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The Junta’s self-doubts and crisis of confidence

Updated On: Mar 30, 2007

The Thai junta if it has its way would obviously prefer to run the country like a military camp. 

All the actions and intentions of the Council of National Security (CNS) have proven wrong so far and perhaps reflect why the military should have kept out of politics.

The junta which ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra on the premise of restoring peace to a politically-divided country is now facing its own public demonstrations. At this point in time, the Thai people are getting impatient and frustrated with the incompetence of the CNS and the interim government that there will be another rally to oppose them. The Bangkok Post reported that “members of several anti-coup groups –including former ruling Thai Rak Thai party MPs and supporters of Thaksin –plan to gather again at Sanam Luang on Friday (March 30)”.

The junta is naturally jittery about this and has considered using draconian measures to deal with it, including the declaration of an emergency. The Bangkok Post and New York Times reported Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin as saying, “''If the situation gets out of hand, we are ready to declare an emergency situation in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces to control the situation… If we have no stability, investment and tourism will be hit… The new constitution won’t be finished.”

However, emergency powers do not lie in Sonthi’s hands but PM Surayud. Surayud has since assured the nation that the demonstration “will not be handled by strong-arm means”, the Bangkok Post said.  After his meeting with the CNS and the Constitution drafting committee, PM Surayad came out to assure the Thais that elections will be held in December and rule out a state of emergency as “the current situation is not serious enough to require emergency rule”. However, the Thai government has taken precautionary measure by closing Sanam Luang field to prevent anti-coup protestors from staging a rally there at the weekend. 

As the groups opposing the junta prepare to carry out their demonstrations, Thai authorities are clamping down on the Democrat and TRT parties. Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) spokesman Atthapol Yaisawang announced that both parties “were almost certain to be dissolved as weak testimony to the Constitution Tribunal by both parties has been insufficient to defend themselves against electoral fraud allegations”.

In addition to tightening controls over Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister Paiboon Wattanasiritham told the Bangkok Post that “the government has set up a national committee to place controls on television, film, magazines and websites to ensure a ‘safe and creative media’… to ensure items that it deems to be inappropriate for young people are not published”.

Things are even more oppressive in the South. Ever since a curfew was imposed on some districts in the Southern provinces, residents live in more fear than before. A resident of Yala, Mr Saina, told the Bangkok Post, “Now, we are afraid of both security officers and insurgents. We are unable to distinguish between them. We don't feel either comforted or safe.”

Sonthi has also gone on to accuse the Wada political group of being involved in the conflict. As the Wada faction used to be part of the TRT party, Sonthi may be hinting that Thaksin supporters are now contributing to the intractable violence. However, Sonthi has denied this fervently. He said that he never implied that Thaksin supporters are part of the insurgent movements. (29 March 2007)

Sources:

CNS affirms control of Friday rally security (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

PM puts off emergency declaration (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Govt won't use force to handle protests (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Muslims say curfew brings fear, not comfort (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Sonthi: Wada former members stir unrest (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Democrats and TRT 'close to end' (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Govt panel to control 'inappropriate' media  (Bangkok Post, 29 March 2007)

Killers entrenched in villages: Sonthi (Nation, 29 March 2007)

Thai Coup Leader Calls for Emergency Powers (NYT, 28 March 2007