Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Karen leader says inexperience responsible for defection

(DVB)–A senior member of Burma’s principal armed opposition group has said that inferior military and political experience was responsible for the recent defection of the son of a former group leader to the government.

Nay Soe Mya, son of the late Karen National Union leader, Bo Mya, absconded from the KNU in March, along with 88 other KNU members.

Reacting to a television interview in which Nay Soe Mya explained his reasons for leaving, the KNU joint secretary (2), Pado Saw Hla Ngwe, said his inexperience was responsible.
“We have always regarded Nay Soe Mya as a child to us since his military and political experience and general knowledge stood around that level compared to ours,” said Saw Hla Ngwe.

“[He] is only a black sheep who senselessly speaks of things because he doesn’t understand them.”

During an interview with the state-run MRTV, Nay Soe Mya said he was taking steps to realise his father’s plan for national reconciliation by switching to the government’s side.

Saw Hla Ngwe said however that it had always been the KNU’s aim to have its own federal government in Karen state, and would not accept any alternatives.

The military government has stepped up its attacks on armed ethnic opposition groups in an effort to bring them under its ‘legal fold’ and deny them self-governance.

“Nay Soe Mya stayed close to his father before his death and I don’t understand how he still could misinterpret what the old man told to him,” said Saw Hla Ngwe.

Reporting by Thurein Soe

READ MORE---> Karen leader says inexperience responsible for defection...

Junta Trying to Erase Non-Burman Identities, Say Ethnic Groups

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s military junta is carrying out a policy of “Burmanization” in areas under its control, using land confiscation and intermarriage, sometimes by force, to dilute ethnic identities, according to a new report by three exiled ethnic groups released on Tuesday.

The joint report, by three groups representing Burma’s Arakan, Mon and Pa-O ethnic minorities, accuses the country’s ruling generals of “looking to tighten their grip on power is through their policy of ‘Burmanization.’”

“As a greater number of troops are deployed in the border regions populated by the ethnic minorities, many soldiers move their families onto land confiscated from local villagers or are encouraged to marry local women,” said the report.

In some cases, the report claims, ethnic women are pressured to marry soldiers as a means of escaping destitution.

Titled “Holding Our Ground: Land Confiscation in Arakan & Mon States, and Pa-O Area of Southern Shan State,” the report was co-written by the Thailand-based All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress (AASYC), the Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO) and the Mon Youth Progressive Organization (MYPO).

The report also claims that Burmese authorities award business contracts in their areas to soldiers, while businesses owned by local people are shifted into “the hands of regional and local authorities.”

The groups also said that in Burma, laws ban teaching ethnic languages “in order to promote Burmese as the only language.”

Such measures are part of the junta’s ongoing efforts to dilute the culture of ethnic minorities and spread the influence of the majority Burman race, the report stated.

The three ethnic groups also pointed out how military installations in Burma affect land confiscation in their areas.

“As long as the expansion of the military in ethnic states of Burma continues, land will be forcibly confiscated with little or no compensation being given to the owners,” they said in the report.

According to the report, land seized by the army is used both for military purposes and for state-run projects such as farms and other businesses operated by military personnel.

The report claimed that the military has seized more than 7,600 acres of land in Mon State since 1998 and more than 1,100 acres in Arakan State in the past five years.

The report did not include the situation in Arakan State’s Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, which are predominantly inhabited by members of the Rohingya Muslim minority group. Aung Marm Oo of the Arakan group, the AASYC, one of the co-authors of the report, said he did not include the Rohingya areas because it is a “sensitive” issue.

The Irrawaddy could not verify the facts and claims in the report with independent sources. However, a Shan independent researcher on development in Kachin State and northern Shan State recently said that ethnic language schools were allowed in areas controlled by the ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organization and the Shan State Army- North.

READ MORE---> Junta Trying to Erase Non-Burman Identities, Say Ethnic Groups...

Attack on NLD Leader Raises Questions

The Irrawaddy News

The recent attack against a National League for Democracy (NLD) leader has raised questions about whether the assault was politically motivated and could be part of a systematic campaign to strike fear into the opposition movement ahead of the 2010 general elections in Burma.

On April 16, an unknown attacker reportedly entered the garden of Thein Nyunt, 65, an NLD spokesperson and elected Member of Parliament in the 1990 elections. His family members said that he was beaten with a baton and suffered injuries to his forehead, back and hands.

Nyan Win, head spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he doubts the assault against a veteran member of the party was a random attack.

“We do not know who is behind this incident. But, when NLD leaders and members are attacked like this, it forces us to consider that there may be a systematic campaign to suppress us,” said Nyan Win.

He added that attacks against opposition members were not the solution to the political conflict in Burma.

Thein Nyunt is not the first NLD leader to be physically attacked and hospitalized. Since 2003, at least 11 physical assaults against NLD members or political activists linked to the opposition have been reported, including an attack against Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

In May 2003, Suu Kyi’s convoy was attacked in Depayin in Sagaing Division by a group of thugs, thought to be members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and its militia, the Swan Ah-shin.

In 2006, Thet Naing Oo, an activist who actively participated in the national uprising in 1988, died after he was beaten by riot police.

In June 2007, Than Lwin, an elected member of parliament, was punched in the face by an unknown assailant wearing steel “knuckle-dusters.” His nose was broken and he later lost one of his eyes.

In March 2008, prominent social activist, Myint Aye, who is a leading member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters group, was beaten up and required five stitches.

And last April, Tin Yu, a member of the NLD in Hlaing Tharyar Township, was attacked by unknown assailants carrying batons as he walked home from a bus stop. He was admitted to hospital where he required 50 stitches in his face.

READ MORE---> Attack on NLD Leader Raises Questions...

Expansion of military forces citizens off land

21 April 2009

(DVB)–Fertile farmland is being confiscated by the government and converted to army barracks, outposts and training sites as Burma’s military increases in size, says a report released today on land confiscation in Burma.

