Particularly enlightening was the section on money. Thai women were informed that love and money are seen as separate and distinct concepts in Western society and that if their husbands seem stingy it doesnt mean that he doesnt care. The men, on the other hand, were encouraged to understand that husbands in Thailand are expected to take care of the families of their brides. Its simply a form of gratitude for having raised the wonderful woman they have now married. It seems that sometimes we get so caught up in looking for ulterior motives that we forget some of the basics of human nature.
Since the beginning of time marriage has had a strong economic aspect in cultures all over the world. How long ago was it in the West that a young mans suitability was based on his "prospects" and his ability to keep his bride "in the manner to which she has become accustomed? Many of us announce our wealth every day in the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the places we frequent. And its not unreasonable to suppose that most women would prefer their partners to be reasonably solvent.
Naturally, try to buy a feminist a drink and you might receive a knee to the groin but these are strange times. Many Americans who marry foreign wives do end up getting scammed, cheated or abandoned once her visa comes through but theyve usually invited trouble on themselves. After years of loneliness they often step right off the plane into a bar in Bangkok and start dating the first girl who approaches them.
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Or else they choose a woman half their age who fulfills all their fantasies but who doesnt speak English and who sees them only as a walking wallet. Finding love abroad is mostly about common sense. For a start, youre unlikely to find the woman of your dreams in a bar with girls doing pole dances in the corner. Whether in Colombia, Russia or Thailand, respectable women with serious intentions live normal lives and it takes time to get to know them. You need to be able to speak at least some of the same language and have something in common.
And if you expect her to emigrate, you might first want to live for a while in her country to appreciate what kind of culture she comes from.
And if you get to know her first on an Internet dating site, remember that no one whos honest will ever ask you to send money upfront. And if the first couple of telephone calls go well, jump on a plane and go to meet her — if you discover she has a bad drinking habit and she cant stand your body odor well, at least youll have found out in time. Finding love abroad can be thrilling. Hell, its one of the things that keeps me on the road all the time. But while the average Vietnamese girl might be half the weight of her American counterpart, she may not be able to get your jokes and a festival like Christmas probably wont mean anything to her.
She may cook food youre not used to and hate the weather but hey, at least you probably wont be able to understand what your mother-in-law says. And lastly, before you go running overseas to look for love, ask a female friend if theres any way you could make yourself more attractive before you go. Terrible body odor, drinking before noon and an inability to listen are turn-offs to women anywhere you go. Tom Glaister is the author of children's books www. Join over , subscribers and receive the latest expert advice, consumer news, and recall notices in your inbox.
I was in an internet caf in Thailand last year, trying to work out which continent I should fly to next, when my attention was entirely absorbed by an attractive Thai girl who sat down next to me and logged in. She gave me one of those Thai smiles that could mean anything at all and then concentrated on her correspondence.
I was beginning to wonder if Thailand had its merits after all and couldnt help stealing repeated glances at her. Out of the bars But then the advent of online dating sites meant the American guy could go hunting without having to get out of his dressing gown. Truth as opposed to face saving lies. The key Thai values are 1. Generosity Thais derive self-esteem through giving, helping others 2. Honouring debts 3. Honouring the ultimate debts to, especially, parents 4. Although I have some gripes with the book I think it is valuable for couples as at least a talking point and as a way of "walking in each others shoes" and trying to understand why perspectives and reactions to various things may differ.
For example, a couple may have an argument about something and at the root of it is different cultural perspectives. It says if you are not prepared to compromise your values then you should not go through with your relationship. Most importantly, did it favour Thai values over Western ones? The Westerner must accept that he has to pay dowry, have his girlfriends parents live with him one day and subsidise his girlfriend and her family.
The female author tells the Thai female reader that she must tell her partner how much money she needs but must also be clear with him that she can get it no other way. It explains to her that I paraphrase "although your boyfriend can probably afford the things you ask him for" it is important to him that equal effort is put in. Also, the book tries to explain that Westerners are not all rich and that although salaries in Western countries are higher than Thailand the cost of living is too.
