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A Week in Review: July 10-16, 2010

Things have a way of balancing out here...

The red shirts may have lost the recent Battle of Bangkok, but they have not yet lost their National Class War. While some of their grievances are finally being addressed, justice in Thailand sure works in mysterious ways. Find out why in our week in review… 

One of the red shirts’ most ardent battle cries continues to be their claim of double standards. While red shirt leaders are currently being hunted down and charged with committing acts of terrorism, yellow shirt leaders remain free two years after occupying Government House and both of Bangkok’s airports. And whereas pro-red shirt (read pro-Thaksin) political parties are routinely dissolved by the courts, the Democrat party has been allowed to grow and prosper unhindered.

There are, of course, fundamental differences between the tactics of the yellow shirts and the red shirts, and between the campaign procedures and objectives of the Democrats and the pro-Thaksin Phuea Thai, Thai Rak Thai and the People’s Power Party. Nevertheless, the fact remains that both the yellow shirts and the red shirts committed crimes that can be classed as acts of terrorism under Thai law. Justice, therefore, must not only be blind; it must also be colour blind.

Last week, we saw perhaps the biggest sacrificial lamb since former PM Samak was removed from office for hosting a cooking show so that the yellow shirt protesters could go home.

People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul was last week charged with lese majeste following defamatory remarks he made about the Thai Monarchy when addressing a yellow shirt rally almost a year ago.

In fact, Sondhi had simply been repeating a defamatory statement that had earlier been made by a red shirt member. However, persistent claims of double standards over the lack of a single prosecution of any of the PAD leaders for their occupation of Government House and both Bangkok airports in late 2008 seem to have influenced the decision to “find” a charge for Sondhi. It would appear that yellow is the new red – and Sondhi is the new Samak.

In addition, up to 80 leaders and supporters of the PAD were somewhat belatedly summonsed on charges relating to the yellow shirts’ anti-government protests two years ago.  

In another development, prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General finalised their recommendations that the Democrat Party be dissolved and that all party executives from 2004 and 2005 be banned from politics for 5 years. The list includes current PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The alleged offences date back to 2004 and 2005 and revolve around claims that the party received illicit donations of 258 million baht and that it also misused a grant of 29 million baht from the Election Commission’s political development fund. The case has now been presented to the Constitution Court.

However, it wasn’t all good news for the reds last week. A 20-man police team arrested a close aide of the former red shirt military advisor, Seh Daeng. After his arrest in Lopburi on Thursday, Surachai Thewarat confessed that during April and May he fired rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), M79 grenade launchers and M16 assault rifles in eight violent attacks, four of which resulted in fatalities.

Surachai admitted that Seh Daeng had trained him and other black shirt guards in the use of weapons. He also implicated the late renegade general as the mastermind behind several militant attacks.

Surachai had earlier overseen the sale of a cache of weapons including AK47 assault rifles, M79 grenade launchers and hand grenades to undercover agents. The arms had allegedly been part of an arsenal of weapons stashed at the reds’ rally site in Rachaprasong.

Investigations into Surachai’s involvement in other cases, including the slaying of the chairman of the Nakhon Sawan Provincial Administration Organisation, Amnart Sirichai, remain ongoing.

Surachai’s arrest would appear to be a real coup (pardon the pun) for the government and, indeed, for peace in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Mingkwan Saengsuwan emerged as the latest frontrunner in the Phuea Thai leadership saga. The party has become beset by infighting and many Phuea Thai MPs in the party’s north-east stronghold are increasingly unhappy with the role of Thaksin’s cronies, including his ex-wife’s friend, Wiyadee Sutawong, and his younger brother, Payap.

Could it be that Phuea Thai is growing up and abandoning its uber capitalist master to pursue the more socialist needs of its supporters?

Paul Snowdon – July 17, 2010

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