Forced land confiscation without compensation has caused widespread problems throughout the country, says ‘Holding our Ground’, which focuses on Arakan State, Mon State and the Pa-O region of southern Shan State.

“The main reason for land confiscation is the need to feed and financially support increasing troop numbers”, explains Aung Marm Oo, chief author of the report.

Army personnel now number 490,000, having more than doubled in size since 1989. Troops are expected to produce their own food and obtain basic living materials.

The report cites a Global Witness investigation in 2003 which found that army personnel steal food and other resources from areas close to their bases.

“Generally villagers receive no compensation for lost land,” Aung Marm Oo said. “They can go and complain to the village headman, but they get no assistance from township authority.”

Victims of land confiscation have faced drastic problems such as food and water shortages, and often are unable to educate their children or find work.

Further reasons for land confiscation include government development projects, says the report.

“For example, for the Sittwe to Yangoon highway a few years ago government confiscated large amounts of land,” said Aung Marm Oo.

These projects often use forced labour and have disastrous environmental effects in many areas.

Land is increasingly being confiscated to grow biodiesel crops such as jatropha or castor oil plants to fight rising oil prices.

The government has stated their intention to plant eight million acres of the plant within three years, with each state or division, regardless of size or suitable land, required to plant 500,000 acres.

A report released earlier this month by the Lahu National Development Organisation cited China’s insatiable hunger for rubber as another reason for the increase in land confiscation, as large tracts of land are being converted to rubber plantations.

Burma cultivated 302,000 hectares of rubber in 2006; the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation stated their aim to increase that by a further 100,000 acres last year.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

READ MORE---> Expansion of military forces citizens off land...

China ramps up support for Burma

(DVB)–Asian business leaders and heads of state wrapped up talks on the economic crisis last week with China pledging further economic support for Burma, reported a state-run newspaper today.

Senior Burmese government officials, including Prime Minister Thein Sein, flew to China last Wednesday to meet with the Chinese premier, before attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2009.

Around 1600 business leaders and heads of state attended the conference from 17 to 19 April in China’s Hainan province.

The talks discussed how Asian countries would cooperate to offset the problems of the economic recession.

Prior to the conference, Thein Sein attending a private meeting with Chinese premier Win Jiabao in which Wen Jiabao said that the conference would contribute towards strengthening ties between the two countries, reported a Burmese state-run newspaper today.

“The [People’s Republic of China] stands by [Burma] in its drive for stability, economic development and national unity,” it said, adding that the two touched upon the success of China’s economic investments in Burma.

Thein Sein also met with leading Chinese industrialists prior to the conference, including chairman of the China National Petroleum Corporation, Zhang Jialin.

Last month the two countries signed a deal to pump Burma’s vast natural gas reserves to China’s southern Yunnan province.

Critics of the deal have argued that the construction of the pipeline will lead to land confiscation and increased militarization along the 2000 kilometer stretch of the pipeline.

China is Burma's principal trading partner, and one of only a handful of countries not to adhere to international sanctions against the Burmese regime.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> China ramps up support for Burma...

Making Friends with Tyrants

The Irrawaddy News

Recently, US President Obama has been extending an olive branch to the “axis of evil” and “outposts of tyranny” so loudly condemned by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

At the Summit of Americas last week, Obama said that his administration would take a new approach with one of America’s most outspoken critics, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. In return, Chavez said, “I want to be your friend.”

On Cuba, Obama announced the opening of a new page in history at the two-day summit, offering Havana a “new beginning” in relations with the US.

Since January, Obama has attempted to reverse many aspects of Bush’s foreign policy, promising a policy review and a new approach to relations with countries like Iran, North Korea and Burma.

However, critics have noted that Obama’s new approach faces some serious challenges. This became abundantly obvious when North Korea recently fired a long-range rocket in violation of United Nations restrictions and an Iranian court sentenced a US journalist to eight years’ imprisonment on charges of spying for the US.

What about Burma, designated by the Bush administration as one of the “outposts of tyranny,” along with Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe? Will the Burmese junta prove to be as difficult to crack as some of the world’s other despotic regimes?

Even before Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, three representatives from the Democratic Party reportedly traveled to Rangoon to meet with Burmese intellectuals and government officials there.

The purpose of the trip was to sound out the Burmese perspective on US policy, particularly US sanctions.

In February, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out about the Burma policy review during her East Asia trip. She said neither sanctions nor engagement had succeeded in bringing about change in Burma.

“Obama and Clinton are looking into changing the Burma policy, but they have not decided anything for certain yet,” said a Washington-based US State Department staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Many people at the State Department feel convinced that Burma will not easily liberalize. Especially after Cyclone Nargis, they felt sure about it,” the staffer said.

In March, Stephen Blake, director of the US State Department’s Office of Mainland Southeast Asia, visited the junta’s remote capital, Naypyidaw. He was the highest-ranking US official to visit the capital in recent years.

Burma’s state-run media reported that Blake and Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win discussed issues of mutual interest and the promotion of bilateral relations. The visit and Clinton’s remarks on Burma stirred speculation and rumors of a policy shift on Burma.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg said at the National Bureau of Asian Research think tank on April 1 that the US was open to setting up new “flexible” frameworks similar to the six party talks on North Korea’s nuclear.

Some analysts said that a six-party talks program might help to resolve the Burmese crisis, but pointed out that the same arrangement has so far failed to solve the situation in North Korea.

The generals in Naypyidaw are eager to improve relations with the US. The trouble is that Burma still holds over 2,100 political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, and there are no signs that the regime is going to free prisoners and embark on genuine political reforms.

The US is concerned about the detention of political prisoners and the long sentences imposed on monks, relief workers and others who engaged in non-violent dissent, said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University, Japan Campus.

