Thailand: Deploying Good Manners For The Big Battle


June 7, 2011:  The minority royalists ("yellow shirts", who control the government, via coups and rigged elections) have calmed things down by convincing the majority populists ("red shirts", who are particularly popular in the countryside) that fair elections can be held. Both sides have agreed to behave and do the elections as peacefully and fairly as possible. This is important because there is a lot to the populist accusations that the royalists have not been playing fair. To support this new attitude, the national police have identified 121 known "election hit men" who are used by political parties to intimidate or kill opposing candidates and supporters. Posters, showing dozens of the worst of these thugs, have been widely distributed, along with cash rewards offered for their capture. The police have also established a nationwide security plan for protecting candidates.  All this is a popular move, as the election violence has long been seen as a shameful aspect of Thai politics.  But the police protection plan also comes with a dark side. That's because the police are also ready to arrest any candidates that, to the police, insult the king or the monarchy. There is a lot of hostility to the monarchy among populists. The royalists are accused of using the general popularity of the king as an excuse to punish those who oppose the royalist coalition (which represents military leaders, affluent businessmen, academics and educated urbanites). It really is class warfare, although some politicians join one side or the other because of opportunity and ambition more than deeply held beliefs.

The border dispute with Cambodia has moved to the UN, where a court case is being fought by lawyers. Two years of violence on the border have left about two dozen dead and as many as a hundred wounded. Both sides insist they will abide by the outcome of the judicial proceedings. This has allowed the two countries to resume work on economic cooperation, which has been disrupted by nearly two years of border violence.

The Islamic radical violence in the south is increasingly just treated as criminal, not political, violence. The links between the Islamic radicals and the traditional gangsters are increasingly obvious. It's a marriage of convenience that the gangsters are increasingly uncomfortable about. But the gangs are not willing, yet, to use violence to shut down the Islamic radicals. It’s all about ethnic (Malay), not religious, unity against the majority Thais.

May 31, 2011: In the capital, someone threw a grenade at a royalist rally, wounding two.

May 24, 2011:  In the south, a roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded one.

May 20, 2011:  In the south, two incidents (a gun battle and a market place bombing) left four Islamic terrorists dead and twelve people (11 civilians and a policeman) wounded.

May 17, 2011: In the south, a local defense volunteer was wounded when his checkpoint was fired on.

May 16, 2011:  In the south, a roadside bomb killed two Buddhist monks and wounded two soldiers.



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