Saturday, October 25, 2008

‘Democrazy’ fever brings troubles to polarised Thailand


TWO Sundays ago, a naked 40-year-old radio DJ rambled near a market in Sattahip, about 30km from Pattaya, repeatedly shouting “I’m dying.”

Lately, according to his colleague, Montree Jitwimolprasert has been behaving weirdly and often using improper words while hosting his radio programme.

“He told everyone that he hates the colour red. He hates red clothes,” Suraswadi Prasarnnil, who is Mon­tree’s superior, told the Bangkok Post.

She added that the DJ acted weirdly after witnessing the violent street battle between police and yellow-clad People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Bangkok on Oct 7 that saw two Thais killed.

“He talked about a bloodbath and how his fellow protesters were hurt. He told us that he saw blood and people losing their limbs,” Suraswadi related.

It looks like Montree has a bad case of the “yellow fever”.

In polarised Thailand, the colour “yellow” symbolises the PAD (an anti-government movement that sees red in anything connected to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai premier who was ousted in a 2006 coup) while “red” represents the pro-government supporters.

The PAD crowd has a jaundiced opinion of Thaksin, blaming him for anything negative that happens to them or their country.

For instance, they claim Thaksin was behind the gun battle between Thailand and Cambodia along their disputed border that killed one Thai and three Cambodian soldiers on Oct 15.

However, Thai army chief General Anupong Phaochinda described such claim as “unfathomable”.

Thaksin is even blamed for the most unfathomable matter.

Take the example of my 30-something Thai friend who is such a die-hard PAD member that he packs a truncheon to an anti-government event just in case there’s an attack from the police or the pro-government supporters.

The other day his newborn baby had a very, very mild case of jaundice and guess who he blamed? Thaksin.

“I blame Thaksin for everything bad,” he said, as a matter of fact.

Although the PAD declared victory after the Supreme Court on Oct 21 sentenced Thaksin, who is in self-exile in London, to two year’s in prison for corruption, it would not end its protest.

It will continue its illegal occupation of Government House (the Thai prime minister’s office) until it ousts the People Power Party-led coalition government, which is pro-Thaksin.

Salang Bunnag, a former deputy police chief, has vowed to evict the PAD from Government House which it has besieged since Aug 26.

His game plan is to seal off the prime minister’s compound with 1,000 retired policemen (to do the job that the police could not) and cut off food and water supply to the protesters for three days.

“I’ve tried my best to avoid doing this. If asked to choose between the country and morality, I will choose the country. If I go to hell for doing this, so be it,” he was reported as saying.

Guess who the PAD is blaming for Salang’s plan to retake Government House? Thaksin.

“I do not believe Salang is planning the (retake) for his own purposes; somebody is no doubt pulling strings behind the scenes. Whether it is the prime minister or ex-prime minister Thaksin Shina­watra I would not know,” PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila told The Nation.

Salang is not the only anti-PAD supporter who has gone public with his strategy on how to counter any move to overthrow the government of prime minister Somchai Wongsa­wat.

In case of a coup (which is highly likely after army chief Anupong went on television on Oct 16 to urge Somchai to resign), army major-general Khattiya Sawasdiphol vowed to welcome tanks with Molotov cocktails instead of roses that were offered to the soldiers after they deposed Thaksin without any bloodshed.

“The use of Molotov cocktails against tanks has been practised widely, but never in Thailand,” Khattiya told The Nation.

“This will be the first and only time that the people have threatened a counter-coup, if tanks roam Bangkok streets. Tanks usually used in military coups, attached to the Fourth Cavalry Battalion, are old and vulnerable to catching fire.”

In discussions with Thais on why DJ Montree acted weirdly, the anti-PAD crowd said it was an indication that in Thailand, the second “c” in “democracy” has been replaced with “z” - democrazy.

(Published in The Star on Oct 26, 2008)