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A Week in Review: February 5-11, 2011

PAD supporters outside Government House yesterday

Never mind the lunatics in the asylum; the bananas are trying to take over the plantation. Peel away the layers of deceit to get at the juicy flesh here…

Desperate to claw itself back into the political spotlight, the increasingly ridiculous PAD began last week by demanding that the Thai government step down for failing to run the country properly.

And what has the government failed at exactly? Helping Thailand recover from a period of global depression? Reducing the class divide? Improving education standards in Thailand? Providing an efficient and affordable health service for all Thais? Answer: none of the above.

The Thai government has failed to bow to the demands of a minority pressure group of ultra-nationalists who want Thailand to go to war with one of its neighbours over 4.6 sq km of land that nobody seemed to have been the least bit bothered about until recently.

Just as the reds were mobilised to demand ‘democracy’ immediately after their financial benefactor was ordered by the courts to return some of the money he stole from Thailand, so the yellows have been roused to protect ‘Thai sovereignty’ as their leaders lick their political wounds following a series of resounding defeats in recent by-elections.

So – blissfully unburdened by the follies of logic – the PAD called for the government to make way for more capable people to take over the running of the country and resolve the border issue with Cambodia.

To all but those whose vision is impaired by the wool of their own brow, there are at least three reasons why this is patently absurd.

To start with, the mountain on which the Preah Vihear temple stands really is a mole hill. The border dispute with Cambodia was nothing more than a minor issue being dealt with through civilised bi-lateral talks before the PAD and TPN hierarchy hi-jacked and escalated it for their own personal benefit.

The fact that the Thai government prefers to solve the issue through diplomatic means rather than armed conflict does not constitute a just cause for the PAD and TPN to demand it step down.

Secondly, governments in democracies are answerable to and servants of the nation as a whole – not just one small minority pressure group with a badly-hidden agenda. There are many issues of far greater importance to the vast majority of Thai people and Thailand’s development than a rocky patch of land.

But it is the third reason that is by far the most worrying. Let us assume that the PAD and TPN are successful and the government steps down. What next? Who do they think will take a stronger line with Cambodia – if that is indeed their primary concern?

Phuea Thai? Thaksin? There may have been talk of the reds and yellows collaborating recently, but the PAD would be back on the streets in no time if its sworn enemies and known friends of Cambodia returned to power.

And the PAD is hardly likely to accept the Democrats being re-elected to power if they have just caused their downfall.

Having been soundly trounced in every by-election it has contested, the PAD’s recently-formed political wing the New Politics Party (NPP) could not expect to win a democratic election.

So what option does that leave? Perhaps Jatuporn’s claims that yet another coup is on the cards was not so fanciful after all.

And what of the disputed border at the centre of this stormy teacup?

The week began with heavy artillery fire from both sides, resulting in the loss of a reported 11 lives, the displacement of an estimated 30,000 villagers on both sides of the border; the destruction of several buildings, including a school; and damage to the thousand-year-old temple that the two sides are fighting over.

Of course, it takes two to tango and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is the ready-made archetypal villain. He must be delighted that the PAD and TPN have given him an opportunity to use a nationalistic smokescreen of his own to divert his people’s attention away from the land concessions he made to Vietnam.

“This is a real war”, proclaimed Hun Sen, who went on to announce that there would be no more bi-lateral talks with Thailand as he called for the UN to mediate in the dispute.

The Thai government responded by re-iterating its original stance that the issue should be dealt through bi-lateral talks and the UN is not needed since Thailand is “not a failed state”. Of course, if the PAD and TPN hadn’t interfered, that’s exactly what would be happening.

Finally, when informed that the PAD was considering visiting the affected border areas of Si Sa Ket in eastern Thailand, local villagers warned them to stay away because of the damage they had already done and the likelihood that their presence would only inflame the situation further.

Let’s finish this week with a quiz:

1. If the Thai Patriots Network is so patriotic, why do they have an English name rather than a Thai one?

2. Why don’t the PAD and TPN visit the restless southern border provinces of Thailand where a much larger area of Thailand is under threat from insurgents?

3. If the PAD and TPN manage to oust the current government, who do they think is a better alternative?

4. Which of the following would be the best situation for Thailand:

  • The reds form a government and the yellows take to the streets in protest

  • The yellows form a government and the reds take to the streets in protest

  • Both sets of supporters grow up, stop acting like sheep and learn to think for themselves instead of being so easily manipulated by self-serving elitist dictators

Share your answers in the comments box below.

Paul Snowdon – February 12, 2011

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