It said a few other things in this vein but I sometimes wondered if the book was an apology for how Westerners should give money to Thais. Did you recognise the values? I think it does mention key Western values though I wondered if some of them were only mentioned as a counterpoint to Thai values but maybe vice versa could be said. Following on from 1 above the one that did strike me most was generosity in Thais.
They get self-esteem from generosity and that is why they might ask you the Farang for things - because they want to make you feel good?? Well, I am still trying to digest this one. It sounds a bit contrived and also I just have not experienced much generosity here - it sounds like an ideal society to be pampered, in fact. This lack, though, is perhaps just due to my own limited experience. How about you - would you agree with this point about generosity and have you experienced it much?
Another thing about the values - saving face. I appreciate that this is important to Thais and should be considered sensitively. I personally have a problem with it as a value - I think saving face to the detriment of truth can be dangerous as well as plain immature. However, my other concern here was the distinction or lack thereof between saving face and just trying to impress the neighbours. An example being Thai families showing off the dowry at a wedding or women wearing gold as a sign of wealth.
That is not saving face. Sometimes the female Thai author threw in comments that, perhaps, misperceived Western thinking or were just pain crass. In a part of the book explaining how important indebtedness to parents is for Thais she says that in the West it is opposite where parents have to take care of their children and have to put up with bad behaviour from them, as duty. She just overdoes it here and doesn't suggest that kids still have to respect their parents in Western countries too. I think she just doesn't get that parent usually feel a responsibility to provide for their children up to a certain age say 18ish.
The most important difference though is that Western parents do not feel their children owe them anything in contrast with Thai families. In the same chapter she says that "your Western boyfriend doesn't understand you help your parents because you want to, not because you have to". Yet elsewhere in the book it mentions how Thai children are inculcated from an early age about their debt to their parents. One good thing about the book is that it is non-judgemental and takes seriously that the male Westerner may have met his girlfriend in a bar.
If that is the case it tries to take the relationship seriously and is sympathetic to especially the bargirl portraying her as often someone from a poor background rather than just the two dimensional gold digger that often seems to be the portrayal. However, again the female author says some strange things. She says that prostitution is not very socially acceptable in Western countries even if you work in a "fancy" club because the woman is losing her autonomy and this is a key Western value.
In my experience, the key reason that prostitution is attacked in the West is due to the objectification of women - but this is not mentioned at all. And there is a part of the book in chapter 5 which is dedicated to spotting "abusive Westerners". There is only mention of bad Westerners here - not bad Thais. And here I cringed when she wrote that an abusive Westerner can be spotted as someone who, amongst other things, expects "sex for free" and doesn't support you or your family advocating that you "drop him" if this is the case.
This made me think that the book was a polemic for Thais to get money and against Westerners rather than something trying to support mutually loving relationships. There is some mention of "Thai Gold diggers" abusing generosity being that parents can sometimes get greedy when asking for level of dowry. I think if it wants to take the bargirl issue seriously it should perhaps mention something about gold diggers there, but maybe that is beyond the scope of the book.
OK, that is enough. In spite of the concerns mentioned above I liked the book and thought it worth reading. As I said, I am still forming my views my GF is reading the book now and would be interested in hearing other people's. It would be especially interesting to hear a Thai person's view or what did your wife or GF think? I liked number 2 rule best for Thais.
I have not read the book so my opion about it may not be completely accurate. But from what you described it sounds like the author is not giving the full picture of Thailand. The Army will take action using every means against any person or group acting in contempt of or being disrespectful toward the monarchy. Note: The Thai criminal code outlaws lese majeste, but there is no legal basis for the Army to take action against those committing that crime. The Constitution specifies, however, that the King concurrently holds the position of head of the Thai Armed Forces.
Government ministries also began making greater efforts to keep criticism of the royal family contained. The ICT Ministry sought the cooperation of website editors in self-censoring content and announced an effort to create an expensive gateway to filter anti-monarchy postings. The MOI directed provincial governors to monitor leaflets and community radio stations for anti-monarchy material….
Comment: The recent move by the ICT Ministry to further scrutinize anti-monarchy Internet chatter reflects a government response to perceived more widespread criticism of the royal family, particularly of the Queen. Operators of websites and other online media are increasingly concerned about measures the RTG might take against them and are self-censoring site content to pre-empt future lese majeste charges.
