Anti-Prem protesters suffer UDDer defeat
I don't know what the leaders of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) were thinking. Their actions on the night of Sunday July 22 have just handed the government a PR victory on a platter.
The unwritten rule for Thai mob politics is that you provoke the government into firing the first shot, striking the first blow, after which you can claim police brutality and gross violation of human rights, among other things. Along the way there will a few casualties, sacrificial lambs at the altar of the "greater good." With any luck, public sentiment will turn against the government and the tide will turn in your favor.
A bit cynical perhaps (okay, way too cynical), but I think this was the calculation behind the mob protests we've been seeing in Bangkok lately. When police allowed them to rant and rave to their hearts' content, the UDD had to up the ante and march on the residence of Pa Prem. When again the police failed to retaliate with force and tried to unplug their PA system (this was after 9 p.m.), the protesters in their frustration let the woefully unarmed officers have it. This would be farcical if there hadn't been so many real injuries. Thank heaven no one was carrying a gun.
It was plain to all that the police were extremely restrained, while the protesters were unduly belligerent. So despite the hard knocks suffered by police, the authorities emerged as the good guys and the UDD's credibility fell several notches in the public eye. The government's repeated claims of the sanctity of the rule of law seemed to be validated.
But wait, what's this I see? The ringleaders were requested to appear in court on Thursday July 26 to hear the charges against them. But according to news reports, when they did so, they were arrested and denied bail. Uh-oh.
The Thai authorities should recognize that they have the upper hand in this situation. All they need to do is let the law run its course. The ringleaders might be acquitted, but so what? They don't pose any serious threat to the system. No one's been giving them much attention.
Any attempt to rig or stack the case would only reinforce the suspicion that the government is intent only on destroying the opposition while rule of law gets only lip service. What's more, the court's credibility might suffer yet another blow if it is seen to be toeing the government line without regard for due process.