritime border dispute with neighboring Cambodia. The disputed area in the Gulf of Thailand is believed to hold large underwater oil and natural gas deposits. The two countries are still negotiating a settlement of a land border dispute that dates back to 1962 and flared up again in 2009.

The Thai Navy has bought seven helicopters from European firm Airbus. Thailand is in need of new military helicopters as most of the existing fleet is decades old. Most of them are American designs dating back to the 1960s. The current military government is trying, as they usually do, to get purchases like this made before new elections are held and civilians are again in charge and less willing to buy new military equipment.

December 31, 2014: In the south (Narathiwat) the army, acting on a tip, found and attacked an Islamic terrorist camp. One man, who was wanted for stealing weapons from an army base in 2011, was killed but the others escaped. The dead man was found with an assault rifle, a pistol and two grenades.

December 27, 2014: It the south (a town on the Malaysian border) Islamic terrorists set off five bombs, killing one woman. This town (Sungai Golok) has lots of bars and brothels for Moslems from Malaysia (where there are a lot fewer bars and brothels.) Islamic terrorists hate towns like this and frequently make attacks there. But business goes on.

December 23, 2014: In the south (Narathiwat) an army patrol was fired on by Islamic terrorists. In the brief gun battle one terrorist was killed and as the others fled soldiers pursued and captured another.

December 22, 2014: Outside the capital police found two hidden arms caches. These contained RPG rockets, detonators and thousands of rounds of ammunition. It is believed that arms smugglers brought this stuff in for political extremists planning some violence in the capital.

December 13, 2014: The crown prince (the heir to the thrown now held by a beloved and ailing 86 year old king) announced he is divorcing his wife. This is because the current anti-corruption campaign recently revealed that his wife was involved in illegal practices. The crown prince was advised to divorce his wife (his third, married in 2001) and strip the wife and her family of all the benefits obtained from their connection (by marriage) to the royal family. The uncle of the wife had earlier been arrested as have many police officials who were involved in the many corrupt practices the family of the wife were responsible for. The recent military coup had the blessing of the royal family, which also backed the increased anti-corruption efforts so the aristocrats are expected to cooperate. The crown prince is the only male heir and has long been criticized for his unroyal behavior and multiple marriages. His current wife (and her family) was suspect from the beginning. Royalists are nervous about the future of the monarchy if the crown prince becomes king, but making the legal changes necessary to allow his more popular sister to become the next monarch are also daunting.

December 11, 2014: In the south (Narathiwat) an army motorcycle patrol was hit with a roadside bomb, wounding three soldiers. 

 

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