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The Shinawatras will not go down without a fight

Publication Date : 10-01-2014

 

The endgame in our political battle arrives on Monday, when "Occupy Bangkok" begins. Anti-government protesters will "shut down" the capital until caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is forced out of office. At this point, amid Thailand's largest-ever mass demonstrations, the Shinawatras are doomed to lose the battle and eventually the war. But at what cost?

Before we answer this question, let's consider some key elements of the current political saga:

Thaksin Shinawatra, a fugitive from justice, will never see Thailand again now that the amnesty bill has been killed.

The Constitutional Court has blocked Pheu Thai's attempt to exert complete control over the Senate so that it might gain more influence over appointments to independent bodies.

The February 2 election, even if it is held, has been boycotted so effectively that it will not be able to produce enough MPs, including party-list members, to form a new parliament.

The Constitutional Court also struck down Pheu Thai's attempt to amend Article 190 of the charter so that the government could sign international agreements without the approval of Parliament. This ruling prevents the government from handing over the U-tapao military base to the US without an open debate and approval in Parliament. Moreover, it kills Thaksin's reported multibillion-dollar secret oil deals involving international parties in the Gulf of Thailand.

The Bt2-trillion borrowing package, as well as the 350-billion-baht (US$10.58 billion) flood-prevention project, will never see the light of the day as they run into the brick wall erected by the judicial branch.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will be going after the Pheu Thai politicians and others embroiled in the massive corruption of the rice-pledging scheme, the water project, and their seemingly illegal attempt to amend the charter.

The Constitutional Court's rulings have far-reaching implications since government-backed politicians will be charged by the NACC and will not be able to stand in future elections. In one swoop, the governing party has once again been purged.

From the above, it is clear that Thaksin and Yingluck have lost the legal battle. There is no chance that their returning to political power, except via a coup.

Moreover, recent events have shown that the support they enjoyed from both the military and the police has weakened. Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has had a change of heart. After backing the Yingluck government all along, Prayuth this week came out to signal that the military would support the people. He warned a "third party" not to use violence against the protesters. He also said that the Yingluck government would bear full responsibility for any injuries among protesters.

Police Chief Adul Saengsingkaew has also come out to distance himself from the Din Daeng incident, in which a civilian and a policeman were killed during violent clashes in December that also left many others injured. Adul said he was not responsible for giving the order to shoot in Din Daeng, where the Election Commission was organising registration of political parties. Adul also admitted that the black-clad individuals believed to have fired live bullets into the crowd from the rooftop of the Labour Ministry nearby were police officers. Following Adul's remarks, the police forces, traditionally a power base of the Shinawatras, were in disarray as a furious round of finger-pointing broke out. Now, the police might not dare to employ force against the protesters.

But who knows? Thaksin will not yield power until the very end. If he were to lose the war in the upcoming days and weeks, he, the Shinawatras and their cronies will lose their power, and won't be able to make a comeback. Many now fear that violence is unavoidable as the pro-Thaksin camp will come out to defend the government and challenge the Suthep Thaugsuban-led Occupy movement. The latest information suggests it might not end quickly. If that is the case, it might also end ugly.

 

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