As a result, critics of the monarchy are finding less open space to voice their opinions, even anonymously — precisely what defenders of the monarchy intend through more aggressive implementation of lese majeste. End Summary and Comment. Yellow :.
The PAD had failed to gather its claimed , supporters, instead bringing only perhaps 24, people on to the streets, many from Chonburi and the southern provinces. They had failed to provoke the police into violence. The military did nothing to prevent the occupation of Suvarnabhumi or to end the blockade which later extended to Don Muang airport too.
Instead, army chief Anupong gave a news conference on November 26 in which he ruled out a coup but once again publicly demanded the resignation of the prime minister. As Nick Nostitz says:. The state was still unable to deal with the increasingly messy situation. Several members of the pro-government forces fled overseas, possibly to prepare a government in exile in case of a military coup. Others planned to go underground, and organize resistance from their strongholds in Isarn and the north.
The government was already a government in exile in its own country, functioning from Chiangmai in the north, where Prime Minister Somchai was based, protected by pro-government forces. It seemed that the security forces were not following government orders, the military were refusing to work with the police.
Twice orders to disperse the protests at the airports were given, preparations were made, but the time passed without any action by the police. On November 28th national police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan was sacked for failing to execute the order to disperse the PAD at the airports…. This was just the kind of national crisis that most Thais believed their king would step up to solve.
That was what they had always been taught. They were to be profoundly disappointed. Bhumibol had tried to intervene in October and had been humiliated, his prestige badly damaged. He had neither the inclination nor the influence to intervene again. Both Prem and Siddhi said such intervention would not happen, and that they would act to protect the King from being dragged into the political crisis.
Prem countered that it was Thaksin who was damaging the monarchy. Siddhi echoed the same themes, while acknowledging that a Privy Council meeting November 26 concluded that the situation would worsen; they feared bloodshed, particularly if the pro-Thaksin redshirts swung into action. Time worked against the PAD, said Siddhi. The best option would be for the PAD to abandon the airports and return to Government House, but he was not optimistic that they would do so. Prem, however, suggested the Court wished to call several more witnesses, and that a decision was not imminent.
In particular, his traditional annual speech on December 4 was keenly awaited. Meanwhile, speculation was growing that the politicized and partial judiciary would once again intervene to break the deadlock: not by insisting on the imposition of basic law and order but by disbanding the PPP for electoral fraud. Appearing genuinely pessimistic, Abhisit denied that he would seek to build majority support in the House for his own potential candidacy as Prime Minister. End Note. He said that he was not willing to rule out the vague, dire predictions from some quarters that Thailand would fall into a state of civil war….
Abhisit remarked that King Bhumibol was in a very difficult position. In years past, the King had remained above the fray and was respected by both sides in a social conflict. Now, however, the pro-Thaksin side was trying actively to make the monarchy appear as though it was a biased participant in the current crisis. Once again, the judges had done their best to undermine Thaksin and his allies. But it remained unclear who would form the next government or whether the Yellow Shirts would now cease their blockade of the airports.
If, as Abhisit predicted, the PAD does not choose this option and the King does not use his December 4 annual birthday message to send a clear signal to end the protest, the stalemate could drag on, with no fixed end in sight. The ruling further eroded the legitimacy and credibility of the courts in the eyes of the millions of ordinary Thais who supported Thaksin Shinawatra. By the end of , a lethal combination of organized street agitation, civil disobedience, paranoid nationalism, hyper-royalist hysteria, calculated military inaction and punitive court decisions finally succeeded in destroying the PPP-led administration.
Bhumibol failed to appear to give his birthday speech on December 4. He decided to hide behind feigned ill health. While there is little doubt Bhumibol was unwell, there was no real reason he could not give the speech. On December 4, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his sister, Princess Sirindhorn, appeared jointly before assembled dignitaries to announce that King Bhumibol was ill and unable to deliver his customary annual address to the nation.
