Conflict Risk Alert: Thailand by International Crisis Group

The Thai political system has broken down and seems incapable of pulling the country back from the brink of widespread conflict. The stand-off in the streets of Bangkok between the government and Red Shirt protesters is worsening and could deteriorate into an undeclared civil war. The country’s polarisation demands immediate action in the form of assistance from neutral figures from outside. It is time for Thailand to consider help from international friends to avoid a slide into wider violence. Even the most advanced democracies have accepted this.

Situation on the Ground

So far, at least 26 people have died in clashes between the military and the Red Shirts, a group of mostly rural and urban poor more formally known as the “United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)”. That number could rise sharply if the military moves to dislodge thousands of protesters camped in the centre of the capital. The Red Shirts demand the immediate dissolution of parliament and quick new elections; Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has refused and handed control of security to the military.

Bangkok is tense. The Red Shirts have ground the capital’s bustling commercial hub to a halt. Businesses in the area have been shuttered for weeks and residents have voluntarily relocated to avoid being caught in clashes between soldiers and protesters positioned only metres from their doors. The city has been hit by dozens of explosions by unidentified assailants while many nervously await an expected army operation to “remove” the Red Shirts from the streets.

Local efforts at mediation have failed. Civil society groups brought the government and the protesters together but the talks faltered over when to dissolve parliament. The Red Shirts offered a 30-day deadline; Abhisit was only willing to agree to go to the polls within nine months. The fault lines are widening between the establishment – an amalgam of elderly courtiers, powerful generals and many middle class supporters – and the protesters, many of whom support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

While some blame Thaksin for the stand-off, the protests have moved far beyond his control. Many Thais are deeply disillusioned by an elite that denied them the fruits of development for decades and then ousted a government elected mostly by the rural poor. Thailand is a country prone to violence, with a history of bloody insurgencies and authoritarianism – an uncomfortable reality for most Thais to accept.  Violence in Bangkok could spread if there is a crackdown.

This crisis comes as the country is facing its first prospect of royal succession in more than six decades. The monarch may no longer be in a position to resolve disputes, and even if he is willing, the current crisis is more complex than previous ones where he stepped in. An unsuccessful intervention could damage royal prestige and the throne’s moral authority.

The government must recognise that a violent crackdown would severely damage them and likely lead to more conflict. The UDD leadership must also accept that further provocations or violence will only do more damage to their democratic credentials, as well as undercut the credibility of their entire campaign for change.

What Should Be Done

Court upholds Burmese journalist’s 27-year prison term

Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)

The Magway Division Court upheld on 28 April 2010 a lower court’s conviction of Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporter Hla Hla Win and her 27-year prison term.

Hla Hla Win was sentenced on December 2009 to 20 years’ imprisonment for violating the draconian Electronics Act and the Video Act, 505 (b) and an additional seven years for violation of the Import-Export Act, 5 (1). She is now serving her term at Myitkyina prison in Kachin State.

Oral arguments of lawyers from both sides on her appeal were heard on 5 April.

“The court upheld the decision of the Pakokku court, thus rejecting the appeal,”  Shwe Hla, Hla Hla Win’s lawyer said.

Her lawyer said he would lodge an appeal with the Mandalay Division Supreme Court.

“My client did not commit any illegal act. So the decisions of the lower courts are unfair,” he said.

Appointed senator urges government to check if Aung San Su Kyi has been paid to defame Thailand

Unhappy with Aung San Su Kyi’s criticism of Thailand’s constitution and politics, PAD-affiliated senator Prasong Nurak has urged the government to track her financial records to find whether she has received money and from whom.

During a Senate meeting on 26 April, Prasong said that Aung San Su Kyi’s remarks had damaged Thailand’s reputation in the eyes of the international community, likening her to a drowning person making noises in teaching others to swim.

‘I’m so disappointed, as Aung San Su Kyi should have had a better understanding about Thailand.  I’m asking [the government] to try to track her financial records to find out who she has received money from.’

Prasong is from Chumphon, and was a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in Iowa, Kansas and Illinois during the protests against Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.  He ran for a Senate seat in Chumphon in 2000, but failed.  Under the 2007 Constitution, he was appointed a Senator after nomination by the State Enterprise Labour Union of the Expressway Authority of Thailand.

He joined the group of 40 senators in supporting the PAD protests in 2008.  On 28 Aug 2008, two days after the PAD had occupied Government House, he and other senators, including Rosana Tositrakul, Somchai Sawangkan, Prasan Maruekapithak, Khamnoon Sitthisaman, etc., showed up at the government compound to give moral support to the yellow shirts.

Japan Protest

နအဖ စစ္အုပ္စု၏ မတရားသည့္ ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲ ဥပေဒမ်ား ကန္ ့ကြက္ဆႏၵျပျခင္းႏွင့္ ေမ ၃၀ ဒီပဲယင္း လုပ္ႀကံမွဳ ႀကီး (၈၃)လ ျပည့္္ ၀မ္းနည္းျခင္း အထိမ္းအမွတ္အခမ္းအနား

Burma Question Needs the UN Intervention by Zin Linn

Burma seems to be on the brink of a fresh civil strife after it released controversial laws for the upcoming election. While the military regime wants to maintain its power via sham elections, the people, who long for genuine political change, are demanding genuine liberty, justice and equality. But the junta is in no mood to allow even some kind of basic civil rights, for instance freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Burma’s Prime Minister Thein Sein, who earlier this week quit his military post, has applied to form a new party ahead of controversial elections this year. Thein Sein will lead the Union Solidarity and Development Party, according to a regime official on condition of anonymity. Some other ministers are also involved in the party, including agriculture minister Htay Oo and industry minister Aung Thaung, the official said.

