Thailand opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva seen during anti-government protests in November. Pic: AP.

Courtesy of Zen Journalist is a CIMB Analyst Note dated January 7. Some key excerpts:

Meanwhile, Mr Abhisit does not think that the protestors can topple the government and that protest leaders will have to intensify their efforts, raising the chances of violence. And if there are clashes between protestors and the Red Shirts, the military will have to step in. However, this could draw more Red Shirts into Bangkok. Therefore, Thailand could end up in a situation similar to Egypt. In fact, the Red Shirts or the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on 7 Jan 2014 called its leaders from across the country to meet in Nakhon Rachasima (Korat) to discuss plans to counter a coup. About 5,000 Red Shirt leaders are expected to join the event. Therefore, if the military is to step in, we believe the Red Shirts will be well prepared to organise counter moves. And demonstrations may not be confined to Bangkok alone.

BP: Well, agree with this. This is the problem for the military. A coup may happen if there is widespread bloodshed, but then there is a question even then of what kind of coup. It may just be an intervention to restore order with the government remaining in place. However, if anything, Prayuth seems to want to avoid doing this as any intervention or coup will not be easy (just look how fun being PM is now and imagine if you were a coup leader and have no electoral legitimacy) and retirement is only 9 months away as well…

The note continues:

1.3 The Democrats’ political reform agenda

Mr Abhisit believes that there are seven areas where reforms are necessary.

These are:

1. Anti-corruption efforts

2. Election rules and laws

3. The income gap between the haves and the have-nots

4. Decentralisation

5. The judicial process

6. Education

7. Media

He mentioned that the first two, i.e. anti-corruption efforts and election rules and laws, are the top priorities for his party. He explained that Democrat supporters are being investigated by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) or the Revenues Department, making it difficult for his party to recruit new people. Businesses are also reluctant to support the party openly out of fear that they will come under scrutiny.

BP: As one can see with Court decisions and NACC meetings, isn’t it the government itself who is more under investigation than the opposition? Plenty of businesses have thrown their support privately behind the Democrats and the PDRC. How many businesses openly supported Puea Thai at the last election? Very few. It is just the same for the Democrats now, but also how many businesses are openly standing up in support for the government now? Not many either. Support of business is not the Democrats problem….

The note continues:

He believes that it will take 3-6 months to strengthen the rules and regulations to make the election process fairer. Then general elections can take place and the Democrats will be willing to participate. However, we do not quite agree that this can be done in six months. We also asked him what key policies the Democrats will introduce in order to win support in the Pheu Thai strongholds of the north and northeast. There was no clear answer from him. In fact, the Democrats have just formed a new 15-member policy committee to formulate policies for future elections. Former Finance Minister Mr Korn Chatikavanij chairs this committee, which will in turn collect feedback from all sectors. So even if general elections are held in six months’ time, it will not be easy for the Democrats to win, in our opinion.

BP: Can the Democrats get enough concessions to pacify Suthep’s mob? Will Abhisit commit to this publicly? Until he does so, we may get a change of position, but why not make specific demands back in late November/early December on what the Democrats wanted?

Report continues:

1.4 Democrats do not agree with the PDRC

Mr Abhisit mentioned that he does not agree with Mr Suthep’s People’s Council as there is no legal basis. In addition, he has told his party members that if they want to participate in the rallies, they will have to first resign from the party. However, it is difficult to believe that the Democrats are not involved in the anti-government rallies. Nevertheless, not all protestors are Democrat supporters as groups who do not like both Pheu Thai and the Democrats are also joining the rallies.

BP: Well, Abhisit has been attending rallies and speaking on the stage – he spoke on the weekend – so not quite sure what he is referring to here. Nevertheless, the part about him disagreeing with the People’s Council is interesting. Doubt he will say it publicly though…