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Yellow-Shirt Mob Seizes Bangkok's Int. Airport

Yellow-Shirt Mob Seizes Bangkok's International Airport


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The victory by mobs wearing royalist yellow shirts, who easily seized Bangkok's glistening international airport and blocked thousands of arriving and departing passengers, is a calculated gamble to see who can provoke the most bloodshed or misery.

If Bangkok's Buddhist-dominated, elected government responds with violence, the protestors can continue to falsely portray themselves as non-violent martyrs suffering under a brutal regime.

If Thailand's U.S.-trained army unleashes another coup, the military would be cheered by the anti-government protestors, but condemned by many others for reviving the goals of a September 2006 coup which installed a stumbling junta for 15 months, wrecked the economy, and failed to obliterate their elected enemies.

The mobs have been looking for valuable, life-supporting targets to strangle, hoping their quasi-insurrection will cause mild-mannered Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's government to implode.

For the past few months, the government reluctantly allowed the mobs enough rope, expecting they would hang themselves by irritating the public, after scaring investors, tourists and ordinary Thais who prefer polite obedience.

"The anti-government protesters could be making the same mistake as Napoleon, who decided to invade Russia and suffered a devastating defeat," said Thanong Khanthong, editor of the Nation newspaper.

"Napoleon's armies could seize the territories, but they could not occupy them for long. If the situation continues, the protesters could run out of steam." A leading Marxist at Chulalongkorn University, Associate Political Science Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, was more blunt: "Bangkok International Airport has now been closed by Fascist thugs," Giles said.

"Thai airports are controlled by the Thai military. It is obvious that the Thai military, who staged an illegal coup in 2006, have quietly supported" the protests.

The mobs "want a dictatorship to replace democracy, because they deem that the majority of the Thai electorate are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote." Prime Minister Somchai may be inhibited from cracking down on the protests after Army Chief Gen Anupong Paojinda advised in October: "No government can survive after the spilling of people's blood, because society can never accept this." On Wednesday (November 26), Anupong vainly suggested the government hold fresh elections, and the protesters simultaneously disband.

Virtually every day, Anupong vowed he will not lead the military to stage another coup.

"The term 'the military' does not only mean the army chief," First Army Chief Lt Gen Khanit Sapitak ominously warned on Tuesday (November 25), prompting speculation that the armed forces could launch a coup without Anupong.

"The First Army commands the forces that can most easily be used to stage a coup in Bangkok," noted Wassana Nanuam, a reporter and author on military intrigue.

One government loyalist, much-feared army specialist Maj Gen Khattiya "Seh Daeng" Sawadipol, meanwhile taught vigilantes to secretly tackle the yellow-shirted mobs.

Seh Daeng even warned his daughter about her rebellious support for the protestors, because he advocated attacking them.

"I told her if she was there, she had to take care of herself. I can't help it if she is hit by a bomb or an RPG," Seh Daeng said, referring to scattered explosions and rocket-propelled grenades which have bloodied protestors this month, including 12 people on Wednesday (November 26).

"The nation is more important than a daughter. I can reproduce another child, but the country cannot be reproduced," Seh Daeng told the Bangkok Post.

The men, women and children who protest are sometimes gleeful, dancing, or pedestrian.

But their tough young men occasionally use guns, knives, clubs, slingshots and other weapons to assault police and civilian opponents.

They have occupied Government House since August, prompting the prime minister to meet his cabinet elsewhere.

The international airport was seized on Tuesday (November 25) initially to prevent Somchai's arrival from a conference in Peru.

When Somchai veered in mid-air to land in Chiang Mai, in Thailand's north, the protestors kept the international airport, to globalize their complaints and cause maximum havoc.

"We will gather at the airport until Prime Minister Somchai resigns," said Panthep Wongpuapan, a spokesman for the deceptively named People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protestors, who do not want elections.

The PAD demands politicians be appointed instead.

They have been supported by elements among Bangkok's wealthy elite, middle class, academia, monarchists, media, armed forces, and business community, and opposition Democrat Party.

The PAD also wants to root out all political allies of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, because he won three elections empowering his five-year administration until the coup.

Much of Thaksin's support comes from the countryside, where poor people enjoyed his cheap health care, easy credit and other give-aways.

Thaksin is currently an international fugitive, after a court sentenced him and his helmet-haired wife, Pojaman, to three years in prison for corruption.

When England recently stripped the billionaire couple of their visas, because of their prison sentences, Thaksin said London "forgot about democratic values," though his three adult children were allowed to stay.

*************

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism, and his web page is http://www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent

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