But one of arguments for changing the US policy is to balance China’s growing influence in Burma, which occupies a strategically important position in the Indian Ocean region. Some observers said that Washington’s two decades of distant relations with the regime in Burma under the principle of democracy and human rights has pushed Burma into Beijing’s sphere of influence.

On the other hand, many critics and observers are still skeptical of Obama’s policy review on tyrannical regimes and warned that the US’s softly, softly approach with tyrannies such as Naypyidaw, Pyongyang and Khartoum may only serve to legitimate brutal dictators.

“America should engage Burma, but it should not engage in wishful thinking,” wrote Desmond Tutu, a South African anti-apartheid leader who has become one of the staunchest international critics of the Burmese junta, in an article that appeared in The Washington Post on Monday.

“Nothing in our experience suggests that offers of aid will cause Burma’s generals to change course; unlike some authoritarian regimes, this one seems to care not a bit for the economic well being of its country.”

READ MORE---> Making Friends with Tyrants...

Resentment of reds and the challenge of reconciliation

By ML Nattakorn Devakula

(Bangkok Post) - It is often difficult to comprehend or even sympathise with what looks on the surface to be nothing more than barbaric acts of terrorism. Nonetheless, for a sustainable national reconciliation process to get under way, now is a critical time to understand - especially for those wearing yellow - why the reds acted the way they did.

This is not to justify the setting ablaze of buses and holding people hostage using gas trucks; this article is meant merely to console the hearts of the fighting reds and to get the yellow shirts to find it in their hearts to seek a resolution to the ongoing political conflict.

The Thai Rak Thai party won three consecutive general elections by a landslide. Thaksin Shinawatra, through these indisputable mandates, became champion of the poor - not seen since the days of Field Marshal P Pibulsongkram.

Revelations later, during recent Thaksin phone-ins - true or not is immaterial - convinced his followers that there was tremendous and unnecessary meddling from those close to the palace, some of which was from extremely influential privy councillors.

To Thaksin's loyal supporters, general liberal pro-democracy activists and political ideologues, the accusations of the meddling - even without evidence - only confirmed a deeply-rooted sentiment already suspicious of oligarchic influences, as ever-intervening in the important decisions of their democratically elected governments.

As unsubstantiated as they are, these allegations, emanating from their political spiritual leader, were enough to nurture seeds of doubt previously in place regarding the fairness of such bodies as the privy council, the armed forces and the judiciary, particularly the Constitution Court.

Drawing links between these accusations and the consecutive dissolutions of the highly popular Thai Rak Thai and People Power parties, as well as the still unforgivable Sept 19, 2006 coup and the subsequent shredding of the politician-empowering 1997 Constitution, the anti-aristocracy attitude quickly cemented itself in the mindset of all red shirts. This mindset became the foundation of a hardcore ideological leaning which was the impetus behind the Songkran lash-out and somewhat bloody outcome.

All that has been mentioned would only provide emotional energy for the uprising that we saw during Songkran. Yet, and this is most critical to understanding the resentment of the reds, the tangential point that deepens the red-and-yellow divide came on the April 14 crackdown.

This is not to say that the army-administered dispersal was poorly done because it was not. Proper preventative measures were in place to safeguard the innocent portion of the reds' followers. The deep-rooted resentment came to exist simply because there was any crackdown at all, in contrast to the free rein the armed forces allowed those who wore a different colour a year ago when the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) even more illegally entered Government House and seized Bangkok's two international airports.

As revealed later in a parliamentary session by the then Minister of Interior Pol Gen Kowit Wattana, his officers could not enforce the law in full because he had strong reasons to believe that the PAD mobs were well-connected.

The unshakeable perception, which underlies the argument that there is unfairness from the armed forces possibly due to influences of those close to the conservative establishment, is that preferential treatment has always been given to those wearing the royalists' colour while a less accommodating welcome is handed to those who wear the "communist" colour.

It is not just that there is such an apparent incongruity in the armed forces' treatment of the reds, in comparison to the yellow, both of which having run wild during periods of emergency decree rule.

The allegedly overarching roles of the Constitution Court and the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders have exacerbated the perception that there is indeed a double standard applied to Thaksin-linked and non-Thaksin-linked politicians. There has been no prosecution of a single public office holder of the Democrat party in the last four years. That applies to both the Constitutional Court, the politicians' court, as well as cases under the purview of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC).

Furthermore, the Constitution Court has dissolved the Thai Rak Thai party, the People Power party, the Chart Thai party, the Matchimathipataya party, while the only real major party left standing - not counting Puea Pandin and Ruamjaithai Pattana which are both disintegrating anyway as we speak - is the Democrat party that is currently in power.

Even if the Court's decisions were arrived at fairly and squarely, on the surface the impression of a double standard is more than enough to compel those who may believe otherwise to join the pro-Thaksin camp.

The road ahead for the conservative establishment is clear as well as unavoidable. In this context, the conservative establishment comprises the Constitution Court, the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Political Office Holders, the NACC, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Privy Council, the conservative media and role-playing academics who frequent television studios to serve the royalist fervour.

Their integral role is to prevent the cementing of the definitive battleline of the future. Their role is to bring down the deepened resentment felt among the reds. Their role is to lessen the severity of the grudge held by pro-Thaksin supporters who still number in the millions.

Their challenging role is to bridge the divide between the conservative yellow and the liberal reds so that a road to peaceful reconciliation can be constructed.

There is, to be honest, very little hope that any of the mentioned tasks can be accomplished. Nearly all articles and commentaries in the Thai media at this moment are overly and overtly considerate of the yellow and the royalists' cause.

Just look at the recent mainstream coverage of the Sondhi Limthongkul shootings. Stories involving the newspaper owner are given more air-time than even the Prime Minister, while groundless accusations immediately flew off the pages against those who dared stand against this political media influential.

