Friday, January 29, 2010

Questions on Tactics & Civil War

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I'm pondering the tactics of each side in the ongoing battle for political control of Thailand.

In the one corner we have Yellow (plus some Blue & Green available for assitance as and when required)
To me, the tactics of the Prem led royalist elite side are fairly predictable - now that they have engineered their team into power they will continue to use the military & judiciary tools at their disposal, combined with royalist symbolism to maintain control.
They will keep trying to paint the reds as anti-monarchy, anti-stabilty, anti-business, anti-nation, unthai etc, and have been laying the groundwork for (and acceptance of) a crushing of the reds should they attempt to make the final push that they keep threatening.
Prem's reference to Senator Chimsak Pinthong's 'important' 'must read' article make things very clear that the old guard are preparing to resort to the same old tricks one again.
(thanks to New Mandala, Political Prisoners Thailand, Bangkok Pundit and others for highlighting that significant development)

The PAD/NPP can be seen a a subset of this side, however rather than being about seeking or maintaining power and control for themselves, their main aim seems to basically be about bringing Thaksin down, now preventing any Thaksin aligned forces from getting into power (and if a Thaksin group ever did get back into power they would revert to the old undermining mode).
If the yellow side is ultimately victorious, expect the PAD/NPP to push for more specific, perhaps moralistic type goals, and its likely they may one day even end up an opposition force to the Democrat Party.


In the other corner we have Red.
The tactics on this side of the battle are much harder for me to read. This side is mainly comprised of Thaksin loyalists, but it also includes those who see Thaksin as the lesser of two evils.
At first glance one would think this side can just sit back and wait for the next election as it is unlikely that their electoral majority has diminished by much, if at all since the last election.
Apart from Abhisit & Korn, the current coalition government is the usual mix of ugly, corrupt and incompetent. One would think the corruption scandals will keep coming, and with the likes of Kasit as Foreign Minister, and Pornthiva as Commerce Minister, there are sure to be more embarrassments.
So one possible course of action for the reds is to just sit back, highlight the mistakes & problems of the coalition government and watch it eventually collapse.
But what then do we make of the regular calls for the final battle by the likes of Jatuporn?
Why the rush?
Is it only because the Shin asset seizure case is looming and Thaksin loyalists are in control of, and are the great majority of the protagonists, on the red side of the fence, or are there other reasons why the reds cannot sit back and wait for elections?

Rather than an inevitable collapse, is the current government consolidating power in a way that will make it difficult for the red side to gain power? (My guess is NO, and judging by his performance so far, the longer Abhisit stays in power the more ordinary Thai's will come to despise him)

By making a final push, would the red leaders be falling into Prem/Chimsak's trap, or is it possible they have some other plan to overcome it?

Prem has proven to be a good tactician over the years (IMO), but has he overstepped the mark and made it more difficult for his successor?
( like what some have argued one other highly influental and aging person on the Thai scene has done?)
The reds may not have completely discredited Surayud, but they certainly have taken the shine off him as Prem's successor, and their tactic of highlighting the double standards is a good one that hopefully they will continue even if Thaksin aligned forces regain power.

Has Thaksin's leadership role in the reds been maintained, or is there a chance that others can step up and inspire the Thaksin loyalist rump that this fight should be about much more than getting Thaksin back to power (or getting his money back)?


It's obvious that whoever controls the guns, controls Thailand
Thaksin, Samak and Somchai could not get the army under government control. So far, Abhisit has not had to face such problems, and despite looking like being in considerable trouble during the April 2009 riots, he came through that with flying colours (no doubt with a little help from those who know who owns the horses, and who are just jockeys)
Have things changed since then? Just how split is the military, and what can be made of the recent (unsubstantiated?) grenade attack at army headquarters?

Sorry, lots of questions - does anyone have the answers????
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38 comments:

John Francis Lee said...

