A temporary truce in Thailand, but what about Act 2?By Bangkok Pundit Dec 06, 2013 11:00AM UTC
Protesters intent on toppling Thailand’s democratically elected prime minister plan to press their struggle again Wednesday with a peaceful march on Bangkok’s national police headquarters, one day after a sudden truce in honor of the king’s birthday this week ended a spate of increasingly fierce street fighting.
The pause in violence came suddenly Tuesday, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra ordered police to end their resistance against masked mobs who had begun attacking their positions beside her office compound with homemade rocket launchers and petrol bombs.
The move was timed to coincide with celebrations of the king’s birthday this week, a holiday that holds deep significance in the Southeast Asian nation. It was widely seen as offering demonstrators a face-saving way out of a crisis that has killed four people and wounded more than 256 since the weekend.
But protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed to keep up what has become an audacious struggle to overthrow Yingluck and keep her brother, deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, from returning to power.
“You can rest assured that this is a victory that is only partial … because the tyrannical Thaksin government endures,” Suthep said.
He said that after a Thursday truce, “our battle” will begin again early Friday.
But suddenly, early Tuesday, police lowered their shields and walked away from their heavily fortified positions. Bewildered protesters who had been fighting just moments before began climbing over rows of overturned concrete blast walls.
Shortly afterward, thousands of jubilant demonstrators waving the red, white and blue Thai flag swarmed across the grassy lawn of Government House, snapping photos of themselves with cellphones and screaming “Victory belongs to the people!” Yingluck was not there at the time.
About 20 soldiers and police guarded a door into Yingluck’s offices, and protesters did not try to enter. After an hour of speeches and cheering, they all filed back out systematically — a highly organized exit which fueled speculation that a deal — at least for now — had been struck behind closed doors between the two sides.
CNN on the scenes after the police didn’t resist essentially allowing the protesters a symbolic victory:
Protesters responded with cheers and applause, claiming victory. Some of them hugged police officers and took photos with them. The mood on the streets changed noticeably — a more carnival atmosphere returned with demonstrators blowing whistles.
One of the senior protest organizers, Anchalee Paireerat, was heard announcing to a crowd “we will stop for now for our King’s birthday” over a loud speaker mounted on a truck near Government House.
AFP on what Yingluck said yesterday afternoon:
“Although the current political situation has not completely returned to normal, there has been substantial progress. The government has asked both the army and police to carry out their duty with leniency and refrain from confrontation and violence that would cause casualties among the public,” she said.
Analysts warn Suthep’s refusal to negotiate could spell disaster for Thailand’s fragile democracy, putting it at potential risk of total upheaval.
“If he succeeds in his plans [to oust Yingluck], we will see huge turmoil in Thailand,” said political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak of the Thai Institute of Security and International Studies.
“When he refers to ‘the people’, he is not talking about the 67 million people in Thailand or the eligible voters among them.
“He’s talking about a lot of people in Bangkok, and some in the south; so this is a big problem. If he somehow succeeds with this people’s council, we will see a backlash.”
1. As noted in the blog post the other morning:
Suthep can be hoping for either (1) widespread deaths on Tuesday and Wednesday, or (2) or a speech on Thursday which provides him with a face-saving exit. Short of that his options appear limited. For the government, they will want to wait it out until Thursday as the recent actions by protesters have hurt the protest movement and the Democrats by association
BP: In the end it was much more mundane, but essentially we got the police not resisting allowing a “victory” for the protesters (although even a blind soi dog could tell if you if anyone had a victory it was the government).
2. However, Suthep was not keen to end it on Tuesday and HM the King’s birthday was only a temporary “ceasefire” with protests to resume on Friday, December 6 so we are back at it today (HM the King did not address the protests directly so BP does not view that Suthep will interpret the speech as telling him to go home). How long will the rallies go on for?
Now FT on December 4:
“I want to finish everything by the end of this year because people have to go back to their families to celebrate the new year,” he said in an interview in the vast government office complex and shopping arcade northwest of Bangkok that his protesters occupy.
BP: Or will we get another delay?
How many will turn up tomorrow? Sure at the front lines of whatever building they are trying to seize you will have the guards and the “rougher elements” (read: thugs), but these won’t be large in number…
NOTE: Will look at the role of the military and deals in another post.