Saturday, September 06, 2008

Still a rollicking party out there

THAI TAKES
By PHILIP GOLINGAI

HERE’S a checklist for those seeking to join the “political picnic” at Government House, the office of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

1) Plastic clapper. This is so you don’t strain your palms each time a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) speaker shouts “ok pai Samak” (Thai for “get out Samak”) or curses former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

2) Wear anything yellow. It is a colour associated with King Bhumibol, and the PAD claims it is defending the monarchy.

3) Don’t wear red unless you want to be whacked with a golf club. It is the colour of the pro-government Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD).

4) Golf club. This preferred weapon of the thuggish guards providing security to the peace-loving PAD is necessary in case a red-clad protester strays near Government House.

5) Crash helmet. It has become an essential protest gear, especially after the violent clash between PAD and DAAD supporters on the early morning of Tuesday left 55-year-old DAAD supporter Narongsak Korbthaisong dead.

Since the PAD (which razor-tongue Samak alludes to as the People’s Alliance for the Destruction of Democracy) stormed Government House on Aug 26, thousands of Thais are having a “political picnic” on Samak’s once well-manicured lawn, which has since turned into a muddy mess.

And, despite Samak’s declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok hours after Tuesday’s deadly clash, the defiant PAD storm troopers are still entrenched at Government House, which they have ringed with wire and car tyres.

Even more than 55 hours after Samak’s declaration I can still watch “live” the PAD’s protest on ASTV, a satellite television station owned by a core leader of PAD, Sondhi Limthongkul.

That’s two violations of the emergency decree, which prohibits a gathering of more than five people and reporting of news that terrifies the public.

(In politically divided Thailand, the word “terrifies” is subjective, as what terrifies pro-government supporters may cheer anti-government sympathisers.)

Just in case the state of emergency declaration gives an impression that Bangkok is now a police state, let me describe what I watched on ASTV at 11pm on Thursday.

A sea of yellow-clad PAD protesters – some holding a giant Thai flag and many clacking their plastic clappers – are rocking to a rock band performing on a makeshift stage facing the Venetian-styled Government House.

Yes, Bangkok rocks despite an emergency rule.

Why was there no visible sign of a state of emergency was a question repeatedly posed by foreign journalists to deputy government spokesman Nattawut Saikuar at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Wednesday night.

“Was Samak fooled by the military into signing an emergency decree, as when you announce a state of emergency you expect it to be enforced?” was the first question fired at the deputy spokesman.

Nattawut replied: “The announcement of a state of emergency does not mean force will be used automatically against the protesters, because it is the policy of the Samak government not to use force against them.

“You can’t say that Samak was fooled. If (Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda, who is also the commander in charge of the state of emergency) uses force, then you can say that he fooled Samak.”

Depending on who you talk to there are several theories on the sabai sabai (relaxed) emergency rule.

“Behind the scenes the military is secretly negotiating with the PAD to pressure them to leave Government House,” a Thai journalist with close links to the military told me.

A PAD die hard embedded at ground zero of the protest said the army would not storm the compound to disperse the crowd, citing protest leaders who told her the military was on the side of anti-protesters.

But the situation in Bangkok can change swiftly.

Just before midnight on Thursday, two of the 100 or so university students marching to Samak’s residence to protest against his government were shot by two men on a motorcycle.

Please make two additions to the checklist – buy personal insurance and write a will.

(Published in The Star on Sept 6, 2008)

1 comments:

HRH MATTEONLY said...

Thank you for your view point about the PAD gangsters. I bet you, there is not such this thing happened in your country.

Amazing party house here! Shame on a Thai Style of the democrazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzy.