The BBC has published an article by Vaudine England titled Divided Thailand seeks elusive ‘normalcy’. The main point they are making is essentially that while it seems that Thailand has returned to normalcy – an impression that the Thai government is working very hard on creating – behind the curtain, things are not so harmonious.
Some key points:
- the government still persists that there is a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy, although teams of hundreds of detectives have failed to provide specifics
- Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, which managed the government’s response to the protests, still exists, and insists security must remain tight.
- A state of emergency still holds sway over Bangkok and six other provinces – allowing for arrest without charge, censorship and other controls.
- Despite this, at least two explosions have occurred in the centre of Bangkok, killing one person and injuring others.
- “Things have quietened down on the surface but the issues are still very raw, they are lurking underneath” – political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak
- Dr Thitinan believes the government is pursuing repression not reconciliation.
- “The army […] have fanned out in pro-red areas for pacification and suppression efforts” – Dr Thitinan
- political education sessions are being held in every province
- “This time communities are divided, families are divided, workplaces are divided, companies are divided, even government offices are divided. This is a deeply divided country, a deeply divided city.” – Governor of Bangkok, Sukhumbhand Paripatra
While 3rd Army Region commander Lt Gen Thanongsak Apirakyothin stated that the authorities are capable of keeping the situation in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai under control and the emergency decree can be lifted in these two provinces, Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat said the explosion of a home-made bomb at a bus stop in San Patong district on Thursday may result in the emergency decree remaining in force in Chiang Mai.
You might remember that shortly after PM Abhisit declared that the State of Emergency could possibly be lifted soon, a bomb exploded in Bangkok and killed one person.
The Washington Post recently published an article worth quoting:
Since the quelling of the Red Shirt pro-democracy protests in May, Thailand has witnessed a show of unity between Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose legitimacy in office has been questioned, and the military, a key player in the government’s stability.
Local media – especially those controlled by the military – have spotlighted the government’s leadership and the military’s efforts to restore peace during and after the protests, while contrary views of the crackdown on the Red Shirts have been censored.
Meanwhile, Mr. Abhisit has approved a controversial defense budget and declined to investigate complaints of mismanaged military expenditures, as several army leaders are expected to be promoted, at least partly for their performance in quashing the Red Shirt rebellion.
All of this is pretty obvious, yet, with the current state of affairs, being obvious won’t be an obstacle for those who benefit. The story covers some more interesting details and I suggest you read the original article…
David Streckfuss published an article in the Wall Street Journal that is very critical of the current government’s strategy. Worth a read, specially in terms of how it portrays the current situation in Isaan:
Fearing arrest or worse, many leaders have fled the region, gone underground or remained silent. They worry they are being watched and that their phones are bugged. Many are reluctant to meet with journalists or human-rights groups. There is a perception among red shirts that the government can do virtually anything it wants under the emergency law.
Left without access to red-shirt radio or television, many families have chosen to listen to nothing at all. They say watching the government-controlled news or even reading the newspaper upsets them too much.
The silence and the appearance of normality in the northeast, however, is deceiving. They mask feelings of fear, frustration, disgust and anger.
Historically, the mood now is not like after the coup in 2006 or even after the military crackdown in 1992 when scores of demonstrators were reported killed. It is more like Thailand after the bloody suppression of students at Thammasat in October 1976.
But best to read the whole thing here: Life Under Abhisit’s Thumb: The Thai government cracks down on dissent in the restive northeast