The Yellow/Blue-Greens

To me, the tactics of the Prem-led royalist/elite side are fairly predictable...They will keep trying to paint the reds as anti-monarchy, anti-stability, anti-business, anti-nation, un-Thai etc, and have been laying the groundwork for (and acceptance of) crushing the reds should they [to whom does "they" refer?] attempt to make the final push that they [to whom does "they" refer?] keep threatening.

I believe that "they" above refers to the reactionary putsch in power since 19 September 2006.

The threat of violence on the part of the Reds seems to me to be a figment of the reactionary MSM's imagination... perhaps more accurately, a figment of the reactionary putsch's imagination dutifully propagandized by the reactionary MSM.

The PAD/NPP can be seen as a subset of this side, however rather than being about seeking or maintaining power and control for themselves... its likely they may one day even end up an opposition force to the Democrat Party.'

I disagree here. Certainly they have cast Thaksin as the opponent but they want power, and Sondhi has "offered" to lead. It's just that they want power to be returned to the traditional "elite" structure, so that their goal cannot be said to "revolutionary". Should the Democrat (sic) Party become less reactionary, should the 'Democrats' stupidly forget who is at the center of the Democrat/military/PAD putsch, then the PAD will certainly be allowed to oppose them. The PAD's problem, as PPT has wisely pointed out elsewhere, is that they rely on their mobilized masses... and to the 'true' reactionaries reliance on 'the people' in any form is anathema. Hence the "elite" 'Democrat' Party is their preferred vehicle over the PAD.

The Reds

This side is mainly comprised of Thaksin loyalists, but it also includes those who see Thaksin as the lesser of two evils.

I would say 'mainly comprised of those who see the putsch as the Greatest of All Evils, but also includes Thaksin loyalists'. Yet the Thaksin loyalists are the pushed to forefront both by the putsch through the MSM and by the remnants of the Thaksin machine itself.

At first glance one would think this side can just sit back and wait for the next election as it is unlikely that their electoral majority has diminished by much, if at all since the last election... Why the rush?..

Yes but at second glance, as in Chang Noi's How to stall another general election, it appears that if the opposition to the putsch 'waits' there may never be another election.

Has Thaksin's leadership role in the reds been maintained, or is there a chance that others can step up and inspire the Thaksin loyalist rump that this fight should be about much more than getting Thaksin back to power?'

I don't think that Thaksin's loyalist rump can be 'inspired' at all, but the fact that they have begun to co-opt genuine issues such as the resurrection of the 1997 Constitution leads me to believe that they have found that their populist vehicle may be leaving the station without them. I'm surprised that I haven't heard noise from them on Map Ta Phut, but that issue may either be too close to Thaksin's own interests to be allowed to surface or has been co-opted but kept it secret by the MSM, which is trying to project the "Thai nation" as united in seeking its own degradation and exploitation by Capital.

It's obvious that whoever controls the guns, controls Thailand

There is the heart of the matter. The military must be removed as a political player. That's the real revolution that needs to occur in Thailand. And that cannot happen without a mass movement of the Thai people demanding that it happen.

Or so it seems to me

Hobby said...

JFL: You may be right about the figment of the imagination - I fall into the trap evey so often of believing what I read in MSM, and that ends up shaping my opinions.
However, I do think there is a lot of pent up anger that could easily spill over into violence - something the 'reactionary putsch' would welcome IMO.

I knew Sondhi L was delusional, but not to the extent that he actually thinks he has any chance of getting closer to power than he already is.

I'd like to believe you on the Thaksin loyalists composition in the reds, but it goes against my 'on the ground' experience (which is admittedly quite limited)

John Francis Lee said...

However, I do think there is a lot of pent up anger that could easily spill over into violence - something the 'reactionary putsch' would welcome IMO.

That's where the Blue-Greens come in, as at Pattaya.

The "authorities" definitely have the monopoly on violence in Thailand.

StanG said...

I'm not sure about "pent up" anger among the reds - they haven't even tried to suppress it, their hatred towards the "putsch", as JFL calls it, has been openly stoked by the red media empire - TV, magazines, newspapers, radio stations, websites, twitters etc.

Maybe you called it "pent up" because it's invisible to non-red citizens? Term "brainwashing" comes to mind.

