Roadmap week

With a visit to Chumphon I paid only scarce attention to political developments, occasionally checking tweets or flipping TV channels so I my opinion of what has happened since the roadmap was announced could be described as being from a distance, from a week afar.

I might have missed a few very important details that would have added some completely new perspectives, on the other hand, I might have a benefit of looking at a bigger picture, without getting mired in minor details that could sway one’s opinion when you are in the midst of it but don’t matter much when you look at it a week later.

When Abhisit first came up with a roadmap idea my first thought was: “Of course, if he is going to sign off dispersal order he must offer some sort of a last chance first, that’s the rules, it doesn’t mean much in itself.” The idea, however, took a life of its own with just about everybody having a very strong opinion about it.

More importantly, reds didn’t reject it outright, offering everybody a glimpse of hope they would go home. Dispersal orders moved to the bottom of the pile again.

One night I saw some news program with Deputy PM Korbsak answering questions about the roadmap. Twice a skeptical interviewer asked what would happen to the plan if he or any other Democrat MP came under attack in Isan, or if election campaign was mired in violence and grenade attacks. Twice he evaded the question in a worst way possible: “Why are you so negative, you have to think positively.” That turned me off completely.

A few hours later there were fresh explosions and shooting near Silom and two people lost their lives. I wonder how Korbsak feels about his “positive thinking”now? Would he offer this reply to the grieving wife of the young policeman?

Days have passed, however, and that episode of violence has faded from public memory, perhaps it was a test of public goodwill, patience and determination to see a peaceful end to the stand off despite the provocations.

Then there are red shirts who have managed to drag their feet for a whole week. Yesterday they agreed to go home if Suthep surrenders to the police. Suthep immediately agreed but now reds demand he surrendered to the red designated police office only, to which govt supporters reply – you lodged the complaints with DSI, why should Suthep go to CSP instead?

Are they bloody serious?

Their tactics might work on their faithful, but, just as with Chulalongkorn Hospital fiasco, they just annoy the hell out of people. Schools are about to start, they agreed to Nov 15 poll date in principle, and now haggling over which police station Suthep reports himself to.

That’s, I guess, where the reality stepped in. Despite their on-stage proclamations of staying true to the cause and not accepting any kind of amnesty or personal deals, they need their personal freedom first and foremost, and that means facing arrest warrants with zero possibility of bail for many of them.

I’ve long held an opinion that red devotees around the stage are kept there with a single purpose of helping the leaders avoid arrests, all their other, “democratic” demands having lost all chances of being met. They’ve spent weeks at Rajprasong rallying about military crackdown, not house dissolution or income inequality or ammarts or double standards.

One could argue that Abhisit roadmap is not addressing those problems in a meaningful way, but, to be honest, reds themselves have been less than forthcoming with their own ideas how to solve them, too. How could Abhisit possibly accommodate them if they themselves don’t know what they want?

Oh, they want him to dissolve the house, that’s all.

They could have easily negotiated Nov 15 elections if they didn’t leave the talks back in March, sparing the country dozens of lives and hundreds of injuries. Now we paid what, one life per day?

Somehow this grim math makes complete sense to red believers. They think it’s a victory. To be fair they didn’t agree to it at first but their leaders persuaded them that their human sacrifice has been worth it. They only need Suthep to report to CSP to balance it off completely. They also say there are many more where they come from.

Reminds me of the beginning of an old lawyer joke.

What’s two dozen deaths? A good start to rally against murderous Abhisit.

They need a lot more blood to succeed. Then they can move elections by another month.

The whole logic behind it is flawed, btw. These days it’s naive to expect Abhisit, or Samak or Somchai, for that matter, accepting personal responsibility for any deaths during the crackdown and fleeing the country ala 1973 or 1992. It’s more like 1976 when the public was firmly on police/village scouts side, though for completely different reasons.

Lots of people evoke 1976 memories and run around with CRES conspiracy map and Abhisit charges of anti-monarchy movement within red ranks, but, look around – no one paid scarcest attention to those accusations. In fact PAD has just lambasted Abhisit for not taking them seriously himself.

No, these days the public would support red removal because they have lost all democratic legitimacy.

Lots of people accuse government media for manipulating public into believing reds are dangerous terrorists. Duh!

The best way for the government to achieve that goal is to broadcast a few hours of red speeches on the public channels. That would settle public opinion on the matter once and for all.

No amount of government spin can serve as well as calling Abhisit a murderer or a buffalo twenty times in one hour. Instead the public is led to believe that all they talk about is injustice and democracy. That’s mainstream journalists self-censorship at work – they just filter out all the hatred and incitement to war.

At Chumphon resort they had ASTV on the cable, understandably, and I was surprised how mellow and boring it was by contrast with red speeches, and I caught it when all PAD honchos were making their statement on the roadmap.

In fact, their position makes a lot of sense, certainly an opinion Abhisit should not discount when taking a course of action. They warn that giving in to red demands, no matter by how many months, would only encourage them and move the battlefield from Rajprasong to the rest of the country, where they’d run elections in Zimbabwe style.

There’s also a question of real terrorists within red ranks. Those guys would definitely slip away and they definitely won’t go into retirement. Anyone could employ their services from now on and were haven’t seen the end of political killings and explosions yet.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the price to pay for restoring normalcy now, and if the situation does not improve Abhisit is not obliged to dissolve the House, and there’s little prospect reds would be able to mount a fresh campaign any time soon anyway. Lots of ingredients must come together to bring the country to the brink, where it is now, the priority is to step back to safety. The situation might happen again in the future, it might not.

There’s logic in delaying the payment when you don’t have the means to settle the debt right away.

In the latest episode of Desperate Housewives, S06E22, Sarah and Mike decided to bite the bullet, rent their house out, and move into an apartment when they couldn’t settle their bills. They even refused their friends help, choosing to preserve their dignity instead. Next week we’ll find out how it turned out.

I don’t know how it applies to Abhisit, just as an argument that one must not be stubborn when so many lives are at stake, preserving one’s face is not in the same league as preserving lives. That could be Abhisit’s answer to PAD.

The rank and file of red protesters might look naive, even delusional, even dangerous, but certainly not deserving deaths in crossfire.