Subsequent official reports from the Palace indicated that the King suffered from a fever and had an infection, but by December 8 his condition was improving and he was able to eat soft food…. The military put enormous pressure on wavering Thaksin allies to jump ship and support Abhisit as the next prime minister. The generals wielded both carrot and stick — legislators were offered large financial inducements to switch their allegiance 40 million baht each, according to Thai media , and the military told them that if they stayed in the Thaksin camp there would be a coup.
The deeply corrupt Democrat Party secretary general, Suthep Thaugsuban, was heavily involved in the negotiations, which focused in particular on the faction controlled by the also deeply corrupt Buri Ram godfather Newin Chidchob, previously a staunch ally of Thaksin. Prawit Wongsuwan. Joining them was then army chief of staff … General Prayuth Chan-ocha. In early December, on the heels of the court verdict, talks began between these soldiers and members of several political parties … as well as several members of the pro-Thaksin Phuea Thai Party to set up an anti-Thaksin ruling coalition.
The three soldiers also contacted the now wavering Thaksin henchman and long-time politico Newin Chidchob — who proved to be less than loyal to his erstwhile patron. Anupong met several key politicians whose loyalty was up for sale, including Newin, at his official residence in the First Infantry Regiment compound off the Vibhavadi Rangsit road on December 6. A key leader of one of the former coalition parties said most parties had moved to the Democrat camp due to a request by a senior military figure, who was conveying a message from a man who could not be refuted.
Besides, he said, all parties knew that if the Pheu Thai were to take over, anti-government protesters would take to the streets again. Another source said that if Pheu Thai did form the next government, the military would definitely have to stage a coup…. However, the decision-making had to be hastened when the ex-wife of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, Pojaman Damapong, suddenly jetted in to Bangkok later that night. The only parties not invited were Pheu Thai and Pracharaj. Former army chief Gen Pravit Wongsuwan and army chief-of-staff Prayuth Chanocha were also at the meeting.
A source said the politicians met Anupong to ask his advice about forming a Democrat-led coalition. The Army chief told them all parties should put the country first, because if the next coalition was the same as the previous one, Thailand would plunge even deeper into turmoil.
The meeting lasted three hours. After that leaders of the Democrats and the four minor parties met the press — two hours late — at the Sukhothai Hotel, and declared their agreement to form the next government. Newin Chidchob had long been a notorious figure in Thai politics. Born in , he was named in honour of the Burmese dictator Ne Win by his father Chai, a former village headman who had established a highly profitable quarrying business. He became a close confidante of Thaksin Shinawatra, due to some particular skills that the prime minister considered invaluable.
And the half-Khmer Newin was also considered highly adept at black magic. Newin seems to have brought two skills which attracted Thaksin. The first was vote-buying. Newin was tried for vote- buying and escaped only on a narrow technicality. At the polls, he was sent to the south to organize wholesale vote-buying with money distributed through the government machinery. It failed after local Democrats taped the proceedings. In the Thai imagination, Cambodia is a source of great spiritual power, and Khmers have access to powerful techniques.
Newin has never claimed any special expertise, but the image clings to him because he is Khmer…. Now, at the end of , Newin Chidchob was betraying his former political master. Their path to government has been anything but honourable, but the ultimate decision will be made by parliament. If the Democrat Party can muster the numbers in parliament, they have a right to form government.
Sure enough, on December 15, parliament elected Abhisit as Thai prime minister. Parliament was back under the control of the elite and Queen Sirikit. From the start, the administration of Abhisit Vejjajiva faced an insurmountable legitimacy deficit. The hypocrisy of the new prime minister and his allies was plainly evident. He was to hang on to power for almost 30 months without going to the polls to seek a democratic mandate.
Abhisit also professed distaste for the criminal actions of the PAD and the interventionism of the army, yet he allowed them to engineer his political ascent. He repeatedly gave pedantic legalistic justifications for his right to rule, utterly failing to acknowledge the understandable outrage of the millions of Thais who had seen their democratically expressed wishes trampled by the so-called Democrat Party.
Abhisit was serious about staying in power. He appeared to view his path to the premiership as entirely legitimate, notwithstanding the roles played by airport occupiers, helpful Constitutional Court justices and the Army commander in preparing that path for him. Realizing the need to focus on being able to win the general elections that would inevitably come, he hunkered down to pursue what he viewed as normal politics….