Also, why not play on the ermm, "casual" connection between postponements of the court verdict and red's "last battle"?

The simplest explanation is usually right. Everything makes sense if you accept that Thaksin is using both reds and PTP in his fight to get his billions back and.

It's a bitch to try and explain their actions taken without Thaksin variable.

Hobby said...

StanG: Have you ever spoken with any red-shirts?
Of course Thaksin is a big factor, but people can only be 'shat on' for so long, and also don't discount the 'eye opening' factor that Somsak J referred to after a certain person attended a certain funeral.

StanG said...

Reds are angry, no doubt about it, I just wouldn't describe it as "pent up", it is pretty much "in your face".

How much sympathy their anger elicits from the rest of the society? I see that they are becoming increasingly marginalized and isolated, and feared.

antipadshist said...

here is a VERY evil kind of "tactic" - it is called "Shit-attack" ! :D

it is RIGHT NOW in TV News report on Channel 3.

Excrement bags landed in Abhisit's house

"Several bags of excrement were lobbed into the compound of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's house Monday. Assistant Police Commissioner-General Pol Lt-Gen Asawin Kwanmuang rushed to the scene with investigators from the Metropolitan Police. The house is located on Soi Sukhumvit 31.

Following the inspection, Asawin held a meeting with officers at the Thonglor police station.

Police also set up barricades around the prime minister's house following the attack.

Upon learning of the attack, Abhisit said someone might try to create a situation."

now I have no any doubts that Police will do their very best to protect Ab-hee-sh1t from any more Sh1t-attacks !!! :D

and looks like this is a TRUE sign of how much he is really "loved" by people, huh ? ;)

oh, and in fact the amount of sh1t damped at his house is a bird's droplet comparing to the truckload (or several ?) of REAL sh1t which has been damped by PAD last year, as I recall after Oct 7, on Rajadamnoen Nok Road.

however, I bet anyone - the "culprits" who has thrown few bags of sh1t in front of Ab-hee-sh1t's house - they will be very swiftly arrested and exemplary punished. and compare that with MUCH BIGGER loads (how much can contain one truck - few tons ?) of sh1t damped by PAD - and was ANYONE, even 1 single person, EVER punished or even as much as NAMED in Thai media ? ;)

John Francis Lee said...

According to The Nation the putsch is going to try to create, literally, a "no man's land" at Map Ta Phut... a sort of "free fire zone" for environmental poisoners. No doubt it can be expanded as needed.

Shit is natural product. There's cow shit in the road in front of my house. When I was a child the "honey wagon" made it's way up our drive on the way to the corn fields behind. I prefer to the fecund smell of manure to the deadly poisons that Capital's compradors have poisoned Thais and Thailand with in the past. Now, rather than right past wrongs they seek to compound the problem, to make the world safe for absentee exploitation, to ensure the right of Capital to poison living creatures and the earth itself in search of profit.

Thais have no worse enemies than the Bangkok "elite".

Hobby said...

Upon learning of the attack, Abhisit said "someone might try to create a situation."

A smelly situation (not sure if it is Thai like or very un-Thai to do such things - hopefully the next salvo will not involve used sanitary pads - most of the precedents set by the PAD should not be followed:)

Leosia said...

They are all just lots of very spoilt people wasting lots of taxpayers money to try and keep power and get even richer. Using colour-coded politics is convenient because it means you don't have to use your brain and think about real policies that might help ordinary people and help Thailand develop beyond the status of the average corrupt African nation in a civil war.

Joy said...

Well-informed, informative and balanced writing, thanks Hobby.a thai like me is somewhat ashamed for not trying to catch up with what's going on under my nose.

StanG said...

Isn't a good time for an update on red tactics that now include "people army"? Is there any way to justify that bout of madness?

Hobby said...

Like I said, the red tactics are harder to read, and also they are a more diverse grouping than their opponents.

I still think they have the numbers and dont really need to make a final push - just keep agitating peacefully, highlighting the double standards, and watch the government implode from incompetence, corruption and arrogance:)

Anonymous said...