Is the threatened life of a yellow-shirt leader valued more by the mainstream media than possibly the hidden dead bodies of those who wore red?

Conservatives are ubiquitous; they are trusted by newspaper reporters and respected by television producers. The radio airwaves featuring anti-establishment causes have either been brought down or screened out.

The author personally does not see a route of the type to facilitate a reconciliation as mentioned. In all honesty, what is most likely to happen is a continued stomping down of the liberal voice, the censoring of the anti-Democrat voice, and an ostracising process of any persons or entities potentially linked to the imagined republican cause.

For the sake of the conservative establishment's own survival, the author here truly hopes that he is wrong.

Former Bangkok Post columnist, ML Nattakorn Devakula is a news analyst.

READ MORE---> Resentment of reds and the challenge of reconciliation...

Thai PM: amnesty on the table

In the interest of national reconciliation, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (above with Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban) says that he is seriously considering giving amnesty to all banned politicians.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, right, shares a laugh with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban before attending a meeting at the Democrat party headquarters yesterday. The two were in good spirits after surviving the protests by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship last week. Photo: CHANAT KATANYU

Banned politicians may receive second chance


(Bangkok Post) -Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has brushed aside calls for a cabinet reshuffle but is not ruling out the possibility of pushing for an amnesty for politicians banned from politics.

The prime minister has rejected the idea of talks with convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to end the political impasse, as suggested by leaders of the industrial sector.

Mr Abhisit said he had no intention of changing his cabinet members in the wake of the red shirt riots and complaints from his coalition partners about working with Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu.

Mr Abhisit stressed that any attempts to bring about national reconciliation must be based on righteousness and the rule of law. Granting amnesty to criminal convicts or those facing criminal charges was out of the question.

"I confirm that I'm ready to talk with anyone who acts in line with the law and does not condone violence," the prime minister said.

The government is ready to look at the possibilities of giving amnesty to politicians who were found guilty of political crimes, he said.

Mr Abhisit said certain controversial issues involving political reform and constitution amendments may be put forward for public hearing.

The joint parliamentary session of the House of Representatives and the Senate will be held on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss ways to end the political conflict.

The political reform plan and the proposed constitution amendments are expected to be raised during the joint session.

The prime minister insisted the government would try to do all it could to arrest other United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders who are on the run from police.

He also stressed the government would lift the state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding provinces as quickly as possible.

However, People's Alliance for Democracy coordinator Suriyasai Katasila has opposed the constitution rewrite and amnesty proposals.

He said he did not believe the proposals would bring about national reconciliation. They would further stoke the political crisis. An amnesty would cause public mistrust of the government's political reform, which would be seen as nothing but a compromise of interests among politicians, Mr Suriyasai said.

He said the premier might have been pressured by coalition parties to bow to their demands for the constitution amendments and the granting of an amnesty.

Former Thai Rak Thai leader Chaturon Chaisaeng said the prime minister's amnesty proposal was not genuine.

It was meant only to clear the name of leaders of the PAD, not to solve the political problems, Mr Chaturon said.

He said the PAD had violated the law and damaged the country and should not be treated the same way as politicians who were harassed after the military coup of Sept 19, 2006.

Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul denied his Bhumjaithai party had pressured the prime minister to grant an amnesty to the banned politicians.

He said the proposed charter amendment was one way to ease political tensions.

But Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat, also from Bhumjaithai, said the party disagreed with the amnesty proposal. The party does not support legislation that would only benefit a particular person or a particular group of people.

Government whip chief Chinnaworn Bunyakiat stressed that amnesty must not be granted to those charged with corruption, criminal offences and inciting riots and unrest.

He supported the push for a draft bill on the regulation of public gatherings, saying if enacted, the bill would make it easier for state authorities to handle gatherings without the need to invoke emergency rule.

The government whip will ask political parties to consider and endorse the bill.

Puea Thai MP for Yasothon Peeraphan Palusuk said the party would push for the revival of the 1997 constitution, which was abrogated by the military coup, to replace the present constitution.

All political parties would be asked to hold talks to decide whether to adopt the 1997 constitution in its entirety or only some parts of it.

Mr Peeraphan said Puea Thai had insisted on doing away with some controversial provisions of the present charter which deals with the dissolution of political parties.

READ MORE---> Thai PM: amnesty on the table...

Romance of the Three (Thai) Kingdoms

By Thanong Khanthong
The Nation Blogs

Thai politics has been facing bitter division as it has broken into three rival factions reminiscent of the ancient Chinese classic "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Stability is shaky and the whole country risks being plunged into a state of chaos and dislocations.

In the current Thai version of the Chinese classic, we are witnessing a swift political re-alignment as rival parties -- the Red, the Blue and the Yellow -- have shifted into power play. The Thai version of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" is about to unfold with more violence because no faction has the advantage over the other two.

Since the Monarchy represents the ultimate symbol and is one of the three pillars of stability apart from Nationhood and Buddhism, it stands atop of all the rival factions. The rival factions would like to benefit if not exploiting the Monarchy for their own benefits, making the Monarchy vulnerable to its role of impartiality.

Yellow Kingdom, Red Kingdom and Blue Kingdom

Now let's examine the rival factions in the Thai version of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. An easy diagram is as follows:



Yellow Kingdom Red Kingdom Blue Kingdom

Gen Prem Thaksin Newin/Anupong


Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree if you still want me

In Yellow Kingdom, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council, has been named as the ultimate figure head. The Red Shirts have been attacking Gen Prem for backing the Yellow Shirts.

Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang are the duo-leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy and Yellow Shirt protesters. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Democrats have been lumped into this Yellow Kingdom by way of its political isolation from the pack. The Bangkok and urban middle class and other Thais, who altogether make up about 50 per cent of the Thai population, form the base of the Yellow Kingdom if the latest election outcome is used as the indication.