A spokesman for the NLD said the creation of the USDP was the testimony of the generals’ challenge to continue in control of the elections and the country. He also added that the appointment of Thein Sein as the party head was in “clear violation of the Political Parties Registration Law which states that civil servants cannot take part in political parties”.

Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) or the de facto military regime held a sham national convention from 1993 to 2007. Then it launched a deceptive referendum at gunpoint in May 2008, just a few days after Cyclone Nargis which perished over 140,000 lives and devastated the country in a large scale. However, the junta said its 2008 Constitution was approved by more than 90 per cent of the qualified voters in the referendum, which has been widely dismissed as a fraud. According to reliable inside sources, most voters were told that their ballots had been already cast by the local authorities.

The worst of the so-called Nargis Constitution is that it provides the blanket immunity to the members of the military junta for their past human rights violations. It also provides a special status for military to live above the law. The commander-in-chief can practice coup at any time reasoning national security.

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Burma Army reported attacked by ceasefire Shan Army

A Burma Army unit was reportedly attacked by an unknown group yesterday 29 April, killing one and wounding one while it was on the way to reinforce troops in Shan State North’s Tangyan Township, west of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) controlled territory, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border.

The incident took place at 12:30 between Hoya village tract and Loi Ngeun (Silver Mountain), that forms the northern border of the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’’s Brigade No.1 controlled areas and south of the junta-back Manpang militia force controlled areas. The unit was identified as Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) # 326 based in Tangyan.

The SSA liaison officer in Lashio was summoned to meet the commander of the Northeastern Region Command on that day as soon as the incident was reported. The officer was told by the commander to inform his group to take responsibility for the incident. If the group refused to, it would face a military operation.

“It is obvious that they blame us because we have yet to accept its program as its wants,” said a senior officer from the First Brigade. “But the First Brigade’s policy doesn’t allow fighters to shoot first unless they are attacked.”

According to him, the incident was the LIB# 326’s own doing. “We learned that the M79 rocket launcher was accidentally fired by a soldier. The Burma Army commander was seizing this opportunity to make war on us.”

The SSA-N has 3 brigades (1, 3, 7), one border force and one HQ Security Force commanded by Maj-Gen Loimao. Brigade No. 3 and 7 were said to have submitted lists of their men and weapons to form the junta run home guard force. The First however has remained silent to the program up to this day.

A senior officer from the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ commented that the Brigade No. 1 is in a dilemma. “For one thing, the brigade is still emotionally attached to its comrades in the other units. For another, it is not sure it could really rely on its allies. It is also afraid that joining the SSA South will push it into a premature war with the Burma Army.”

Nevertheless, the SSA North said it has yet to agree to transform itself to become home guards. It had only submitted lists of their men who agreed to become members of a home guard force to be formed under the Burma Army’s supervision.

The deadline for ceasefire groups to become militias expired on 28 April.

KNLA ႏွင့္ နအဖတို႔ တနာရီၾကာ တုိက္ပဲြတြင္ ႏွစ္ဖက္ထိခိုက္က်ဆံုး

ေမလ ၁ရက္။ ေစာသိန္းျမင့္ (ေကအုိင္စီ)

ကရင္ျပည္နယ္ ေကာ့ကရိတ္ၿမိဳ႕နယ္ ေ၀ၚေလဂြင္၌ ကရင္အမ်ဳိးသားလြတ္ေျမာက္ေရးတပ္မေတာ္ KNLA ႏွင့္ နအဖစစ္တပ္တုိ႔ ၾကား ယေန႔မနက္ တစ္နာရီၾကာ တုိက္ပဲြျဖစ္ပြားခဲ့ရာ ႏွစ္ဘက္ထိခုိက္ေသဆုံးမႈရွိေၾကာင္း သတင္းရရွိသည္။

ယေန႔မနက္ ၆နာရီတြင္ ေ၀ၚေလဂြင္ရွိ ကနဲေလးႏွင့္ ေမာ္ဖုိးကလုိးရြာၾကား၌ တပ္အင္အား (၃၀)ခန္႔ရွိ နအဖစစ္တပ္မွ ခမရ (၄၀၅)တပ္ရင္းႏွင့္ KNLA တပ္ရင္း(၂၀၁)တပ္ဖဲြ႕တုိ႔ ထိပ္တုိက္တုိးကာ တုိက္ပဲြျဖစ္ပြားျခင္းျဖစ္သည္ဟု KNLA တပ္ရင္း (၂၀၁) ဒုတပ္ရင္းမွဴး ဗုိလ္မွဴးေစာၾကည္ေအာင္က ေျပာသည္။

သူက “ဒီမနက္ ၆း၄၀ ကေန ၇း၄၀အထိ ျဖစ္ခဲ့တယ္။ က်ေနာ္တုိ႔ဘက္က အရာခံဗိုလ္တေယာက္ အသက္ေပးလုိက္ရတယ္။ နအဖဘက္က တေယာက္ေသတယ္။ ၅ေယာက္ ဒဏ္ရာျပင္းထန္တယ္”ဟု ေျပာသည္။

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