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Pattaya Daily News

10 June 2008 :: 12:06:57 pm 28646

PAD Rebel Rousing Seen by Some as Plemininary to New Coup

Five months after the restoration of democracy in Thailand in the wake of the 2006 military coup, the country remains in political turmoil; a development which has diminished foreign investor confidence and radically affected the Thai stock exchange. And hovering overall is the spectre of yet another military coup!
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Thousands of protesters take to streets daily outside the parliament buildings, demanding the removal of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his People’s Power Party (PPP) government, described by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) as the “illegitimate administration”. The protesters also want Thaksin Shinawatra and his culpable cabinet member henchmen prosecuted for corruption, despite Mr Samak’s attempt to give the previous pm protection.

PAD has also announced its immediate adoption of a new strategy of civil disobedience this week, including work stoppages, suspending tax payments and a boycott by state civil servants against what they described as “illegitimate orders” from the government.

The severity of the current situation was highlighted by former prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, on Sunday, who is apparently deeply concerned that the population are clearly polarised into two groups and the divisions have become too deep to be reconciled.

So why has stability not returned in tandem with democracy, after the ineptitude of the previous military government One answer is the continuing influence of Thaksin lurking behind the facade of the PPP and the radical threat his commercial populist policies and disrespect for the traditional elite poses to Thailand’s traditional power base: the staunch supporters of His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the palace hierarchy and the military.

With the king’s failing health and advanced age, the question of succession has become paramount. And significantly, it has highlighted the other major polarization existing in Thai society: support for the Crown Prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn, or for his sister, Princess Sirindhorn. In the struggle for succession, the Crown Prince, does not have popular sentiment behind him, unlike his father, who is universally respected. On the contrary, what the Vancouver Sun described as “Vajiralongkorn’s lurid lifestyle and arrogant ways have made him widely feared and disliked”.

This is in contradistinction to Princess Sirindhorn, who especially through her benevolent concern for the nation’s poor has a broad public following. In addition, and most significantly, she has lectured at Chulachomklao Militar y Academy for over 20 years and has accordingly gained considerable respect from the higher military echelons who have passed through to become the current leaders of the Thai military and who, along with the Privy Council, will ultimately decide the succession.

It was this very factor, the influencing of the succession, which led to Thaksin’s downfall in the September 2006 Coup, as he attempted to install his cronies in key power-wielding positions. The apparent support given to Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratklin by the palace hierarchy, significantly by former pm and military commander, Prem Tinsulanonda, King Bhumipol’s senior aide, illustrated how opposed the traditional elite were to Thaksin’s power manoeuvres and his threat to their power-base.

The problem, however, is that Thaksin still commands much popular support, especially at the grassroots level in Esarn and Chiang Mai. So much so that he survived the traditional elite’s attempt to quash him by charging him with corruption and the renaissance of his banned Thai Rak Thai party in the form of the People’s Power Party, which subsequently won the election and thus a vote for Thaksin, when democracy was reinstituted.

Although Thaksin has taken a back seat, his influence, popularity and threat remain evident. So much so that when the PPP attempted to change the constitution to give protection to Thaksin by eradicating the junta’s dual clause giving them immunity, while simultaneously giving them grounds to prosecute Thaksin, the PAD took to the streets in protest. Rebel rousing with such rampant slogans as “Purge Thaksin regime and the nominee government”, while street vendors sold headbands proclaiming “Thaksin get out”. As Pad’s leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, voiced stirring clarion calls like “The country’s problems still persist, with Thaksin and his cronies being behind everything. So our tasks are not yet complete ….. I ask for your approval to heighten our efforts with a goal to finally oust the government.”


Political lecturer at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, Giles Ji Ungpakorn, sees the PAD street protests as a dangerous precedent, “PAD is hoping for a coup d’etat, as it does not have enough support (to gain power through an election)”, he maintained. It was PAD previous street protests which ostensibly precipitated the 2006 coup, it may just be the catalyst for the next one!

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Politics News

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