The Yellow Shirts were responsible for bringing Thaksin down in 2006 when they held rallies and acted as a catalyst for the September coup that year. They charged Thaksin as being unroyal and corrupted, plundering the country for his own and his cronies' pocketbooks. The Yellow Shirts came out onto the streets again last year against Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, deemed Thaksin's nominees.

The rallies lasted more than 100 days, starting with the occupation of the Government House and culminating with the blockage to the Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi International Airports. Both Samak and Somchai lost their job from the rulings of the Constitution Court.

Thaksin and the Red Shirts have been accusing Gen Prem, the Yellow Shirts and the Court as acting in collusion to bring down the democratically elected governments.

Red, red, my eyes are red, crying for you alone in my bed

In the Red Kingdom, we have Thaksin and his Shinawatras, Damapong and Wongsawat as the core centre. Jakrapob and the Three Harded Heads work as party operatives, including most of Thaksin's top advisors who stay behind the scenes.

The police organisation has been a strong ally of Thaksin, including a large faction of the military.

Not all Red Shirts are Thaksinites. The Red Shirt protesters are a combination of grass roots people, the NGOs, the extreme leftists from North and Northeast who do not have faith in the Monarchy, the left-leaning and capitalist academics who appear on TV all the time calling for peace and giving interviews to the foreign press calling for democracy, the outer layers of urban areas of Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.

Not all the Red Shirts are anti-Monarchists; they have been holding rallies because they are frustrated that their voices are not heard and that there is a double standard in holding the Yellow Shirts accountable for their rallies in 2008. Their anger is a manifestation of social inequality or social discrepancies. Thailand is a social conscious society -- not a class system like India or other countries.

Many of them (NGOs and the leftists or children of the October 9, 1976 student massacre) hate or pretend to hate Thaksin. But they conveniently hang on his coat tail to go after the Monarchy.

Their message is double-barrel. "We are for Monarchy, but we're only against the bureaucratic polity." In the Thai words, bureaucratic policy is ammataya thipatai, or a system predominated by bureaucrats.

Some local media on the Red wing include Prachathai and Same Sky. In the international front, Bangkok Pundit and New Mandela, among others, work as a mouthpiece. Editorial writers of international media such as International Herald Tribune (Philippe Bowring), Economist, Wall Street Journal have been pro-Red. Thai academics such as Giles Ungphakorn, Thitinan Pongsuthitak of Chulalongkorn University, Thongchai Winijchakul of University of Wisconsin and those at the Midnight University in Chiang Mai have also turned Reddish for different motivations. The role of Parinya Thewanaruemitkul of Thammasat University's Faculty of Law is also dubious. He went on TV to call for Abhisit to dissolve Parliament while the Red Shirts were burning Bangkok.

Paul Handley's The King Never Smiles is the intellectual bedrock of the Red Shirt movement. Handley argues pathetically that the Thai king is an undemocratic person, who has been doing everything selfishly over the past 60 years just to promote his kingship and maintain his power.

What Handley fails to explain is that since His Majesty the King is undemocratic and has been doing everything to maintain his selfish grip on power over the past 60 years of his reign as he wrote, why then he is so universally popular?

Handley would never understand that His Majesty is the world's greatest king as well as a great Buddhist. And as great Buddhist, he is self-less, something alien to Handley. When you're self-less, you only give and you are happy to be the one who gives. The King only gives. He never takes from the Thais.

Money or public donation to him are diverted for other charity purposes. He lives a simple life and eats very simple food. Only when he attends formal ceremony does he dress like a king or ride on a limousine.

If it is formal, the King treats it as formal. If not, he treats it in a very simple way.

Throughtout his reign, the King has been trying to maintain (thamrong) the survival and continuity of this Kingdom. The word thamrong wai sueng khwam pen chart thai (maintaining that which is the Thai nation) is always on top of his mind.

He has his role to do or to accomplish. We the Thai people also have our duty to do to help maintain peace and the survival of this country.

The editorial writers of the foreign media, particularly the Economist, have been portraying an indirect and direct message that our Monarchy is about to fail the test of time and that the rise of Thaksin or the Red Shirts represents a democratic voice of the people. The Thai Monarchy, it says, is uncertain about its future and succession issue while modernity is knocking at its door.

Another favourite theme to take on the Thai Monarchy is the lese majeste law. Democracy and freedom of expression are raised as an excuse to abolish this lese majeste law so that anybody can label and shower contempt on the Thai monarchy without any responsibility.

The intellectual forces of the Red Shirts have been routinely attacked the 2006 coup. They threw their support behind the Songkran Inferno. They were taking part in a people's revolution so that the Blue Kingdom could finished up the Yellow Kingdom in a coup that they ironically so despised in the first place.

Blue, blue, my love is blue; blue is my love, now I'm without you

The Blue Kingdom is a new emerging kingdom hoping to benefit from the conflict between the Yellow and the Red Kingdoms. As army chief, Gen Anupong is the most powerful man in Thailand because he has the tanks and the arsenals. Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Pol Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan are his allies.

Some members of the Abhisit government, particularly Suthep Thuagsuban and Newin Chidchob, are believed to have sold out their hearts to the Blue Kingdom. In fact, Newin is the mastermind of the Blue Kingdom, which has formed a secret alliance with the Red Kingdom to destroy the Yellow Kingdom so that they could share the loots together.

Before the Yellow Shirts protesters were proud to wear yellow, now you can't spot many of them on the streets. The same thing has happened to the Red Shirts. Now if you wear a Red Shirt, you may be hit in the head by angry Bangkokians.

As we have read the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, there were no permanent enemies nor permanent friends. To achieve the goal of power or survival, a faction might need to befriend its enemies in order to go after a bigger enemy. Once it was able to get rid of the big threat, it could go after its friends or allies for consolidation.

