Urban-terrorism tactics alienating the public

Thaksin Shinawatra’s tactic of using urban terrorism, aimed at creating widespread rioting in Bangkok and paving the way for his return, is facing a setback.

His strategy is simple. After torpedoing the Asean Summit in Pattaya, the red-shirt anti-government protesters stage urban-style terrorism around key points in Bangkok so that Abhisit is forced to declare a state of emergency. Then the military has to be brought in to quash the red-shirt protesters. When the military suppresses the protests, there will be bloodshed and the situation will spill out of control, creating a state of anarchy.

Finally, the strategy goes, Thaksin’s supporters petition His Majesty the King for a royal intervention to end the crisis.

Under this plan, Thaksin is seeking to hold Thailand hostage as he bargains for his amnesty. When the worst came to the worst, a military coup would be launched to bring down the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.

But Thaksin’s game plan is not working. First, the red-shirt protesters’ urban-terrorism tactics have spiralled out of control to create an effective state of civil war inside the capital. Second, they have failed to mobilise enough critical mass support. Third, the Thai public – appalled by the violence and the protesters’ clashes with the security forces – does not support the red shirts.

Yet the most important factor is that Prime Minsiter Abhisit has managed to consolidate his power. He is now being advised by a specially assembled unit consisting of old veterans and retired generals. continue


Burmese Military Regime Arrests Trade Union Members: FTUB Unlawfully Detained, Likely Tortured

Federation of Trade Unions – Burma Press Release: Burmese military regime arrests trade union members in Burma: FTUB unlawfully detained, likely tortured

On April 1, 2009, five members of the Federation Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) were arrested in their homes in Rangoon after returning from border areas where they had participated as delegates in the 1st National Congress of FTUB. The five members are likely being held in interrogation centers in the Rangoon area where it is believed they are being tortured. These FTUB members have served as non-violent advocates and campaigners for workers’ rights and the improvement of wages and working conditions for workers inside Burma. While the charges on which they were arrested have not been announced, the FTUB strongly condemns these unlawful arrests.

The FTUB members arrested on April 1 are the following:

1. U Zaw Myint Aung (49 years old, Teacher, South Okkalapa, Rangoon)
2. U Soe Oo (37 years old, Textile Factory Worker, Shwe Pyi Thar, Rangoon)
3. Maung Tun Nyein (22 years old, Worker, Shwe Hninsi Textile factory, Hlaing Thayar, Rangoon)
4. Ms. Khine Lin Myat (22 years old, Worker, UMH Textile factory)
5. Ms. Shwe Yi Nyunt (25 years old, Nurses Aide and Law Student, University of Western Rangoon, and Member, FTUB Women’s Committee)

In addition, the FTUB has learned that an unspecified number of family members of these five persons were also arrested, and these family members have been threatened and put under pressure in an effort by the military authorities to compel cooperation from the five detained FTUB members.

FTUB strongly demands the following:
1. U Zaw Myint Aung, U Soe Oo, Maung Tun Nyein, Ma Khine Lin Myat, Ma Shwe Yi Nyunt must be released immediately and unconditionally.
2. The SPDC authorities must immediately cease intimidating, detaining and threatening the family members of these FTUB members.
3. The SPDC must strictly abide by the ILO Convention 87 of the International Labour Organization on Freedom of Association, which Burma has ratifed.
4. The SPDC must denounce the actions of the authorities involved arresting our members, and immediately order an end to all actions to prevent workers from forming trade unions and exercising their workers’ rights in Burma. Continue reading “Burmese Military Regime Arrests Trade Union Members: FTUB Unlawfully Detained, Likely Tortured”

THAILAND: After ASEAN Summit Fiasco, Summer of Discontent Looms

Analysis by Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Apr 12 (IPS) – The dramatic scenes that unfolded at a regional summit forcing its cancellation Apr. 11 point to a disturbing possibility that this kingdom is heading for a long period of turmoil – pitting the conservative political establishment against the rage of the urban and provincial poor.

The four-month-old coalition government, headed by the Democrat Party, was forced to call off the two-day, 16-nation summit after thousands of anti-government protesters broke through a wall of police and army personnel guarding the venue and swarmed into the conference halls.

In this loss to the country, anyone or any group of people that announces a victory should be regarded as the true enemies of Thailand, the visibly shaken Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said at a press conference in the aftermath of the ruined summit. “Whatever status I have, I will never allow these people to become influential.”

The summit had brought together leaders of countries who belong to a 10- member regional bloc, the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN), and leaders from its economic and dialogue partners.

ASEAN’s members include Brunei, Burma (or Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and the summit’s host, Thailand. The bloc’s partners range from China, Japan and South Korea to Australia and India.

The scene of anarchy that was played out in Pattaya, a resort town south of Bangkok where the leaders were to talk, was, in a sense, the final act of a regional meeting that had struggled to get underway due to the political tug- of-war that has gripped this country since the September 2006 coup.

The 14th ASEAN summit had to be postponed twice late last year after the coalition government of the day, led by the People Power Party (PPP), was crippled due to a protest movement that drew thousands of yellow-shirt wearing followers from the urban elites who openly advocated pro-royalist, conservative and right-wing views. Continue reading “THAILAND: After ASEAN Summit Fiasco, Summer of Discontent Looms”

Thailand Marks New Year with Bullets, Troops Clash with Protesters

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Apr 13 (IPS) – Water fights and neon-coloured water guns are a standard feature on Bangkok’s streets at this time of the year. They are part of the revelry as Thais douse each other during their New Year festival, Songkran.

But as the New Year dawned on Apr. 13, a gun of a different kind was on display on the capital’s streets. Soldiers armed with M-16 automatic rifles confronted a crowd of anti-government protesters in the early morning hours.

The soldiers fired hundreds of rounds into the air and in the direction of the protesters to take back the streets in an area called Din Daeng. The red-shirt wearing protesters responded with Molotov cocktails and improvised petrol bombs.

This battle lasted for hours and left 74 people injured, some with gunshot wounds. The number of fatalities remains unclear – with the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) stating at one point that at least two of its red-shirted supporters died in the clash. The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva denied such reports.

Monday morning’s scene at Din Daeng was just one of the many political fires that spread across Bangkok through the day, where the enraged ‘red shirts’ of the UDD captured important intersections and marked their turf by setting alight rubber tires and burning empty buses they had commandeered to fortify their territory. Continue reading “Thailand Marks New Year with Bullets, Troops Clash with Protesters”

April 13, 2009, the Black Songkran-LIVE UPDATE

Tension remains very high in Bangkok, with retreating protesters putting up resistance near the Din Daeng flat and holding the community hostage by threatening to blow up a gas truck. Following is our live report. Please refresh the page regularly to see the updates:

3.30 pm: Supreme Commander Songkitti Jakkrabat, head of the committee enforcing the state of emergency, goes on TV to reiterate that the operation to retake key traffic areas has been carried out with all democratic principles respected.

“We base our operation on the principles that everyone is Thai who has right to gather in peace without infringing on rights of others. We will never hurt Thai citizens but we reserve the rights to self-defence,” he told a TV address.

According to Songkitti, people coming back from Songkran retreat could face inconvenience as road blocks and searches will be required to make sure no weapons are sneaked into the city. He suggested travellers come back earlier or later in order to spread out traffic. continue