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Failed strategy

While reds had several ideas on how to achieve victory, one important part was provoking violent crackdown that would sway public opinion against the “brutal” government.

Well, they’ve got violence, but no sympathy. While on the red stage they can blame soldiers for Saturday’s deaths all the way, the rest of the country had seen the army and the police being beaten and humiliated for the whole week.

Reds forced their way into the EC, the parliament, and Thaicom building. During Saturday the soldiers unsuccessfully tried to push the reds out of Makkawan. The only bright moment they had when they fought off red assault on military compound on Sri Ayuttaya road.

After watching this, no non-red can say the government had used excessive force, quite the opposite – Abhisit was accused of being too soft all along and after Friday fiasco at Thaicom the army was accused of incompetence and lack of will. Watermelon soldiers they called them. Not too many watermelons in the evening, though.

There will be great arguments about what went wrong at Kok Wua intersection and people supporting each side will find numerous arguments for their cause. Don’t forget the big picture though – reds have transformed themselves from a peaceful, non-violent movement for democracy into an organized insurgency fighting the army and the police, just as they did last Songkran.

This is a no win situation for them. They can’t fight the army, not for long. They passed the moment when the government might shy away from a fight and collapse, and they are approaching the moment when the government might decide on the use of lethal force to subdue this insurgency.

The state cannot afford a situation where its soldiers are taken prisoner and paraded on a stage, in the heart of the capital. The state cannot cede control of any part of Thailand to any other party, period.

If they couldn’t retake it today, they will try again tomorrow, and next time they would bring guns. It’s not some kind of sport where you have to match the opponents strength to have a good show.

Speaking of guns – no matter how reds would try to spin it, it’s undeniable that scores of soldiers suffered bullet and shrapnel wounds, too. Soldiers had to fight against guns and grenades, and that gives the government right to raise the bar and arm security forces with something more than shields and batons. The gloves are off, so to speak.

The good news is that both sides are taken aback by Kok Wua bloodshed and that gives them a chance to negotiate some settlement tomorrow. Reds can forget about House dissolution, though, they might get to continue their protest at PanFa site at most, and the government would wait to arrest their leaders later.

The ball is largely in a red court as they have to announce their plans for the day around 10 AM at the latest and any new provocation would throw all peace talks into the bin.

Judging by the late news, only Nattawut was speaking of peace, the rest were raising the crowd for more, they snatched dead bodies from hospitals and shown them on stage. Revenge seems to be the only thing on their mind.

Let’s see if the cool heads prevail.

One more thought – the government tried very hard not to overdo it and ended up with red shirts feeling brave enough to challenge the army. Had Abhisit authorized the use of guns from the beginning the reds would not have gotten the funny idea that they can fight the state in the first place.

That could have saved lives. That could have saved lives of those clubbed to death, and that could have saved lives of those who didn’t expect to be shot because both sides pretended they wouldn’t use guns.

In fact, today’s death toll might put a serious question on the whole idea that using non-lethal methods means reduction of violence or casualties. It’s a bit like the cold war standoff when possessing the nukes actually guaranteed there’d be no conventional wars between the US and the Soviets.

Without a big stick to rely on, non-lethal methods are more like an invitation to fight rather than a deterrent.

Maybe it wasn’t the shields that scared the reds off last April, maybe it’s the rumors that soldiers were shooting in the crowd, and this time they weren’t scared anymore, and some fifteen people died.


8 Responses

  1. Killing to avoid an election – that’s the sort of stuff than can lead to civil war, or at least underground insurgencies based in the North & North East, but targetting Bangkok.

    Seems inevitable if Abhisit and his minders don’t change tack from what he said on TV last night.

    • It’s not about dissolution anymore, it’s a violent insurgency that needs to be subdued before speaking of ANY kind of elections.

  2. Actually I don’t want to respond to your blog but seeing how it is so quiet here (unlike other blogs like BP), I would just say that your way of thinking is rather strange. Are you pro-Abhisit, pro-military, pro-PAD, or simply just anti-Thaksin ? Or all the attributes mentioned above ?

    • I’m just trying to be sane and stay clear of propaganda that affects minds on both sides.

      I have absolutely no desire to moderate hundreds of opinions on my blog, I rather like it “quiet” as it is. I have absolutely no hope that I could somehow build a productive, civilized community here, that’s not why I started the blog at all. It’s just a place where I could put up longer posts than the usual “comment” format elsewhere.

  3. Why was the army carrying lethal weapons in the first place? I understand having a unit on standby that carries them, but certainly not the first-line riot control personnel. Proper non-lethal riot-control techniques are well-known, it’s just that army is too poorly trained, incompetent and undisciplined to use them. They shouldn’t be doing the job of riot control anyway.

    I know there are multiple murky agendas on all sides, but then reds are simply asking for elections. Granting that one request (in, say, a month, not distant 9 months), would kick most of the steam from the reds.

    Of course, those who hold power would rather not give it up, not over other people’s dead bodies…

  4. Why did they carry live ammunition to a peaceful demonstration, you mean?

    Well, after dozens of them suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds and their commander was blown up by a grenade it’s kind of silly question.

    Theoretically though, tear gas, plastic shields and batons have proven to be inadequate in this particular situation.

    One way or another, the state MUST confine demonstrators to their constitutional rights.

    I’m not sure clearing reds out of Pan Fa was the right move in that sense. Rajprasong is a far more “legitimate” target. There’s also Thaicom uplink building that needs to be returned under state control.

    The state and the government are different things, btw. Red might disagree with the government but the government is just doing its constitutionally assigned job, and reds must respect the government’s right and duty to administer the country just as the government needs to respect citizens’ right to demonstrate.

  5. It’s not about dissolution anymore, it’s a violent insurgency that needs to be subdued before speaking of ANY kind of elections.

    Its not a violent insurrection or anything of the kind, and that sort of emotive language, while typical of the royalists who want to whip up hysteria and calamity, just doesn’t help.

    The reality appears to be that what I have seen to be peaceful UDD gatherings have been assaulted by inappropriate and hugely unwise actions by police and troops, and the demonstrators responded in kind.

    As for the Phan Fa disaster, there was violence on both sides, triggered either by some mysterious (and convenient for the government) ‘third hand’, or what seems more likely to me, some regular special forces, with an altogether smaller probability that they were red agents provocateur.

    Remain calm Stan, we all know you have a boat to paddle, but please try to keep the froth and bubble to a minimum.

  6. Reds breaking into the EC, the parliament, and especially Thaicom, was pretty violent.

    Arrest warrants issued for those actions are legitimate and need to be respected and enforced.

    Arisaman is facing an earlier arrest warrant for inciting the crowd to bring gasoline and burn Bangkok. That is on top of his bail for breaking into the Asean meeting last year.

    Government’s position on this is very reasonable – those with arrest warrants need to be arrested, the rest can carry on their protests within constitutional bounds.

    Saturday, btw, started with reds trying to break into an army facility. Nothing peaceful, democratic or non-violent about that.

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