Sunday, November 22, 2009

Catch me if you can, but you don't want to, do you?

Bangkok Post
Then we all may have to answer to the people who are really in charge of this country: The military.

Does anyone actually think that the Thai authorities want Thaksin Shinawatra arrested? If they wanted Thaksin arrested, wouldn't he already have been arrested?

Could it be that the reason he hasn't been arrested is simply because they don't want him in custody?

Why launch a coup when he was in New York? Did that mean he was not supposed to be arrested in the first place? Why did he pack more suitcases than Imelda Marcos on his trip to the UN meeting in New York in September 2006? Was it because he knew there was to be a coup? That it has been arranged and he was informed by the coup makers ahead of time? Why was he allowed to attend the Beijing Olympics when the court had already convicted him and he was in Thailand, in the grasp of the Thai authorities?
Don't make a fuss. Just fade away. It's good political decorum.

The term political decorum is key to understanding Thai politics. Certain things are just a matter of time honoured tradition. When a coup is launched against you, good political decorum dictates that it's time for you to go away quietly. Retire to your billion baht home, your mansion in the Swiss Alps and live out the rest of your days in luxury. After all, you've worked tirelessly for years in stealing from the country. Don't make a fuss. Just fade away. It's good political decorum.

You've been in charge because you're allowed to be in charge. There's a prior arrangement. You're removed because you've broken a prior arrangement. You've been naughty. So you have to go. Someone else has to replace you to continue stealing from the country.

A military coup in Thailand is simply a tool of up-keeping political decorum. The only time when a coup turns bloody, is when there's a third party involved _ someone else who could not abide by the act.

For example, in the May 1992 coup by army commander Suchinda Krapayoon, the Chartchai Choonhavan government was set to fade away quietly. Why? It's simply because the late former Prime Minster Chartchai had good political manners. Violence broke out in the streets and gave rise to Bloody May only because someone else wasn't willing to play ball _ Chamlong Srimuang.

But Thaksin Shinawatra? He's a bad boy. He has no manners. Not only did he break a prior arrangement while he was prime minister, after the coup, he just won't go away quietly.

Dear readers, Thaksin had already returned to Thailand during the administration of his nominee Samak Sundaravej. The Constitutional Court found Thaksin guilty of wrong-doing. He asked if he could go to the Beijing Olympics and said he would return to face his punishment. They said, yeah, okay, see you soon.

Now, isn't that ridiculous? Could it very well be that the verdict was just for show? That they really didn't want him arrested? That they, once again, gave him a chance to fade away quietly?

One may say that the Samak Government saw to it that he was able to leave the country. I don't think so. We well know the Samak Government was as potent as a 70-year-old who couldn't find his Viagra. They couldn't order the police to give a traffic ticket, but army generals could _ and that's the point.

So why did the authorities keep lett-ing him go?

Readers know well that I am no fan of this former prime minister and that I think he is a dangerous megalomaniac, but one thing we have to give to him. Thaksin Shinawatra is a fighter. One doesn't become this rich and powerful if one isn't a fighter. One couldn't have turned the landscape of Thai politics upside down and swept an entire election if one isn't a fighter. Thaksin Shinawatra is a fighter. Certain people did not count on that.

Because Thaksin is a fighter with a lot of cash in his hands, naturally there are those willing to fight with him. Mob for hire has been a time-honoured occupation in human civilisation since the days of the Romans. Which brings us back to why the authorities do not want Thaksin arrested.

Dear readers, imagine Thaksin in handcuffs on Thai soil. Just imagine it. What would happen? The red shirts would make the Songkran incident look like a picnic in the park. There would be blood in the streets. Thailand, politically and economically, cannot afford that. The Thai authorities don't want to arrest him. The Thai authorities don't have the stomach for it.

Likewise Thaksin. Although he's a fighter, he's not a warrior. A fighter fights for rewards. A warrior fights for beliefs. If he were a warrior, he would gladly extend his wrists to the handcuffs. Then let's have it out in the streets and may the man with the most cash win. Or else, the tanks can come charging in.

So if the fear is civil war in the streets, the game is not to defeat Thaksin Shinawatra.

The game is to defeat the red-shirt movement because without them, Thaksin will have no support base.

The best way to defeat the red shirts is, of course, by the Democrats winning the next general election. Because democracy is the only legitimate argument the red shirts have in support of Thaksin and against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. If the Abhisit government wins, then the democracy argument will be moot.

Which is why Thaksin and the Puea Thai Party are doing their best to agitate and undermine the Abhisit government, pressuring him to dissolve the parliament and call for an election. Because they believe that the earlier the election, the better chance of a Puea Thai victory. It's a matter of baht and satang.

Which is why the Abhisit government is doing its best to delay the general election. They need to take time and gather as much popular support as possible by handing out populace incentives. It's also a matter of baht and satang.

When the time comes, if the Democrats do not win, then we all may have to answer to the people who are really in charge of this country: The military.


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