What’s the real 2011 defense budget?

In an article on the Bangkok Post, it stated that:

“The Defence Ministry denies claims it is being rewarded for leading the crackdown on red shirts last week with a larger budget in the coming year.”

“Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said yesterday the proposed 2011 budget allocation for his ministry is actually smaller than that for the current year.”

However, on Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij’s twitter page, he tweeted on May 26:

“Opp. [opposition] says next year’s budget is pro-military, truth is defense budget up only 10% while, agriculture budget up 40%! Pls RT”

So which is it? This discrepancy should raise some curiosity.

Government is said to be preparing for their attack

Red shirt leaders report movements in the military surrounding Ratchaprasong. Armored vehicles are said to be positioning themselves. There’s word that the crackdown will happen around 6AM local time. Red shirt leaders also claim that the military is planning to plant weapons in the protest area in order to support their claims of terrorists within the protesters.  They have asked the protesters to be alert of such a move to frame them. This information has not yet been verified by foreign media.

Seh Daeng passes away

Thai protesters have announced that Seh Daeng has passed away. I won’t hide the fact that I’m deeply sad by this news. The government may find that Seh Daeng the martyr is much scarier than Seh Daeng the military rebel.

Thai government said to be banning reporters from the conflict zone

A protest leader reported that the Thai government is restricting  reporters from being near the conflict zone. The government claims that it’s for their own safety. This has yet to be confirmed on foreign media.

The more likely reason is to hide the brutality of the military’s actions. In my earlier post, I suspected that the shooting of the reporters seemed intentional. I suspected that the intentional targeting of reporters were to prevent them from filming the carnage. I now feel more confident that I am right.

Update: This has been confirmed in the Bangkok Post.

Military targeting journalists?

Reuters reports that a foreign journalist was shot during clashes between the protesters and the military. The journalist was reported to be:

“standing between troops and protesters when he was shot. He had been holding a video camera. Blood was seen streaming from his hand when he was carried away by protesters.”

He was carrying a camera and blood was streaming from his hand? I wonder if the military intentionally shot the cameraman in the hand or arm to stop him from filming the conflict.

In a separate article, a France24 journalist was reportedly shot in the leg. This shot also sounds like it was intended to stop the journalist from doing his work. I’m not sure if these two journalists are the same person. One was said to be bleeding from his hand and the other shot in the leg.

This other article indicates that at least three journalists have been injured. It definitely sounds like the military could be targeting journalists which is definitely a violation of human rights since journalists are in no way a threat to anyone.

Thai police said to be returning fire against the military

One of the red shirt leaders claimed that a police officer spotted a military personnel shooting at the protesters from an overpass and fired back. The officer was said to have  yelled at the military personnel to not fire at the civilians before returning fire.

Asian Centre for Human Rights: Abhisit must halt operations immediately

According to the red shirt protesters, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (which has special consultative status with UNESCO)  has issued a statement to Abhisit to “immediately halt the military crackdown to disperse the red shirt protesters…”.  ACHR warned that failure to do so could lead to Abhisit being prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. The letter was read and translated by the protest leader, Weng Tojirakarn. The letter indicated that the use of live ammunition on the rogue general known as Seh Daeng is illegal since he did not pose a threat to security. Seh Daeng was shot while giving an interview to the New York Times. You can watch the raw video of Mr. Weng Tojirakarn reading the statement here (at 1:33:00) . You can also read the letter from the ACHR here.

In an article, Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the spokesman for the military stated:

“Therefore, the authorities must execute measures according to international standards and rules of engagement. Live ammunition will be used.”

I bet the world is wondering which international standard Sansern is talking about.

Bangkok Post: Officially becomes a mouthpiece for the government

In an article on the Nation, Post Publishing (the publisher of Bangkok Post) entered a deal to provide news content to NBT which is owned and operated by the Thai government. NBT states:

“it [NBT] can run only government and corporate social responsibility messages”

This basically means that NBT can only report news that is aligned with the government’s views and so will Post Publishing. So if you’re looking for fair and independent news, look elsewhere. I used to be a frequent reader of the Bangkok Post. If I didn’t agree with an article, at least I could post comments expressing my views and about 80% of the comments would get approved. Recently it seems that if your comments criticize the government even mildly, it will get rejected. If you really want to improve your chances of getting your comments approved, throw in a small jab at one of the opposition groups such as the red shirts, Pheu Thai, or Thaksin.