"just keep agitating peacefully, highlighting the double standards, and watch the government implode from incompetence, corruption and arrogance:)"
Okay they do that and the government falls. Do you think replacing them with a rabble headed by Chalerm, Jatuporn, with Panlop and SeDeang in the ranks, is going to be any better?
I'm all for making Thailand a more equitable society, but is another shade of equally inept people going to make Thailand into the land of opportunity its people deserve??

hobby said...

I prefer to let the people = the electorate decide - they are free to vote out anyone who does not live up to their expectations.

hobby said...

Not perfect, but that's 'as good as it gets' IMO

Anonymous said...

"I prefer to let the people = the electorate decide - they are free to vote out anyone who does not live up to their expectations."

How to achieve that fairly, is another issue, worthy of a topic on its own.

"Not perfect, but that's 'as good as it gets' IMO"
I would use that old expression "out of the frying pan, into the fire".
If the "real" people who have obviously significantly moved your thinking since you met some of them in Chiang Mai(?), could get rid of their current crop of leaders and disconnect the movement from Thaksin and find a true leader of the people, then I would agree "it's as good as it gets". But how on earth is that leader ever going to emerge in the current climate ?
This is not a schoolboy exercise in theory and academia - this is the "real world".

hobby said...

No gain without some pain, is my view.

The old guard are trying to prevent real democracy - they need to go, and let things evolve.

hobby said...

btw, if you can, please try to pick a nickname instead of just posting anonymously - avoids confusion IMO.
There is no need to register, just pick a name and use any old URL you like (I hope that will work)

Anonymous said...

"No gain without some pain, is my view."
So you accpet that it might be neccessary for Thais to die in battle ?
Okay - but what gain is there in replacing what is now with no real goals ?
The simple hommelies and platitudes being put about by the Red leaders, do not seem to be a plan, to me.
Pery tell, what they have in mind ?

hobby said...

I don't see the Reds as perfect, just the best (only?) chance to break the stranglehold that a select few have on Thailand.

This battle started way before Thaksin (decades before) - one mob refuses to let go, so I say give the other mob a go.
Especially when that is what the people have chosen time and again in elections - Thaksin let a genie out of the bottle that cannot be put back, and nor should it be, IMO.

Why not let the people tire of Thaksin, instead of disenfranchising them?

Surely you still don't believe the myth/legend that has been built up over the last 60 years?
I now see that myth as one of the main things holding things back.
(it may have been useful up until the 70's, but its use by date has long gone).

If there is violence, then it will be clear to me whose fault it is, and it is also clear that it need not have got that far.

StanG said...

It is not "select few", ruling coalition represents a huge chunk of the electorate.

Reds can't claim they are the sole representatives of the people.

The other day Arisaman, one of the red leaders, told them to bring a one liter bottle of gasoline to set Bangkok on fire during their planned "one million" final march.

Good thing, most reds will likely to sit it out, going with Hobby's plan instead, and I believe that's what the rest of the country wants them to do - stay put and wait for elections.

hobby said...

StanG: Whilst I will not condone violence, I think the anger is justified - some have been waging this battle for decades, yet for others there has been a rude awakening (or 'eye opening') only in recent years.

I think you know the country is built on a charade, yet it must suit your own purposes to go along with it, even to the extent of supporting & trying to justify it.

Gordan said...