Even the U. Kasit Piromya was a career diplomat who had fallen out with Thaksin and joined the PAD, giving several ranting speeches from the Yellow Shirt stage. The new cabinet received royal assent on December The Interior Ministry is also immensely powerful, with tentacles reaching deep into Thai society in all regions of the country and extensive ability to manipulate local officials and disseminate propaganda. Chief royal adviser General Prem Tinsulanonda voiced optimism on Sunday in the leadership of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, saying it was fortunate for Thailand to pull out of the political trouble.
Prem said he had no doubts that Abhisit would succeed in putting politics back on course even though he had to overcome so many political hurdles. He said he knew that Abhisit and Cabinet members would have no easy job in facing tough challenges ahead. He wished them every success in striving to serve the country, the King and the people.
Many Thais were utterly incensed at the manner in which a legitimate government had been removed. The reputation of the monarchy had been further damaged. And the mob tactics of the royalists could — and would — be copied by Thaksin too. They did not consider that the other side could copy their tactics. He was sentenced to six years in prison, cut in half to three years because of his guilty plea as is standard practice in Thailand. I love Thailand and respect the royal family.
It was never my intention to offend anyone…. Some prisoners had tears in their eyes, praising a man they regard not just as their king but their father. I may not be Thai, but I am a son, and I know what it means to love a father. I am applying for a royal pardon. I pray the king learns of my plight so I might enjoy his grace. Nicolaides received a royal pardon on February 21, , and was deported to Australia.
Shortly before boarding the flight in Bangkok he had belatedly learned his mother had suffered a stroke during his imprisonment. Month after month, with pride rather than embarrassment, the government would give a new and ever higher tally of blocked sites: the number was soon in the tens of thousands. In , a billboard even appeared around Bangkok showing a smiling Abhisit on the phone. While the political crisis that gripped Thailand the second half of has disappeared from the streets for now, the deep gulf in Thai society and the body politic remains, and the eventual fate of the monarchy is one of the key cleavage lines.
Many of the Democrat Party leaders who have moved into top government positions are cosmopolitan, well-educated people who nevertheless appear to be facilitating growing efforts to clamp down on forms of speech critical of the monarchy. Whether that is primarily out of personal conviction or political advantage, or both, remains unclear. Thailand has a reasonably strong and active civil society, however, that promotes changing societal attitudes towards traditional institutions and behavioral norms; this issue will not be easily swept under the carpet.
Siddhi claimed that anti-government protestors were losing credibility as a result of their actions, such as throwing eggs at their opponents such as former PM Chuan. He suggested the tactics were designed simply to keep the protestors, and by extension Thaksin, in the news.
The Ambassador said he could easily imagine two scenarios for Thaksin going forward: stay abroad and fight, while slowly losing influence here in Thailand; or come back, go to jail, and hope for a pardon as part of a deal. Prem added that Thaksin was a very dangerous man and should be jailed…. The elites in Thailand, who claim legitimacy from the king, are exploiters and blood-suckers. They are not the real owners of society. They should remember that their wealth and status is as a result of the hard work of those ordinary citizens whom they despise.
For the millions of Thais who know all this to be true, it is only fear and intimidation that stops us all from speaking this truth out loud. Meanwhile, Thaksin and the Red Shirts further escalated their campaign to bring down the government. The government was also embroiled in this delicate game, which hinged on claiming the moral high ground of legality, order and non-violence.
Symbol and action, innuendo and accusation were intimately entwined in the play of events, and the first player to be demonstrated as the initiator of violence would lose the moral advantage. On March 26, the Red Shirts rallied again: tens of thousands marched on Government House and set up camp there once more, planning a prolonged siege. They mocked the pretensions and double standards and deceitfulness of the elite, and the fairy tales of Thailand as a united, free and harmonious nation. For the first time, he explicitly accused Prem Tinsulanonda of plotting the coup, and also named Surayud Chulanont and Piya Malakul as key conspirators.