The musical chair of power play took place constantly in order to achieve the final goal of ultimate power.

The Three Kingdom Equation

In the Three Kingdom equation, two kingdoms must form an alliance to rid out the third Kingdom. In the 2006 military coup, the Yellow Shirts and the military (they were totally Green then) formed an alliance to boot out Thaksin (who was not so Reddish as he is now). Gen Anupong played a key military role against Thaksin in that coup.

But as we have witnessed, the Yellow Shirts did not benefit anything at all from the Surayud government. Even more so, the Yellow Shirts attacked the Surayud heavily toward the end of this military regime.

The Three Kingdom equation has manifested itself only clearly after the incident at Pattaya, where the Asean Summit was torpedoed by the Red Shirts. The invasion of the Asean Summit, the attack on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the Interior Ministry, and the Songkran Inferno in dramatic sequential events could not have taken place without tacit police, military and big-time politicians' support.

In this political intrigue, the Red Kingdom has held an alliance with the Blue Kingdom to destroy the Yellow Kingdom. Thaksin has to swallow his pride by finding it necessary to form an ally with Gen Anupong and Newin Chidchob.

He already has the police forces in his pocket. Thaksin can only prevail over the jail sentence and reclaim his Bt76 billion assets in Thailand through a military coup. But he prefers to call it "people's revolution."

Thaksin has been mad at Gen Anupong, who was his classmate at the military cadet school. Gen Anupong's firm stand against enforcing the State of Emergency during the Samak and Somchai governments led to the collapse of both.

Newin was one of Thaksin's proteges in the northeast. Both Gen Anupong and Newin betrayed him respectively in the 2006 coup and in the rise of the Abhisit government in December last year. Newin's switch was crucial to Abhisit's premiership.

Newin backed Thaksin before and betrayed him. He backed Abhisit in December and now he appears to be betraying Abhisit. Newin can't afford to let the Oxford man to shine in the political sky for too long.

The Yellow Kingdom might or might not be aware of this intrigue. Only after the Pattaya Summit debacle did the Yellow Kingdom start to formulate a defence strategy before adopting a full-fledged offensive drive.

Security forces of 5,000 police and military strongmen could not stop several hundred Red Shirts from ambushing the Royal Cliff Beach Resort and Hotel. The access to the hotel could only be reached via three routes. Suthep did nothing to prevent the Red Shirts' attack, although he was deputy prime minister in charge of security affairs. He could be assuming a pak wa ta khayip (say one thing but blink the eye to signal another message) mode.

When Abhisit went to announce a state of emergency at the Interior Ministry on April 12, 2009, he was almost killed by an angry Red Mob. Abhisit had his full trust in Suthep as if they were sworn brothers. With the Red Shirt ambush, Abhisit was then pronounced dead politically. He would be purged over the next 24 hours.

The D-Day would be Songkran Day, when Neptune manified its dark influence over the sky of Bangkok.

But Abhisit moved quickly to control the situation. With the aid of some old veterans and military advisors, he formed a specal command centre. With the emergency decree, he subdued the military factions controlled by the Blue Kingdom.

The Yellow Kingdom has taken control over the military, which amounted to a counter coup.

The military from the Blue Kingdom could not move as the Yellow Kingdom brought in provincial troops from Lop Buri, Karnchanaburi and Nakhon Rachasima to quell the Red Shirts riots.

The foreign media, such as BBC, used the term military loosely because they were not aware who controlled the military at any point of time. They blamed the military for double standard. For the military (under Anupong) failed to go after the Yellow Shirts but it (not under Anupong this time) took harsh measures against the Red Shirts protesters in Bangkok.

Anupong did not play any role in the quashing of the Red Shirts on Songkran. He was sidelined, as seen on TV when he was left to sit far from Abhisit.

Manager online indicated that most of the Red Shirt protesters at the Government House were relatives of the police, completely bought out by Thaksin. The Red Shirts protesters at the key 35 traffic points in Bangkok were professionals because they were capable of bombing and blasting the capital.

By subduing the Blue Kingdom, the Yellow Kingdom was able to mobilise special military forces from the upcountry to quash the Red Shirt terrorists in the capital (the Red Shirt protesters at the Government House were not terrorists). The general media failed to differentiate between the Red Shirt terrorists on the streets of Bangkok and the more peaceful Red Shirt protesters at the Government House.

Both the Blue Kingdom and Red Kingdom were outsmarted in the last minute. After removing the Red Shirts terrorists who plundered the capital from the streets, the Yellow Kingdom pressed on to disperse the Red Shirt crowd at the Government House.

The security forces threatened with tough measures, beginning with tear gas, followed by water spray and baton fight. The Yellow Kingdom would not allow the Red Shirt to stay at the Government House because the situation was on the edge of a breakdown.

Sensing that the Yellow Kingdom meant business, Veera Musikapong, one of the leaders of the Red Shirts, could only throw in the white towel. He was not prepared to die for any cause, so were most of the Red Shirt protesters there. He abruptly dispersed the crowd and gave himself in.

Besides, the money suddenly stopped flowing as the Red Kingdom realised that the Blue Kingdom had screwed up the scheme.

Thaksin was mad. Thaksin in his nightly video calls from the unknown country had said he wanted the red shirts to
win in 3 day - an ultimatum. He also made a slip, where he even looked stunned after, by saying: "Just let me become Prime Minister one more time. You won't have to line up anymore, to collect your 500 Baht".

He lost the Songkran bet even larger when Lehman Brothers collapse wiped out his investment in the financial markets.

He had been willing to bet 1,000 to 1 that he would prevail on Songkran so that he could return home in triumph. He had thought the Yellow Kingdom was cornered and was virtually in no position to fend off the attack from a combination of the Blue Kingdom and his Red Kingdom.

As it turned out, the Blue Kingdom was disarmed so that it could not finish up the task of the people's revolution after the Red Shirt riots.

