Saturday, November 28, 2009

Name change and man of mystery

Thai Takes

IS TAKKI Shinegra, a globetrotting man of mystery, Thaksin Shinawatra?

The Thai vice Foreign Minister Panich Vikitsreth thinks so.

On Wednesday, he alleged that Thaksin’s name on passports issued by Montenegro, Nicaragua and Uganda was “Takki Shinegra”. And the name change, according to Panich, is making his ministry’s attempts to extradite the self-exiled former Thai prime minister — who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption passed in absentia — difficult.

However, Thaksin, who is arguably Thailand’s Twitter king, tweeted in Thai that “it’s useless for me to change my name since many people know me. I walk in department stores in any country and many people come to greet me”.

“I still use my old name but don’t say I’ve done a sex change. It can’t be helped as you guys are so stupid to revoke my Thai passport that you have no way to trace me through non-Thai documents,” added the billionaire politician, referring to the revocation of his diplomatic passport by the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government.

This week — which is the first anniversary of the anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirts’ seizure of two Bangkok airports — Takki Shinegra was just a sideshow to two political dramas in Thailand.

Today, the pro-Thaksin Red Shirts were supposed to launch street protests — which they proclaimed to be the biggest show of force — in the Thai capital to force the collapse of the Abhisit government.

Anti-Thaksin forces criticised the planned rally as inappropriate as it was too close to King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 82nd birthday on Dec 5. Ironically, these critics were silent when the Yellow Shirts seized Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport from Nov 25 to Dec 3 last year.

The seizure not only crippled the Thai tourism industry but was also “inappropriate” as it was held too close to the King’s birthday.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is also the Democrat Party’s secretary-general, alleged that the Red Shirts were recruiting foreign workers to participate in their street rally. And Thepthai Senpong, a democrat party spokesman, had a noteworthy method of sifting non-Thais among the Red Shirt protesters.

The authorities, according to him, will check the protesters’ national ID and those without one would be detained and asked to sing the Thai national anthem.

The Abhisit government also imposed the tough Internal Security Act (which allows the military to impose curfews, operate checkpoints, restrict movements of protesters and act fast if the rally turn violent) from Nov 28 to Dec 14 in Bangkok as it claimed it feared a repeat of the April violence.

In April, the Red Shirts (or, according to the Red Shirts leaders, agent provocateurs masquerading as Red Shirts supporters) turned Bangkok into a battlefield (i.e. hijacking military tanks and petrol tankers and torching public buses).

Two people were killed in the mayhem which was Thailand’s worst political violence since the bloody Black May uprising in 1992.

Facing pressure, the Red Shirts backtracked. “We Red Shirts want to express our loyalty to the king by postponing the rally indefinitely. We will meet to map out our stance after the middle of December,” Veera Musikapong, a Red Shirt leader, told reporters.

If Bangkok was a no-go zone for the Red Shirts, Chiang Mai, the stronghold of the Red Shirts and hometown of Thaksin, was a Thai city that Prime Minister Abhisit could not visit.

The Prime Minister cancelled his plan to preside over the closing ceremony of the Thai Chamber of Commerce annual conference because a pro-Thaksin protest leader made an indirect threat against his life on a community radio station.

“I am sure I will be safe if I go but others including the protesters, security officers and seminar participants may have problems because some protesters want to cause problems,” said Abhisit, who recently returned from Qatar.

After Abhisit’s Qatar visit, worried Thaksin loyalists tweeted to the self-exiled politician based in Dubai their concern that Abhisit had asked Middle East countries to extradite him.

Takki Shinegra, ermm, Thaksin, responded: “I would like to invite Abhisit to eat camel meat here so that he will have a better understanding about things.”

“The government should stop bothering other countries (about me),” he added. “Abhisit should also find time to visit all other member countries of the Asean because it’s a tradition.”

(Published in The Star on November 28, 2009)