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A Week in Review: July 24-30, 2010

The Democrats held onto their seat in the Bangkok by-election. More explosions keep the State of Emergency in place in Bangkok. And Thaksin cracked a joke. Read here to find out what it was… 

Last Sunday was voting day in the Bangkok District 6 by-election. As expected, Panich Vikitsreth of the Democrats beat Phuea Thai’s Korkaew Pikulthong to retain the seat for the government. What was surprising, however, was that the incarcerated Korkaew garnered over 40% of the votes cast compared to approximately 53% for the free-range Panich.

Perhaps because of the long weekend, the total voter turnout was low at slightly less than 50% with Pichit winning around 91,500 votes and Korkaew pulling in almost 82,000.

True to character, Phuea Thai blamed everyone else except themselves for the defeat. They blamed the State of Emergency, which is only in place because of the havoc wreaked by their supporters. They blamed the fact that Korkaew was in prison and unable to campaign openly, which begs the question: why field a candidate who is on remand for terrorism charges related to encouraging people to destroy the city in which the election is taking place? They even blamed the government’s use of state media, which is more than a little ironic since PT and its militant wing, the red shirt UDD, have continually abused freedom of speech to broadcast distorted truths and propaganda to incite hatred and violence.

The fact that, despite all this, Korkaew received almost 82,000 Bangkok votes is not only surprising; it is also very worrying.

Even more worrying was what was to follow. A homemade bomb modified from an M79 grenade killed one and injured ten civilians at a bus stop outside the Big C mall in Rachadamri, which was only just getting back to normal after the red shirts’ violent occupation of the area for 2 months.

The government blamed the red shirt supporters of Phuea Thai, claiming that they were bitter at losing the by-election; Phuea Thai blamed the government, claiming that they wanted an excuse to extend the State of Emergency (SOE).

The SOE has been lifted in eight provinces nationwide, but it remains in place in Bangkok.

On Friday, there was another reason not to lift it when a grenade concealed inside a plastic rubbish bag exploded in central Bangkok, seriously injuring a scavenger who was searching for scrap.

Finally, Thaksin celebrated his 61st birthday last week. He took the opportunity to tell his red shirt supporters that he was opposed to violence. We all had a good laugh at that one.

Paul Snowdon – July 31, 2010

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