Thaksin has threatened to continue his fight on the ground and underground. His lieutenant, Jakrapob Phenkhair, has also vowed to fight underground until the Red Kingdom prevails.

During the upheavals in Bangkok, he quickly ran away to Koh Kong to seek a refuge when he realised that the Red and Blue Kingdoms were doomed.

That was the first episode of the battle of the Romance of the Three (Thai) Kingdoms. The battle is expected to continue in the ensuing months. The Yellow Kingdom is holding the advantage. Abhisit's premiership is rising in stature, although he is still very vulnerable to further attack.

The present episode the battle of the Romance of the Three (Thai) Kingdoms started last Friday when a group of gunmen attempted to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the Yellow Shirts, to complicate the political situation.

Fortunately, Sondhi has narrowly escaped death. He is now recovering fast after a surgering on his skull to remove pieces of iron scraps.

The assassination attempt on Sondhi sends out a strong signal that the battle is far from over. The polarisation continues to worsen.


The Monarchy and us

The Monarchy is the Monarchy, both as a powerful concept that represents what Thailand is and always have been at least over the past more than 700 years since the Sukhothai era; and as a institution that brings together the Thai tradition, culture, social, political and Buddhistic beliefs.

Dr Sumate Jumsai, the well-known architect, has once told me that he is a monarchist -- not a royalist.

There is a big difference between these two words. A monarchist is a believer and one who has faith in the Monarchy as a conceptual and structural system that embodies all the values that are Thailand, or Suvarnabhumi which is the Land of Gold. A royalist is one who is loyal to Royalty. A monarchist embraces Monarchy in a universal sense, whereas a royalist might approach the Monarchy as individuals in a particular sense.

This has given rise to widespread misconception that the Privy Council, of which former prime minister, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda is president, is the Monarchy. In fact, the Privy Council is only another functional agency that serves the Monarchy. The Privy Council is not the Monarchy -- not even close.

The Privy Council gives counsel to His Majesty the King, who has the prerogatives to take or not to take those advices into his consideration. The Crown Property Bureau is not the Monarchy. It is a public institution, whose role is to manage the assets of the Monarchy which is itself an ultimate public institution of the highest reverence.

And the Yellow hirts are just yellowish, they are not the Monarchy.

Thaksin Shinawatra and his Red Shirt supporters have been trying, knowingly or unknowingly, to link the Privy Council to the Monarchy. They have been attacking Gen Prem as the mastermind of the 2006 coup and by extension giving an impression that His Majesty the King had been behind it all. Another disinformation that has been spreading out to the local people and foreigners is that since the Yellow Shirts held rallies in the past with pictures of His Majesty the King, they were working with the instruction from the King.

Thaksin's latest interview in the Financial Times no longer held back any restraint. He fabricated a charge that the King had held an assembly of Gen Prem, Gen Surayud Chulnanont and other privy council members and the military before approving a the 2006 coup. There is not a grain of truth in this fabrication because this incident did not take place. Thaksin based his charge on the account as related to him by Gen Pallop Pinamanee. So Gen Pallop must come forward to clarify the matter.

As the matter of fact, His Majesty did not personally approve the 2006 coup, neither did he approve the 1991 coup against the Chatichai government. But since the coup was a fait accompli, the King had to give his endorsement to keep the country moving otherwise there would be a vuccum in the administration of the country (no government and no new legitimate government turns into a state of political void and chaos).

His Majesty plays by the rules to keep the country from falling apart, although several times he personally does not approve the legislations or the coups but he has to give them the endorsements to keep things moving.

As he strictly plays by the rules, he is universally respected. So when there are no rules or cases of unprecedence, he speaks out or gives his opinions. And when he speaks, the Thai people listen to him because they trust that his opinions are meant for the best of Thailand.

The King is at times called Phor Luang, or the Royal Father. This term can be traced back to the Sukhothai era. Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng was a Suthothai King. But his relationship with the subjects was like father governing his children. The Thais know deep in their heart that Phor Luang would never mean anything bad for Thailand. Phor Luang is selfless. He is not a divine king, a demi-God or Devaraja (Indian or Hindu concept) as Paul Handley's The King Never Smiles, Giles Ungphakorn or most foreign correspondents like to say, although most of the royal or religious ceremonies associated with the King are influenced by Brahminism. But rather His Majesty is a Phor Luang or Prachao Phaen Din in the tradition of the Pho Khun in the Sokhothai tradition.

King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, who rules like a father looking after his children, represents an ideal concept of Thai kingship.

As a Phor Luang or Prachao Phaen Din, the King practices the 10 virtues of Kingship. Since he has been accumulating his virtue or good deeds in the past and present lives, he will be born again as a higher being. This is the reincarnation of the human life. The ultimate aim is to become the Enlightened One as the Lord Buddha so that one can break away from the cycle of life and death. The Devaraja concept of His Majesty is wrong because Devajara is still subject to the cycle of life and death.

Unfortunately for Thailand, recent political upheavals have tried to destroy this unique feature of the Thai political system, in which the Monarchy is an integral part. Thailand has the most unique political system in the whole world, with the Monarchy as the ultimate symbol and stabiliser of the last resort. But we are about to destroy this sytem by our own hands, our ignorance and arrogance; and by our foolish belief that Democracy in its disguised form and Capitalism will bring stability and prosperity to the country.

The Monarchy has been conveniently branded as belonging to the Elite. Acccording to Thitinan Pongsuthirak in his article in the New York Times, the Thai elite, which consists of Monarchy, Military and Bureaucracy, is only interested in maintainin its power and interest at the expense of the poor Thais. The rise of the Red Shirts is a reactionary force against the elite, which needs to be quashed in order for the majority Thais to fulfil Democracy. This is a simple line of arguments that has been poisoning the mind of the public.

