Friday, August 29, 2008

Three reasons why the PAD protest has backfired

So I've finally found a "spot the difference" caption for Thai and UK politics.
Pictured above are members of the People's Alliance "for" Democracy. Their faces are covered as they smash their way into a TV station to protest against a democratically elected government. Also pictured are the Unite "Against" Fascism group as they force their way into Oxford Union to protest against the private Union's decision to invite certain people to a private debate.
The only difference between these groups is that the PAD were once a force for good.

Why have the PAD gone bad?

1) It has not achieved its stated objective.

The PAD has repeatedly stated its demands for Samak to resign, but the ogre-faced one is not only still there, he is actually increasing in terms of popularity. The other - unstated - goal of the PAD is to create so much fear and chaos that the army sweep in with another coup. But Anupong has kept close to Samak and there have been no signs of it happening.

2) Its fascist behaviour is losing it support.

The moment that some PAD members with covered faces smashed in the doors to NBT TV and stormed the station, people began to condemn the group. The violence and wish for bloodshed was becoming obvious.

On a personal note, the bandanna clad PAD members behaving like animals reminded me of the UAF in England during their protests at Oxford Union. The irony was obvious - a group that calls itself the 'People's Alliance for Democracy' behaving in a most undemocratic manner, and a group that calls itself 'Unite Against Fascism' behaving like fascists. Misnomers that are not lost on the public at large.

3) It is actually increasing the popularity and perceived independence of Samak Suntarajev.

Samak's calmness and patience during this fiasco is exactly what the PAD did not want. They wanted him to react angrily and threaten force, or start talking about Thaksin. His restraint has won him support. Even the Thai police have come through this looking good so far. You know you're doing badly if you make the Thai police look good. (I have permission to say that).

The PAD used this protest as a big 'final push', an all or nothing effort to oust the PPP regime. The plan so far has not worked and the increasing desperation and paranoia of the group is becoming obvious. Journalists being attacked and threats from Chamlong's scheduled replacement Panlop that "non peaceful means" will be used to resolve the situation if he takes over are a sure giveaway that the PAD want bloodshed to occur. It's their last chance.

But it is not over yet. It's a tense and intriguing situation. Sondhi and Chamlong still look genuinely relaxed and retain the support of some middle class Thais, senators and a small minority of officials and military. Rail unions have called a strike in a show of PAD support and the court have cancelled the eviction order. Samak is under huge pressure. But with Samak's decision to turn the protest into a war of attrition, it's hard to see how the PAD can come out on top unless the police lose patience and decide to move in and arrest the leaders. If that happens and the people fight back, there could be deaths and there could be a coup. For the sake of Thailand, let's hope that doesn't happen.


::GIB:: said...

me, as a Thai ppl don't stand for PAD or government. I just want this crisis will be peacefully over coup! pleaseeeeee

sorindian said...

I am not a Thai, and don't know much about thailand's situation, but as a foreigner, i feel that PAD don't care much about the thai people. their blockading 3 airports and the rail system will disrupt the livelihood of many thai people. these airport are tourist location and will sure affect tourism. Canada and Australia and some other countries have already warn their citizens not to visit thailand for the time being.
you protectors may be rich or whatever but you guys are spoiling Thailand's tourism. it amazes me that Thai police and army are doing nothing. what do Thai police get paid for? help chase tourist away?