THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: August 7-13, 2010
It was a week of double double standards in Thailand with red kettles calling yellow pots black, and preachers practising what they preach against. Confused? You will be. Read this week’s This is Thailand to have it all explained.
Despite the ongoing State of Emergency (SOE), which forbids political gatherings in Bangkok, the prime minister took part in a public meeting with a group of neo-yellow shirts calling themselves the Thai Patriots Network last weekend. Although the meeting was ostensibly to discuss Thai sovereignty over disputed land near the Cambodian temple complex of Preah Vihear, it was in truth more a case of the yellow shirts pulling Abbhisit’s chain to remind him who’s running the show.
It also had the effect of stirring up the red shirts who, naturally enough, shouted “double standards” over the gathering. However, since the red shirts have themselves been holding their own weekly rallies in open defiance of the SOE, they seemed to have begun practising what they so often preach against.
But it wasn’t just the actual gathering that had the red shirts seeing red. They were also annoyed that the PM had participated. It was, they claimed, yet another blatant example of double standards because the PM never met with red shirt protesters to listen to their grievances – a claim that was fatally flawed for two obvious reasons.
Firstly, unlike the red shirts, the yellow shirts have never tried to kill the prime minister, have never threatened to kill his family, have never contaminated his family home with blood and excrement, and have never viciously attacked his car.
Secondly, to say that the PM has never met with the red shirts is also a blatant lie since there were two rounds of televised talks between the government and red shirt leaders at the beginning of the reds’ illegal siege of downtown Bangkok earlier this year. Despite Abhisit patiently addressing the concerns of the red shirts during the talks, they were always going to end in stalemate with Jatuporn barking like Thaksin’s loyal lap dog every time a solution was offered.
And Jatuporn was barking again last week when he was one of nineteen red shirt leaders and guards who were formally indicted on terrorism and other serious charges relating to their involvement in various grenade and gun attacks, damage to public property, arson, violence and the 2-month occupation of downtown Bangkok. Another five fugitive red shirts, including Thaksin and Arisman, were also formally charged.
Having to justify his salary, a UDD lawyer contended that the charges were politically motivated and that his clients were all innocent, a claim that will be somewhat difficult to prove considering the number of videos showing red shirt leaders making hate-filled speeches in which they incite their supporters to occupy Bangkok, burn it to the ground, and commit other criminal acts against people and property.
Displaying both his usual contempt for truth and his love of publicity, Jatuporn took a different approach by claiming the indictments were unfair – NOT because he and his fellow defendants were innocent, but rather because justice was being meted out too quickly.
In a country where the justice system is usually criticised for progressing as efficiently as a lame snail across salt flats, and where cases against yellow shirt leaders from two years ago have still not reached court, Jatuporn felt that double standards were once more at play. For once he was half right.
Jatuporn was particularly upset that certain politicians had put pressure on the Office of the Attorney General to speed up the case against the red shirts. He had seemingly forgotten that an aggressive mob of red shirts had lain siege to the OAG earlier this year to demand the speeding up of a case against the Democrat Party.
Double standards? Not half.
The irony of all this is that if you dig beneath the odious leaders’ self-serving hubris, the red shirts have a far more just cause than the yellows with their latest smoke and mirror nationalism. Tackling the poverty of millions has to be a more worthy cause than fighting over a couple of kilometres of remote and hilly terrain.
The other news of the week related to the annual army and police re-shuffles. Government-friendly Prayuth Chan-ocha has been chosen to replace the departing Anupong Jaopinda as the army chief. Also, in a positive if somewhat surprising development, it seems that some promotions have been based on performance rather than seniority or nepotism. Lt. Gen. Thanongsak Apirakyothin overtook the more senior Lt. Gen. Khanit Sapitak for the position of assistant army chief, apparently because of his effectiveness in dealing with red shirt protests over the past two years according to the Bangkok Post.
With the police, however, seniority seems to be still the most important criterion for promotion. Wichean Potephosree was unanimously chosen by the National Police Board (NPB) as the new police chief despite the government pushing for Pol Gen Pateep to fill the top post.
If ever an institution needed a complete overhaul, it is the Royal Thai Police Force. Whether Wichean has the will and the means to achieve that remains to be seen.
Paul Snowdon – August 14, 2010
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