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Thai Politics in the News
Red-Shirts Storm ASEAN Summit in Pattaya
A summit of 16 Asian nations has been canceled after anti-government red-shirt protesters forced their way into the conference venue disrupting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at Pattaya Exhibition And Convention Hall at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya Thailand on 11th April 2009. Bewildered foreign leaders and heads of the state escaped from the hotel's rooftop by choppers. Soon after, a state of emergency was declared for Pattaya and Chonburi province to assist the evacuation of ASEAN delegates.
The red-shirts have achieved their objective of preventing the ASEAN Summit in Pattaya, causing an enormous embarrassment to the Thai government. Devil-may-care, pro-Thaksin supporters staged violent protests in Bangkok during the week of Songkran, forcing the government to impose emergency laws. Tanks and troops are again on the streets of Bangkok. Even though Thaksin may be laughing, his satisfaction from the turmoil in Pattaya and its aftermaths will be brief.
Red-Shirt Demonstrators in Bangkok
While the struggle between Yellow, Red, Blue, and whatever a new color is next, continuing, there are no winners in this race to the bottom. Thailand loses billions of baht. "He (Thaksin) has been way past of the point of no-return, and what happened in Pattaya on 11th April 2009 only serves to lengthen the distance between the man and his motherland," the Nation's editor Tulsathit Taptimn concluded in his newspaper commentary.
On 15th April 2009, the Foreign Ministry of Thailand has revoked the passport of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra for inciting protests that disrupted the 14th ASEAN Summit in Pattaya on 11th April 2009. The termination of Thaksin's ordinary passport does not affect his Thai citizenship and is intended to restrict his movements abroad, which are deemed a potential threat to the country.
The decision to cancel Thaksin's ordinary passport was based on passport issuing regulations, which state that the Foreign Ministry can cancel or recall a passport if it can prove that a person has caused damage to the country. Foreign Ministry revoked Thaksin's diplomatic passport in the middle of December 2008, shortly before Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva took office.
Several countries (including the Bermudas) officially denied having any dealings with Thaksin, specifically giving him a passport. Though, it's been reported that Thaksin has been offered and accepted other countries passports and "honorary citizenship".
Fugitive Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is a "special ambassador" for Nicaragua and holds a diplomatic passport issued by the Central American country, the Nicaraguan government said after Thaksin meets with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega that took place in the nation's capital Managua in February 2009. Ortega appointed Thaksin to help attract investment to his hardscrabble nation.
"That's an inappropriate question!!!
Ask me a different question!!!"
Thaksin Shinawatra While in Office
In recent weeks, Thaksin, who currently lives in exile to avoid a 2-year jail term for the abuse of power conviction, and several other set-aside corruption charges, has made a series of speeches to his supporters in Thailand by video link and phone. On 14th April 2009, a Thai court issued arrest warrants for 14 red-shirt leaders, including deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra over wild anti-government protests in Bangkok that left two people dead and 123 injured the previous day.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also sought coordination from Interpol to bring Thaksin back to Thailand to stand trial in Thai juridical procedures. Thailand and UAE had already started negotiations on Thaksin’s extradition.
Bangkok was ravaged during Songkran day before the military brought the situation under control. To avoid a crackdown, the red-shirts abandoned a 3-week long vigil outside the Government House after being besieged by security forces on 14th April 2009.
Thaksin, a 59-year-old billionaire tycoon, thought he could hold Thailand hostage as he bargained for his return, his amnesty, and his frozen ฿ 76 Billion in assets. He thought he is entitled to a royal pardon because he had Thailand in the palm of his hand.
By now, Thaksin must have realised that the game is over. Now, the red-shirt leaders will be going to jail under the charges of treason. If you plant gas tanks and threaten to set them ablaze, you're committing an act of terrorism and subversion against the state. It isn't too difficult to trace who ordered the trucks to be brought onto the streets.
Thai Troops on Streets of Bangkok
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has prevailed despite the military, the police, the security people, and his political partners plotting against him. Even though the dust is still up in the air, at the moment, Abhisit has emerged as a strong leader, transforming almost overnight from a lame-duck P.M. who was forced to cancel the ASEAN Summit in Pattaya into a leader who can defuse a political crisis subtly and artfully. For now, even the State of Emergency Decree in the capital Bangkok and five surrounding provinces has been lifted (effective 24th April 2009), it is Abhisit – not the Army chief – who is the most powerful person in Thailand.