Sondhi [Limthongul] claimed I meant the King. I was not so bold. I was not so bold as to say that. In truth, the person with extra-constitutional charismatic power is General Prem Tinsulanond [Big cheer]. Because General Prem was involved in politics, and the military was involved, we had the coup, the constitution of , and the country has gone backwards by at least 15 years…. That Pa [Prem] descends to play politics, to order this and that, in his role as a person with extra-constitutional charismatic power, is something that destroys the procedures of the country, gives rise to a system of double-standards, gives rise to social injustice.
Pa has no children but children are growing up. They must have a future, must live in a country with a proper system, a democracy that commands international acceptance, and social justice, not a system in which Pa can press this button and that button. On March 30, Thaksin told the crowd that Prem had routinely interfered in military promotions for decades.
Note: We have reported that for years. End note.
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He was breaking one of the unwritten rules of the Thai establishment, airing their dirty laundry in public, and challenging the fables that elite networks created to mask their political meddling. It was a deliberately provocative tactic. I met many PAD guards who I knew from the government house occupation of last year, and who remembered me as well. Abhisit escaped but his driver and some police officers were beaten up. It was a shamelessly cynical performance.
Newin asked red shirted protesters who planned to join in a mass rally on Wednesday to reconsider their decision, saying their leaders had ulterior motive beyond toppling Abhisit government…. You all are being used. On April 9, many Bangkok taxi drivers — who overwhelmingly support Thaksin — blocked roads in the capital in sympathy with the protest. During the years he was allied with Thaksin, Newin had played a key role in arranging street mobs.
Now he was doing the same for his new allies in the Democrat Party, in particular Suthep Thaugsuban. The two men — both supremely corrupt — had been bitter enemies in the s but now were comrades. In Bangkok, Red Shirt leaders on the stage outside Government House announced that transport was available for those willing to travel to Pattaya to reinforce their comrades there. Taxis, vans and buses crammed with Red Shirts began streaming down the highway to Pattaya.
By the morning of April 11, the police securing the Royal Cliff Hotel, where the summit was to be held and most foreign delegations were staying, had been replaced by soldiers, members of the Border Patrol Police militia, and Blue Shirts. As the atmosphere grew increasingly confrontational, hundreds of Red Shirts forced their way into the hotel. Red Shirts stood at the front doors, and suddenly began pushing.
One large glass window suddenly broke, and Red Shirts stood inside the Hotel. I was completely astounded, and let myself be carried with the flow of protesters who streamed into the hotel like an overflowing river. There were bewildered journalists, delegates and observers from many Asian countries watching on.
In between were tourists in swimming trunks. Some Red Shirts stood next to them and snapped pictures with their mobile phones, and the tourists took their images. There was no violence, it was just plain bizarre and surreal. Soldiers ran to protect the entry of the main hotel building; Red Shirts ignored them, walked around and entered through a side entrance, searching for Abhisit.
In general, the protesters were noisy, but very well behaved. The idea behind the setting up of the Blue Shirts was to avoid the security forces appearing to use violence against protesters.
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This concern stems from the fear of the state, after many occasions in past decades when crackdowns have gone terribly wrong… Therefore a militia, the existence of which could plausibly be denied, was set up. Only there I found out that most of the people with me there were soldiers, including many conscripts that did not want to be there. The intelligence screw-up is a notorious factor throughout this conflict. Ground-level intelligence officers are under extreme pressure.
Government ideology says that Red Shirts are bought and paid for by Thaksin Shinawatra, do not truly believe in their cause and are less numerous than they claim. Therefore, when ground-level officers report numbers that seem too high, they will not be believed, and are reprimanded and suspected of being pro-Red. In order to avoid these accusations, many intelligence officers report the numbers that their superiors want to hear. In the case of Pattaya the number given was 1, to 1, Red Shirt protesters, while the real number was in the range of 4, to 5, Enough Blue Shirts were in place to deal with the lower number but they were completely overwhelmed by the true numbers.
The orders to the security forces in uniform not to use violence were the final straw and ensured the day ended in a true mess…. If the government had authorized regular forces to use regular crowd dispersal methods, namely teargas and water cannons, in order to prevent the Red Shirts from coming close to the conference venue, this would have been within what is permitted by international rules, and would hardly have raised an eyebrow among the international media or the delegates, both being used to regular violent protests at similar international conferences.