Many countries are built on a "charade" (you could even include the US, Australia, and several other, so called developed demoncracies), as you put it.
But, does that make it any more correct for the red leaders to push for "revolution" (violent or peaceful), without any goals, apart from a somewhat nhillistic policy, to bring down the "system", than it is correct for those opposing the reds, to want to keep things as they are, and/or put the "genie back in the bottle"?
I agree there is a large number (probably the majority) who plan to "ride this out" and wish all sides would just get on with running the country, for the benefit of the people - not running it for themselves and/or their various cronies.
I also don't think you have provided any comment about the red leadership, referred to in earlier posts on this topic.
Do you really think Jatuporn, Chalerm, Jakrapob, Arisamun,Se Deang, Panlop would be any more beneficial to those who are presently left out, than the present government ?
Would these people be any more "democratic"?
Would they dismantle the patronage system?
Do they want to break it down and build a more equitable system?
Can you answer that ?
I think the "average" Thai person is much more pragmatic than you give them credit for.
They did well during the various Thaksin governments and now they are being "feted" by the Dems, BJT
etc.. If the benfits they are now recieving come to a stop, like in any society, they will stop supporting the providers.
And for those whose support is based on what the "middle men" (village headmen) in the current patronage arrangement, tell them what to do, I guess it will be a matter of which of the sides wins their favours.
More, as you've observed from your recent travels up country, there are lots of people who are now able to think for themselves and want change, without being told what to do, or who to vote for.
This rump, is the future.
And I doubt they are ready for violent revolution - nor do they neccessarily need it, if they are being courted by all sides.

hobby said...

Agree that the current crop of red politicians look no better than the mob thats in government now, but its really up to the electorate to decide who they want to elect, or turf out.
(also remember the red side has had far more politicians banned in a very unusual ruling that saw hundreds get punished for the misdeeds of a few, and I doubt the red side would put anyone quite as arrogantly stupid as Kasit into a position like foreign minister)

Unfortunately sometimes revolution is required to force the changes that need to happen - history is littered with such examples.

You cited US & Australia - could you envisage a military coup happening in those countries?
What do you think would happen to anyone who tried it?

Thailand is top heavy with generals, many of whom do bad things and still get rewarded in the charade that is Thailand. Yet true patriots like Darunee get the thrown in jail for 18 years, and mistreated while there!
Giles has a good summary of the farcical situation here.

Thanks for commenting.

Gordan said...

Granted the military in the US and Australia would almost certainly not initiate a coup.
The systems under which the military has its commission, in most of these countries, means, they are not usually in a position, to be involved with the formation of government.
The military in Thailand, does need to be "back in the barracks" - as was said of them and they said of themselves, after 1992 - and stay there.

And, if you would like to think of the events which brought about the re-alignment of the members of parliament, which brought about the current government as a "coup" under military "guidance", perhaps it at least showed, the military seem to have also realized, the old style blood and guts, no longer works.
It is to be hoped,all this movement right now, has a positive effect on Thailand.
If as we all seem to agree, the genie is out of the bottle, there are 2 things which this could all bring about:
1. The military learns to stay away from politics - this includes people like Se Deang, Panlop, Chavolit and those other "retired" miltary seconded by Thaksin, as much as those still serving (which officially includes Se Deang).
2. Politicians learn, the reason they are there, is to serve the people - not the other way round.

And I guess there's a Number 3:
The people learn to stand up an say "enough"!!

hobby said...

Basically agree, but they are only back in the barracks because thats what their master wants for the time being - they can be called upon again when needed. Aladdin has a good summary at NM of what point #4 should be.

Gordan said...

Apropo of my comment about Thai people saying "enough": an ABAC poll released today,taken across 28provinces, indicated not only the present coalition was not faring well, but most importantly, 87.5% of those polled, said they were "getting bored with the on going political conflict".
You could draw many things from this, but I doubt it gives much succor to either side - especially to those wanting to ferment an uprising.
We are a long way from the "let them eat cake" stage. Let's hope we never get there.

Gordan said...

" Aladdin has a good summary at NM of what point #4 should be."
I read it.
It only reinforces my point #3.
If the people learn to stand up and say "enough" - to all sides, then we might be able to move forward.
I also accept,there may be situations, which involve some horrible violence.
But what he is on about, cannot be solved by the reds and Thaksin - they are part of the problem, as I have discussed previously.

hobby said...

Hard to happen in a climate where the people who do stand up are locked away for 18 years etc.

Thats the biggest part of the charade - its a travesty - the silence is deafening to me!

Gordan said...

