Monday, March 06, 2006

Thailand's political turmoil escalates

Thailand's political turmoil continues to escalate as thousands upon thousands of protesters demand that Thaksin step down as even caretaker prime minister while Thaksin himself stubbornly refuses to give in to their demands. The situation is becoming disturbingly volatile.

Today's Bangkok Post has a number of articles about the situation:
Crowd Pushes On

The snowballing protests against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra entered their fifth week last night with a new strategy: An indefinite campaign of nightly protests at Sanam Luang, until Mr Thaksin resigns.

The protesters last night marched to the Democracy Monument and then to Government House where they heard a continuing series of speeches from anti-Thaksin speakers, before leaders announced they would return to Sanam Luang to plan and kick off the prolonged resistance early today.

Mr Thaksin, meanwhile, remained defiant and told a crowd of about 20,000 supporters in Khon Kaen province that he would not bow to pressure.
Many prominent citizens are asking the King to intervene. This may be what's needed in order to avoid bloodshed and the country descending into further chaos.
Social 'elite' call on King to appoint PM

Nearly 100 prominent citizens, celebrities and the just plain elite have petitioned His Majesty the King for a royally bestowed prime minister and interim government to ensure a fair election and supervision of the charter amendment.
Many who were loyal party members are now taking their leave of the Thai Rak party and joining the protesters. Praphat has had significant experience in rallying against corrupt governments when he was part of the student uprisings in 1973 and 1976.
Praphat quits Thai Rak Thai to join rally

Former environment minister and student activist Praphat Panyachartrak yesterday resigned as a member of the Thai Rak Thai party to join a campaign to oust his party chief Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Praphat, also a former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister during the first Thaksin administration, is the first of the so-called "October people" _ students involved in the Oct 14, 1973 and Oct 6, 1976 uprisings _ to rebel against Mr Thaksin and the ruling Thai Rak Thai party.

Several activists of the 1970s hold posts in the Thaksin government and Thai Rak Thai party executive. They include caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, caretaker Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Adisorn Piengkes, and caretaker Deputy Transport Minister Phumtham Vejjayachai.
A disturbing report of interference in the processes of democartic freedoms of speech as the police appear to be hindering protesters entering Bangkok from the provinces yet those coming to support Thaksin seem not to be hindered at all:
Police stop traffic headed for city rally

Police set up highway checkpoints yesterday and stopped vehicles heading into Bangkok for "arms and drugs checks," apparently to deter people from joining the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra demonstration at Sanam Luang.

As far away as Sa Kaeo, checkpoints mushroomed on the orders of Police Region 2 chief Lt-Gen Jongrak Juthanont. Vehicles leaving the province for Bangkok were stopped for painstaking searches and inquiries.

At Ban Kaeng district in Sa Kaeo, traffic was blocked as angry bus passengers sat down on the highway after a half-hour row with policemen manning the checkpoints. The police eventually allowed them to travel on.

In Saraburi, at least 13 checkpoints were set up around the province at dawn yesterday.

Frustrated drivers caught in the jam said police at a checkpoint at Phra Phutthabat police station delayed their trips.
People of influence and standing are trying to encourage Thaksin to step down. Why won't he? Does he really care about the country? Or only about his own position and the power of it?
Prawase urges PM to give up premiership

Leading scholar Prawase Wasi reiterated his call for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign from the post yesterday, saying the move was the best solution to the current political crisis.

Dr Prawase said Mr Thaksin could step down or ordain as a monk to end the political conflict like what happened during the Ayutthaya period.

He said when a leader of a country lacks morality, the country is bound to face political turmoil.

Morality and corruption were the talk of the day by people in every corner of society. "People used to think that just politicians were corrupt but now we have reached a stage where corruption allegations involve the entire family of a politician and his cronies, he said.
Chiang Mai is Thaksin's hometown. He has enjoyed a lot of support from the province. He has also undertaken to bring a lot of improvements to the city. Why, there's even a new International Terminal being built at the airport. The city is constantly being beautified. However, this is not guaranteeing continued support during this crisis time. His support seems to be crumbling... being washed away like topsoil down the Ping River.
PM's support unsure even in the North

Chiang Mai: Even in this northern city, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's hometown, not all people are standing by his side in the current political conflict.
A couple of Chiang Mai citizens were willing to express their disappointment with the prime minister:
A clothes-shop owner at Tha Phae said most people in town had lost faith in the premier. She herself was one of the premier's supporters, but has changed her mind and now wants him to leave office.

"I still like his style in general, but I don't like the fact that he has misused his authority to serve his own interests. The sale of his family's shares is one example. The concession that he acquired is supposed to belong to the country, but now we are not sure whether it's still ours," she said.

A 27-year-old tuk-tuk driver from Mae Rim district said he learned about the sale of the shares owned by Mr Thaksin's family and wondered why Mr Thaksin did not have to pay taxes when eveyone else did.

However, he said Mr Thaksin had done a lot to develop the city since becoming prime minister. There were more new roads, the city was cleaner, and more tourists were visiting.

However, since opposition against the premier has grown, his income had fallen by half as fewer visitors were using his tuk-tuk service now.

"I have not decided who I will vote for. I hardly have time to do anything except making a living," he said.
Thailand has enjoyed incredible economic growth in the past few years. It has been a stabilising influence in the region. It's unfortunate that the country is still plagued by self-seeking politicians who care more for lining their own pockets than they do for the welfare of the nation.

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