It is also open to question whether the hotel invasion would have occurred, if the Blue Shirts had not attacked the Red Shirts in Pattaya in the first place. The summit was cancelled. Nine foreign heads of state — including the Japanese and Chinese prime ministers — fled from the roof of the Royal Cliff Hotel by helicopter. It was a humiliation for Abhisit and his government. The focus of confrontation switched back to Bangkok. On April 12, police arrested UDD leader Arisman, provoking immense anger among the Red Shirts over double standards — no Yellow Shirt leader had been arrested over the airport occupation four months earlier.
Later in the day, speaking at the Bhumjai Thai Party-controlled interior ministry, Abhisit declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces too. The prime minister managed to escape the crowd, with security officers firing warning shots in the air. I would like to invite all sides: Let join hands.
The prime minister was haemorrhaging credibility. In response, the government and military leadership launched a crackdown in Bangkok. Several sources suggest that the switch of units was a result of a conflict in the armed forces. The soldiers, in full combat gear, fired repeated volleys of automatic gunfire and also used teargas. Very few journalists were present: those who were commented on the ferocity of the military assault.
Although the military leadership was later to insist that soldiers had only fired live ammunition over the heads of protesters, multiple eyewitnesses confirm that some troops had fired directly at the Red Shirts. The protesters fought back with firebombs, slingshots and rocks. Soldiers were also targeted by sporadic gunfire. Red Shirts set tires ablaze to make barricades against the advancing troops. As April 13 progressed, fighting spread. Red Shirts massed at Victory Monument, and commandeered several buses to use as barricades. Some were set on fire.
Men wearing red shirts threatened to blow up both tankers. Skirmishes also broke out between locals and Red Shirts in several neighbourhoods, some of which were Yellow Shirt strongholds. Unlike in and , the military crackdown of April 13, , did not turn public opinion in Bangkok decisively in favour of the protesters. Although the army assault in the early morning had been very disproportionate, the Red Shirts had lost significant public support because of the violent actions of some of those among them.
The Din Daeng gas tanker incident was particularly damaging. Also, a few Red Shirts carried firearms, and many carried small improvised explosives, clubs, swords and petrol bombs. Several of the most armed and violent elements among the Red Shirts wore black.
Meanwhile, a propaganda battle was being fought on international television between Abhisit and Thaksin, as both tried to spin news coverage to their advantage. Abhisit was the clear victor. In a reversal of their domestic appeal — Thaksin communicates brilliantly with ordinary Thais while Abhisit is aloof and fumbling — the British-educated prime minister was plausible and likeable when speaking in English while Thaksin appeared shrill and unconvincing.
The government-promoted view, which shaped the dominant media narrative of the meaning of the Songkran turbulence, was that the demonstrations and aggressive crowd action were a deliberate effort to seize state power by Thaksin and key UDD allies. They were aimed towards creating public chaos and sowing divisions in the ranks of the military to provoke a coup that would return Thaksin to power.
It is unclear that this was the case, although Thaksin had obviously tried to exploit the events. On April 14, after a tense but relatively uneventful night, and with a decisive military assault on their main camp at Government House expected imminently, the Red Shirt leadership announced an end to the protest to avoid further bloodshed. Abhisit and the military had won, but at the cost of further dividing the county and making their hypocrisy and double standards more obvious than ever.
The military had failed to help either Samak Sundaravej or Somchai Wongsawat enforce the rule of law.
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Now Abhisit and the army brass had overseen the ruthless suppression of the Red Shirts, and arrested their leaders. They believed the Red Shirts were just pawns in a political game being played by Thaksin. There was some truth to this view. Leaked U. We believe that Thaksin, who has been outside of Thailand since August, may be making decisions based on poor quality information, much of which may be provided by persons hoping to win financial support from Thaksin…. As the Army dispersed UDD protestors, we saw no indication of less than full support for the administration.
Just as the establishment had done in , Thaksin was now playing with the lives of his supporters, spreading mayhem and trying to get some of them killed. But this was only part of the story. The rank-and-file Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts were not just pawns following their leaders, they were people who mostly cared passionately about important issues of governance and democracy, and cared enough to take to the streets.