Aljazeera: Thai media trying to twist story

A blog on the Aljazeera website accuses the media of trying to twist the story behind Aljazeera’s video footage of a man in a red bandanna brandishing a gun on April 28. Thai media has been trying to lead viewers to believe that this man in the video may have something to do with the soldier who died that day. It’s been 6 days and the government has yet to conclude the investigation into the death of this soldier.

“Despite the best efforts of various organisations who are trying to twist the story, we did not in any way suggest that the man we filmed with the gun had anything to do with the death of the soldier. We filmed him about an hour before we saw the body of the soldier being carried out.”

Aljazeera mentions their suspicion about a possible staging of this incident when these men intentionally went pass the news crew. It’s interesting that this man with the gun decided to wear a red bandanna even though the red shirts were instructed to drop their colors in order to confuse the security forces. It’s also questionable that this man in the red bandanna just happens to be accompanied by some men in black which fit the government’s descriptions of the  terrorists spotted during the April 10th crackdown.

“He was right in front of us and the three people in our team all saw it with our own eyes. We only saw one man carrying a gun. But he was slinking around the place with several other men. One of whom was dressed completely in black, which immediately raised my suspicion after so many mysterious men in black were spotted during the April 10 violence.”

The blog also criticizes Thai security forces for using average citizens to create a traffic jam to block the protesters. When the security forces started shooting at the red shirts, these citizens were also in the line of fire.

The police and soldiers had more than enough warning that the red shirts were coming down the highway. They were travelling en masse and were easily identifiable. They should have diverted all the other traffic.

Instead, innocent people were sandwiched between the riot police and the red shirts. Many remained in their cars, expecting to be let through the road block eventually. But when the security forces started firing their guns, people were trapped, lying down in their vehicles, trying to avoid being shot while others ran to the relative safety of the side of the road.

This should never have been allowed to happen. They could easily have cleared those people out before the reds arrived.”

The Department of Special Investigation is accused of lying

On Monday, May 2, the red shirts accused the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) of lying about the investigation into the grenade attack near the Defense Ministry on March 20.  According to an article in the Bangkok Post, the DSI reported that they arrested five suspects, Bandhit Sitthitum, Supanas Hulavej, Supachai Puikaewkam, Passakorn Sirilak and Wayuphak Noree. Supachai’s wife is a red shirt supporter. The DSI also claimed that Bandhit confessed to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha as being the real target of the attack and that he was paid 500,000 baht for carrying out the attack. Supposedly the grenade never reached the temple because it hit an electrical line and landed near the ministry. This explanation on why the grenade never reached the temple seems a bit far fetched to me. Supachai’s wife refuted the charges. She states that Bandhit  has been denying all accusations, so for the DSI to claim that he confessed to the crime is a complete lie. The red shirt leader, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn also pointed out that it would be impossible for the grenade to reach the temple from the believed launch location. Dr. Weng questioned the impartiality of the DSI. The government seems to be working hard  to discredit the red shirt movement by spreading “misinformation”. First painting them as terrorists, anti-monarchists, and now a threat to Buddhists. The government is obviously trying very hard to stoke public anger against the red shirt movement by painting them as hostile to everyone in Thai society so as to pave way for a violent crackdown. Considering all the money Abhisit is willing to spend to deploy the forces in the capital for months, the deaths he’s willing to tolerate in order to stay in power for supposedly a few more months: It’s possible that Abhisit may be planning to stay in office much longer than most people expect.

Who’s really to blame for ‘inaction’: Thai military is growingly frustrated

In a recent article in Bangkok Post, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon defended himself against accusations of inaction. According to the article, when one of the generals complained about the military’s inaction against the protesters, Prawit shot back:

“What can we do in a situation like this?…We do what the government orders, but it is not always easy, especially when it comes to  [dispersing] the Ratchaprasong [red shirt rally]”

It seems that the top brass in the military feel that the current problem can only be solved politically. Their view parallels that of several foreign countries. A harsh military crackdown could very well push the country into a civil war in which all sides stand to lose a lot. So the question is, why has Abhisit done nothing in the political front? In an interview with BBC on April 28, Abhisit stated that he intends to bring all sides to negotiations to help  find a political solution to the problem. However  his actions speak differently from his words. There have been no further attempts by the government to open any dialogue with the Red Shirt protesters since turning down their last offer to extend the deadline for house dissolution to 30 days. Instead, the government has been putting enormous pressure on the police and military to crack down on the protesters. In the art of war, it states that a war cannot be won without the support of the people. Right now, Abhisit doesn’t seem to have many places to turn to for genuine support. If people had to choose between elections or civil war, most would choose elections.