THAILAND - problems for tourists as soldiers open fire.
On 10 April it was reported that four civilians and four soldiers were killed in clashes between the army and red shirt protesters in Bangkok.
About 600 Thai "red shirt" protesters broke into a local government office in the northeast city of Udon Thani, angry at a crackdown on their movement in the capital.
The political protests in Bangkok are aimed at changing the government.
Thailand's tourism industry is suffering.
Some hotels have been under 'virtual siege'. (Thailand tourism tumbling as Bangkok protests mount)
Some malls have had to close, as have some bank branches.
Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, giving the army broad powers to restore order.
Some embassies have warned tourists about the possibility of violence between demonstrators and security personnel.
Former prime minister Thaksin represents 'New Money'. Image from: www.flickr.com/photos/isriya/391658554/
The red shirt protestors are supporters of popular former Thai prime minister Thaksin.
According to the New York Times:
Thaksin is "popular for lifting rural incomes, cracking down on drugs and paying off the country’s debts to the International Monetary Fund." - As Protesters Pause in Thailand, Their Grievances Against Elite Simmer
What does the US government think of Thaksin?
On the one hand, Thaksin could be seen as being a friend of the US elite, because he has favoured the idea of globalisation.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
"For decades, power-brokers in the military, parliament and boardroom used the government to enrich themselves. The populist Mr. Thaksin threatened their interests by obtaining a strong democratic mandate to start expensive government programs to benefit the rural poor, and also to open the door wider to the forces of globalization and competition."
On the other hand, Thaksin reportedly upset the US elite by:
1. withdrawing troops from Iraq
2. flirting with China
3. cracking down on drugs.
The US government may not be keen on any Thai government, whether under Thaksin or Abhisit, making certain deals with China.
China's President Hu meeting Thaksin in Thailand in 2003
According to Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner, in the Wall Street Journal, on 15 April 2009 (The Real Thai Crisis):
"It is doubtful whether the demonstrators, who may genuinely believe they are fighting for democracy, realize that they are little more than pawns in a bigger game...
"Mr. Thaksin is a multibillionaire who primarily represents Sino-Thai business interests, not poor farmers.
"While in power, he cleverly marketed his rural development policies including cheap health care, generous monetary support to rural communities and other populist schemes...
"The present crisis is thus more correctly understood as a clash between two elites: 'old money' in the hands of Thailand's traditional plutocracy, and 'new money' which has risen to prominence since the country's economy began to surge in the 1960s...
"Last year, people dressed in yellow shirts fought battles for the old elite, who now support Mr. Abhisit. This time, those in red shirts are fighting for the new elite, represented by Mr. Thaksin..."
The US government may want to promote a Thai leader who favours neither 'old money' nor 'new money'.
People Power is usually organised by the security services of one country or another.
So, what about the demonstrations in Thailand back in April 2009?
Have the usual spooky people infiltrated the Thaksin 'red' protest movement?
At this site: (แสดงความคิดเห็น) « www.prachatai.com เวบหนังสือพิมพ์ออนไลน์, we read that a Thai academic and politician, Chakrapob Phenkae (Jakrapob Penkair), has claimed that one of the people close to former Thai Prime Chuan Leekpai is an agent of the CIA.
"PRIME Minister Chuan Leekpai Monday urged an academic who claimed that one of Chuan's close aides was being paid by a CIA secret agent to name the person.
"Chakrapop Phenkae (Jakrapob Penkair), an academic and a television anchorman, Monday claimed that an MP from the Central region who is one of Chuan's close aides acts as a spy for the US.
"Chuan said he had no idea who Chakrapop (Jakrapob) was referring to or what Chakrapop's intention or motive might be. 'I do not know if the purpose is just to discredit someone. [Chakrapop] should reveal the name so that we can order a probe,' Chuan said."
"Chuan or Chakrapob (Jakrapob) - who do you think is the CIA agent supporting Thaksin in a bid to distabilise the monarchy?"
Back in April 2009, at Asia Times (Hong Kong), Shawn W Crispin wrote about the political situation in Thailand. (A battle won in Thailand's 'war')
Among the points made:
1. Former Thai prime minister Thaksin is now allied to US-educated Jakrapob Penkair, leader of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
Reportedly, Jakrapob was the brains behind the recent 'brinksmanship' by the 'red' protesters.
2. UDD supporters broke up an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Pattaya in April 2009 (where China had been planning to make important announcements about economic aid)
3. UDD claims there were "a lot of dead people" after the April 2009 Bangkok protests.
4. The military, under army commander General Anupong Paochinda, might decide to take power.
5. Thaksin surprised many by supporting the recent brinkmanship by the 'reds'.
Thaksin criticised members of King Bhumibol's advisory Privy Council, including Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda.
Reportedly, Jakrapob pushed Thaksin to take a tough line.
6. Thaksin alleged that Prem and his associate General Surayud Chulanont were among the masterminds of the 2006 coup.
7. Thaksin now seems to have joined Jakrapob in speaking out against the 'aristocracy'.
8.Thaksin called for a national uprising.
9. There could be trouble in the provinces.
10. Allegedly, Thaksin supporters, with the help of former communists, have been secretly transporting small arms through Cambodia to the northeastern provinces.
11. However, there are no indications that Thaksin would support an armed revolution.