That's why change can only be achieved if the people (65 million Thais) want it badly enough.
We are not at the "let them eat cake" moment.
I don't want to sound like Neville Chamberlain, but I still hold out hope - unlike most bloggers, posters and it would seem a large percentage of academia - we can have "peace in our time".

john francis lee said...

Two good postings this Sunday. One at Prachatai and one at PPT.

At Prachatai a Chandler Vandergrift writes on autonomy, for the South but also for all of Thailand. The problem is that "at the heart of the struggle is the problematic issue of legitimacy for those in power".

PPT posts about the illegitimates among the reds, most salient among them General Panlop Pinmanee and Khattiya Sawasdipol (Seh Daeng). PPT draws a parallel between the seizure of power at PAD by the right wing, "by Sonthi, Chamlong Srimuang and Prasong Soonsiri", and their fear is that the same could happen to the reds.

I think that the PPT might as well have cited the the highjacking of Pridi's People's Party by Phahol, Phibun, Thanom, Sarit... right on down. The problem in Thailand is always the right, not the left.

Let's hope the reds wake up and realize there is no room in the red movement for the military - especially not the rogue military!

It's nothing but strong wind and choking sand for all of us once the nose of the camel has slipped under the tent.

As far as getting bogged down in "Thaksin's tail is longer than Abhisit's"... fagedaboutit.

The issue is elected or unelected governments.

Elected governments can be replaced without bloodshed.

Unelected governments cannot.

Hobby said...

Thanks JFL for linking to those articles (which I somehow had missed in today's rush).
I think Chandler Vandergrift is the guy who runs the Nation State blog linked to in my blog list - I'm still waiting for his film on the south to be released as the short trailers I've seen so far look very interesting.

I agree with your sentiments above.

Today must be the day for good articles because I also liked this piece and some of the accompanying comments (in the Bangkok Post of all places:)

john francis lee said...

Hello Joy,

I saw your Blog marker above and clicked on it and found your blog. I read about "The Summer my Grandma Was Supposed to Die" - really about what it reminded you of - and thought I'd share what your thoughts reminded me of - but I don't have any of the credentials that your blog requires so I couldn't post directly when the time came to do so - so here you are c/o Mr Hobby. (I won't do it again Hobby, hope you don't mind this one time. It seemed a shame to waste what was meant to be a nice little message to Joy to make up for my other, perhaps boorish and crass one)...

What a joy to find your blog. I was fooled at first by the name (deleted) and thought it was.

So, you seem to be serious about literature. Maybe all your angst about work has to do with an advanced degree and teaching? Don't worry be happy.

Here's a title by John L'heureaux :

A Woman Run Mad
Copyright © 1989
by John L'Heureux
Avon (Viking Penguin, 1988)

Your allusion to the FrangiPangi woman made me think of it, for some reason. Maybe you'll like it. Or be shocked. Or something. I know I was. But Bob Dylan once sang that "to live outside the law you must be honest", and I think that L'heureaux was and is.

The reason I thought of the story is because there is a role reversal within wherein an ex returns to very charitably take care of her former - abuser? It's been a long time since I read it.

I think you might like it. And if you're appalled at yourself for enjoying it you can tell yourself it's professional detachment that lets you continue.

I don't know where you'd find it though. And if you don't have time maybe you can find American Gothic Tales, a collection of short stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates that contains a L'heureaux story called The Anatomy of Desire.

I haven't read the story or the collection but it has lots of stories and sounds very interesting, and I know you're always short on time.

Hobby said...

No worries JFL - I'm sure Joy will appreciate your comments/interest.

Joy said...

Many thanks JFL. I do appreciate yr kind interest and suggestions. i will surely look up the book and stories u recommended.

antipadshist said...

it looks like something is going on: apparently few "false flag" events are created already ?
(previously - alleged grenade launches at Anupong's place; today - again allegedly - C4 at Supreme Court and alleged bombs near Gov. house)
perhaps someone really tries to stir things up and blame on some ppl ? ;)

at the same time too much agiotage and fuss with doubled and tripled security and establishing check-posts ...

Hobby said...

Smoke & Mirrors.