The latest survey reveals that the majority of Thai people would put up with a crooked government if it can make the country prosper and raise their standard of living. It also proves that a mentality of 'what's in it for me' is still alive and holds well in Thai society – quite a disturbing outcome.
A survey on people’s well-being involving 1,228 households in 17 provinces nationwide has been conducted by the Abac Poll Research Centre, the most widely cited source of scientific survey research in Thailand today.
84.5% of responders viewed that corruption in businesses (that keeps the engine running) would not be unusual, and 51.2% said they would tolerate a corrupted government if it can improve the country and their well-being. [Thaksin was the most corrupt politician Thailand had ever seen.]
73.9% agreed that living self-sufficiently can help ease the economic crisis. [Contrary to the concept of "GLOBAL ECONOMY" governing the modern-day world. Self-sufficiency is just another word for protectionism in Thailand – a.k.a. a "KNOW-WHO" country.]
On the continuing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear Temple, 84.6% wanted both sides to negotiate to resolve the conflict peacefully and jointly improve the regional economy. 4.8% wanted either side to use force to solve the problem.
52.9% supported the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship’s (UDD) anti-government rallies under the condition that they must be held peacefully. 16.3% said they would support the UDD, a.k.a. the Red-Shirts, unconditionally. 21.1% opposed the group.
Media mogul, Sondhi Limthongkul, the founder & leader of the Yellow Shirts political movement, known also as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that helped topple former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, survived an assassination plot.
The ambush took place in the early hours on 17th April 2009 on Samsen Road in Bangkok, as Sondhi was on the way to his newspaper and television offices for his daily morning talk show 'Good Morning Thailand'.
An unknown number of heavily-armed assailants in a pickup shattered at close range all windows and four tires of Sondhi's black Toyota Alphard. Dozens of AK-47 and M-16 shells were around the car. During the attack that lasted several minutes, an M-79 grenade was also fired but missed Sondhi's vehicle. It hit a passing public bus, and fortunately, did not go off.
Sondhi Limthongkul on Arrival at Hospital
Doctors said that 61-year-old Sondhi Limthongkul was out of danger and even able to speak after a successful operation to remove a bullet fragment from his skull. Sondhi's driver was critically injured with gunshot wounds to his head, chest, and arm, his bodyguard suffered just minor injuries.
The incident came amid heightened tensions in Bangkok, while the State of Emergency is still in effect following bloody riots by Thaksin's red-shirt supporters, which left two people dead and over 120 injured a week earlier. The motive for the attack is still under investigation, but in all likelihood, it is politically motivated.
Fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra will be charged with lese majeste (article 112 of the Criminal Code) for his comments containing disrespectful references to the royal institution made in interviews with the foreign press (specifically Britain-based Sky News and the Financial Times) on 12 and 13 of April 2009, police officials announced on 14th May 2009.
The next day, on 15th May, Thaksin issued a statement asserting his innocence of lese majeste. "The accusation is very serious and contradicts what happened," he said in the statement released through his legal adviser Noppadon Pattama. Interviews in the foreign media, which led to an accusation, did not have any message deserving a lese majeste charge. He said he was deeply grateful to Their Majesties the King and Queen and he will fight till the end to prove his innocence.
Some incisive pundits well-versed in Thai politics pointed out that Thaksin's mouth has typically been his second-worst enemy, his ego is his worst enemy.
On 10 September 2009, the Criminal Court sentenced Sondhi Limthongkul to two years in jail and fined his firm for ฿ 200,000 after convicting the co-leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) for defaming former deputy prime minister and finance minister (in Thaksin's government) Pridiyathorn Devakula. The court cited Sondhi as a repeat offender for libel and refuse to grant him leniency or a suspended jail term. The Criminal Court released Sondhi on bail pending the appeal within 30 days.
In mid-March 2010 the reds come to Bangkok once again to flare up the riots. Since then, thousands of protesters have turned a large area of Bangkok into a virtual state within a state. The mob occupied a prominent business district, destroying normal life and all regular activities of city residents. Many businesses and public institutions are closed, people are out of work... [ MORE ]
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