Crispin in Asia Times:
The US Embassy in a statement urged the UDD to condemn the grenade attacks – which they hadn’t done from their protest stage – while calling on the government to exercise restraint. US officials have met with UDD co-leaders, including Veera Musikapong and Jaran, during the protests to impress on them Washington’s perception that the UDD has provoked much of the violence, including the events of April 10.
/>UDD spokesman Boonracong said that a US official had “incredible details” of recent violence that he believed was gathered by the “CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and other on-the-ground informants”. He said that US officials claimed that the UDD had rigged compressed gas tanks to be used as bombs and stockpiled automatic weapons in nearby buildings – claims Boonracong characterized as “total bunk”.
/>“The [US] ambassador has apparently made up his mind that we have become an army and not a peaceful movement,” said Boonracong, adding: “the US Embassy is not as neutral as they say they are.“
/>Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said before the UDD’s protests began in mid-March that he had received intelligence from the US warning of possible sabotage at the protests. The information, he said, was gleaned from tapped telephone conversations between the Dubai-based Thaksin and his Thailand-situated allies. The US Embassy has neither confirmed nor denied Suthep’s claims.
/>UDD representatives were known to have developed close ties with certain Bangkok-based US diplomats, winning invitations to certain embassy social events and private dinners. Many in pro-government circles were peeved last year when ambassador John’s wife dined in public at the Four Seasons hotel with Thaksin’s former wife and business partner, Pojaman Pombejra.
/>That warming trend cooled in March when the UDD rallied briefly in front of the US Embassy, demanding an explanation about Suthep’s intelligence claims of planned sabotage.
BP: Well, am not so sure that the warming trend has cooled. Thanong then provides a completely different perspective in The Nation:
US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell yesterday met with red-shirt protesters before applauding Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s road map, unveiled last week as a peaceful way to end the country’s politi-cal turmoil.
/>Campbell met key figures from the opposition such as Pongthep Thepkanjana, Chaturon Chaisaeng and Noppadon Pattama. Pongthep and Chaturon are former Cabinet ministers banned from politics for five years under a court order, while Noppadon is a lawyer who is now spokesman for the Shinawatra family.
/>”More than 10 Democrats were also invited to attend the breakfast meeting, but none of them went. Foreign Minister Ka-sit Piromya and government spokesman Panitan Wattanaya-gorn also declined the invitation,” a political source said.
/>Campbell said he came to Bangkok not to mediate a break-through or back any outcome.
/>”Even though Thailand is going through a difficult period, there is reason to be encouraged by efforts from all sides to bridge the differences between the government and the UDD (DAAD) protesters and to negotiate a fair and endurable compromise,” he said.
/>”We strongly welcome the PM’s road map for national reconciliation and commitment for holding new elections. We’re also encouraged by the UDD’s positive response to the road map and hope that its leaders will seize this opportunity to responsibly and expeditiously lead Thailand out of its current predicament.”
/>Campbell’s statement reflects Washington’s support for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)’s campaign. Missing from his speech was any mention of the US position in regard to armed elements within the red shirts, which have been battling the Abhisit government and blamed for recent violence in Bangkok.
BP: UDD believes the U.S. Embassy is against them; Thanong (English translation of ASTV Manager/PAD) believes Washington is supporting the reds. Well, where does one start? Unfortunately, it is not possible (as both Crispin and Thanong demonstrate) to source this openly so will do the same although I am slightly constrained in what BP can pass on. What BP has heard is that the Americans have been strongly pushing, since Sukhumbhand met Thaksin in Brunei a few weeks ago,* for the road map and for both sides to accept.
Now, possibly concerned that it is stalling and there is opposition on both sides to the road map, Campbell has arranged a meeting and the Democrats didn’t turn up (would hazard a guess that the PAD are the reason why).
Will say this, if the U.S. did provide information about a telephone conversation that Thaksin had with people in Thailand to the Thai government, they are unlikely to be providing further information since Suthep immediately went to the press that they had received information from the U.S.. If you are the U.S., do you want provide information to a government that leaks to the press and then names you as the source? Hence am sceptical that the U.S. or other governments are providing ongoing information to the Thai government.
*Crispin doesn’t name Sukhumbhand, but just refers to someone from the government meeting in a southeast Asian country based on what heard prior to Crispin’s story (it is Sukhumbhand and it was Brunei), for a political solution. After the Sukhumbahand-Thaksin meeting both sides moved closer together. Understand that there was not a firm agreement as to all the conditions, but more that both sides were aware what was on the table and both sides were much closer on to when an election would be held. Hence, why both sides seem close they’re not right there yet.