By ignoring the entirely legitimate grievances of the Red Shirts, and a huge number of ordinary Thais who sympathised with them, Abhisit and the establishment totally failed to understand the seriousness of the legitimacy crisis facing the monarchy and the elite — a crisis entirely of their own making. Bhumibol had nothing to say. The king has always hated chaos and disorder, but he also hated Thaksin, and he knew that any attempt to intervene would only demonstrate his impotence.
So he pretended to be ill. Surakiart argued that royal intervention in Thai politics had only taken place — and would only be appropriate — in response to widespread loss of life. Indeed, as the April crisis developed, a former Senate President, Suchon Chaleekure, publicly initiated a petition appealing for royal intervention. In , the King, who was above the fray, brought contending parties before him and ended a period of strife. In , Palace contacts and others privately expressed serious concern to us that the King would suffer a drastic loss of prestige were he to try unsuccessfully to restore calm.
Not only did Abhisit tell the Ambassador that the King was in good health — but an Australian diplomat also told us the King was well, according to a doctor who had seen the King on April There was plenty wrong with this analysis. He had always been a political schemer, and a hostage of the elite.
But the core assumption of the embassy — that Bhumibol was highly unlikely to intervene even to prevent chaos and bloodshed — was plausible. Sondhi Limthongkul, meanwhile, was talking too much. After the coup, Sondhi had been enraged that Prem and Surayud failed to give him credit — or any reward — for his role in toppling Thaksin.
Their biggest mistake after kicking Thaksin out, instead of allying with me and agreeing with me that there is a need to reform the whole country, they look at me as a threat. So they cut me off…. I thought over the year that I fought, certain times almost violently, I almost lost everything that I have, I fought because I believe in this country.
In , Sondhi was again needed by the elite, and became very close to Sirikit. Once again, he felt used and ignored after Abhisit came to power, and once again, he began talking indiscreetly, in particular about his links to the queen. In advance of a recent application for a U. Prawit Wongsuwan was tasked with shutting up the media tycoon permanently. In the pre-dawn darkness on April 17, assassins ambushed Sondhi when his black Toyota minivan stopped at a gas station during his regular morning drive to his office. Gunmen in two pickup trucks shot out the tires and fired more than rounds and at least one M grenade at the vehicle from relatively close range.
Incredibly, Sondhi survived the attack, but suffered a head wound from a ricochet. His driver was more seriously wounded. The grenade missed its target, hitting a bus parked nearby, and the assassins were forced to flee before completing the job.
Predictably, the investigation went nowhere. Four suspects were named, three military and one police officer, but they could not be found. High-ranking police officers have commented in private to me that they have faced massive interference from very high quarters in their investigations, and that they doubt thet can find the people behind the attack. Prem reiterated his previously expressed support for current PM Abhisit as the right man at the right time for Thailand.
While suggesting that Abhisit might not be the best or most talented Premier Thailand has had in comparison to his predecessors note: Prem served as PM from , Surayud from Abhisit, moreover, was genuine in his current efforts to promote political reconciliation. Consequently, the monarchy had lost some prestige; it was important for the royal family not to take any side in a political conflict. Pansak was considerably more direct about the failures of the institution.
And so they thought allowing Newin to outbid Thaksin and giving him a free reign to unleash his dirty tricks would solve the problem. It was more evidence of how out of the touch the elite were, and of their contempt for ordinary people. Thai voters proved much smarter than they expected. The election was widely seen as a test of the influence of both former Prime Minister Thaksin and Buriram politician Newin Chidchob. The election appears to confirm Thaksin retains substantial influence in Thai politics, at least in the upper northeast heartland….
The two candidates and their parties devoted substantial efforts toward their campaigns. Subsequently three U. That said, Phumjai Thai is crucial to the continuing viability of the Democrat-led coalition, and this standing will continue to allow the Chidchob family the means to profit from control of key ministries…. A petition organized by the Red Shirts to ask the king to issue a royal pardon for Thaksin caused further embarrassment to the elite.
Abhisit and his colleagues denounced it as an unacceptable attempt to drag the supposedly apolitical monarchy into politics, which only made them look even more ridiculous. By , Thais were simply not buying this kind of bullshit.