Haven't updated this blog in a while, but the political situation has gotten to the point that I have to let off some steam.
The ASEAN Summit
Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar have asked Thailand to postpone the Summit. My first reaction was: what gall! My second was: this wasn't totally unexpected; the worsening political situation was steadily increasing the likelihood of postponement anyway. The decent thing, I thought, should have been to take the initiative to announce the postponement, so that our ASEAN friends could change their plans. And the decent thing for our ASEAN friends to do would have been to say nothing in public and quietly apply pressure on Thailand to reconsider. Goes to show ASEAN still has a long way to go.
Saw a news segment where PAD members occupying Bangkok International Airport were interviewed was was flabbergasted at the surreality of it all. A young couple, asked whether they were concerned for the safety of their two small children, whom they had brought along, said that was why they brought them. WTF? They wouldn't have been safer at home? This goes to show what a complete hold the PAD leaders have on the minds of their followers. Another interviewee, asked why he was there, said he was repaying his debt to the nation. This makes absolutely no sense. Paying his debt by destroying the economy and the country's reputation? The PAD leadership has fed their followers simple but powerful narratives, to the point that they are absolutely convinced of the rightness of their cause (whatever that may be; the goalposts have been moved so often). It seems the PAD leadership has made these people feel like their otherwise empty lives have meaning, a cause worth fighting and dying for, little knowing that they are merely pawns in a much bigger game.
Saw a young academic and supposed expert on non-violence expound on what the govt should and should not do in dealing with the PAD protesters. Why can't the Thai police deal with the protesters peacefully, like in Korea. WTF? The student riots in Korea were pretty violent, with deaths and hundreds of injuries. Where do they find these self-styled experts?
I must give credit to the PAD leadership for turning around their game so effectively. They were on the verge of collapsing into irrelevance. The barbarity of their security guards and their arrogance in not clearing Rajdamnoen Ave. was exposing a side of them that they had carefully shielded from the public eye. The evasive tactics of the govt and steadfast refusal to be provoked was sapping morale and making a laughingstock of the PAD. The only move they could make was to up the stakes. Since seizing Govt House was not enough to drive out the govt, they had to seize a higher-value asset, something that the govt would have no choice but to respond to. A colleague of mine some weeks ago, when I raised the possibility of a takeover of Suvarnabhumi Airport, had opined that the PAD wouldn't dare go that far. Man, I hate to be proven right on shit like this. But really, what other course did the PAD leaders have? Sonthi is legally bankrupt and deep in debt. He has made many enemies, and should he retreat they'd make mincemeat of him. The messianic Chamlong is ready to be a martyr, and I'm sure Sonthi is willing to sacrifice him and his followers as well. Talk about make or break. And so, since it has been demonstrated time and again that the country's legal apparatus is willing to contort itself into impossible positions to support the PAD and its actions, which in any other country would be considered illegal, the PAD leadership is upping the ante. They're betting that the Thai people, given a choice, would rather have peace and quiet than law and order. And the most expeditious route to peace and quiet would be a coup or the govt's resignation. But it is to PM Somchai's credit that he's not going quietly. Softspoken and mild-mannered as he is, he's got some balls. He knows the law (and probably the majority of public opinion) is on his side. Now he just has to walk that thin line of restoring law and order without excessive brutality. Not an easy line to walk. But the alternative would be to set a precedent that would make a mockery of the rule of law, and a laughingstock of Thailand in the region and the world.