As I have argued, the Monarchy is the Monarchy. Its survival depends on the popular support from the Thai people as a whole. The Monarchy must be judged by its relation with the majority Thais. One cannot categorise the Monarchy as belonging to the same group of the military and the bureaucratic elite. The Monarchy is above the military and the bureaucratic system. If the Monarchy banks its survival on the military and the bureaucratic system, it would not have achieved the universal respect.

The King inherits a Kingdom that has gone astrayed since the 1932 coup. Then King Rama VII, his uncle, was about to embark on land and bureaucratic reform to lay the groundwork for a better economic system for the poor, but the elite and the military were afraid that they would lose their benefits, hence the 1932 coup. Then the global depression was hitting all countries in the world, including Thailand.

The King could have routed the coup makers with an army support from Nakhon Rachasima. But he did not want Thais to kill Thais. He was a gentleman. Like his predecessors, the Thai kings were self-less.

In 1935, when the King sensed that the democracy did not go to serve the interest of the Thais but only served the narrow interests of the military and the small elite, the King abdicated his throne and left the country for an exile in England.

Since 1932, the military and the politicians alternately have been sharing their power. It was not until the 1960s that we began to see the rise of the Chinese-Thai families, whose businesses started to flourish. Now the business and financial sector controls most of wealth of the Thai economy.

The middle-class benefited from the embrace of capitalism in the 1960s, with market opening measures. It was not until the 1980s during Gen Prem era that Thailand began import substitution policy and then exports flourished during the Chatichai administration. Afterwards, smaller companies started to flourish.

But the trickle down policy has never worked. The majority Thais have been left out. Now 75 per cent of the Thai population is having a share of 10 per cent of the GDP cake.

Thailand has found its new wealth at the expense of environmental destruction and the growing disparity of incomes between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural due to the lack of proper planning during the intervening period.

We also have been facing a political overhang in power sharing. The majority Thais do not have any voices or rights in the direction of the country.

Sufficiency economics and Suvarnabhumi (Golden Land)

His Majesty the King has reached out to these underprivileged during his reign. Lately his health has not permitted him to be active in rural projects like in the past. For most of the Thais, they only expect to "pho mee pho kin" or have sufficiently to live and to eat." But the King's efforts alone can't raising the standard living of the living poor, 90 per cent of whose communities are not living sufficiently (they need to have higher incomes).

As the economy grows with global capitalism, the poor Thais are left behind with a wider gap. It will be an interesting scholar study to examine whether modern capitalism destroys the way of the rural Thais or whether the rural Thais fail to catch up with modern capitalism.

The King advocates sufficiency economics as a way to help the rural Thais live sufficiently according to their land and their environment. Once they can live sufficiently on their land and their environment, they can have savings for the future by selling the surplus.

But the system and the values of modernity keep drives the rural Thais away from their communities, resulting in a destruction of their social fabric. The local rich take advantage over them. The rural communities have become weakened further. Social inequality and injustice have been in Thailand long before the Red shirts phenomenon.

In fact, Thailand is one of the richest country in the world in term of resources. It has one of the best weather conditions, with few natural disasters. The Thai rice is the world's best. The Thai fruit is the world's best. The land is fertile and the plants can grow quite naturally. This is Suvarnabhumi, the sacred Golden Land protected by Phra Siam Thevathiraj.

In the Sukhothai period, there was a saying that nai nam mee pla, nai na mee khao (there is fish in the water; there is rice in the farmland). This implies that Suvarnabhumi was a very rich land. The ancient Thais were healthy because they ate fish and rice and vegetable, with all their herbal ingredients. Only later on with the influence of the Chinese did they start to eat pigs and chickens.

Since Suvarnabhumi is quite sufficient in itself and rich in natural resources, the people living on this land will never go poor. Yet we embrace western-style democracy and capitalism without preparing the base for the rural Thais or maintaining our agricultural strength, which is the backbone of the economy.

The value of sufficiency economics and the glory of Suvarnabhumi would only be realised after we witness the collapse of global capitalism, which is starting to happen later this year before spreading out the depression economics in the ensuing years.

The Yellow Shirts vs Red Shirts confrontation is the ultimate consequence of the disparity of the income gap, or knowledge of what is exactly going on and values in the Thai society. Now we still want democracy even though we don't know what it is or how to apply it for actual use.

No matter how perfect our Constitution is, we still will have the politicians in Parliament under the control of Banharn Silapa-archa, Newin Chidchob, Thaksin Shinawatra, Suthep Thuagsuban, Pinij Jarusombat, Snoh Thiengthong, Somsak Thepsuthin, Suwat Liptapalop, etc. They have Parliament and the executive branch in their palms. In political term, whenever we have the election, we say it nicely that finally the voice of the people has been heard because we have cast the ballots. But in reality, the Thai politics is rigged. No matter how we change or reform the politics or even have a coup, the old faces will return to haunt us. Thai democracy is hopeless.

On the other hand, if the majority Thais believe that we should not have the Monarchy, then so be it. If the majority Thais believe that we are blessed with the Monarchy and the rich tradition that no other countries in this world have, then we will continue to have the Monarchy as long as we can. The majority Thais alone will give their final say -- not the pseudo academics, foreign media, human rights advocates, NGOs, Marxists, or even Thaksin.

Some final thought

The dust is up in the air. A disinformation is being fed into the public opinion to give the impression that the Monarchy is no longer relevant to Thailand because its interest is tied to the Elite rather than the people in I-san or the North, who have been living under oppression. This disinformation banks on the existence of the lese majeste law, the 2006 coup, the censorship and the Yellow Shirt phenomenon as a violation of the democratic principles, human rights and the aspirations of the common Thais.

The propaganda is being shot out day in and day out. In the current conflict of the Romance of the Three (Thai) Kingdoms, it is all about power play and money politics. If the Blue and Red Kingdoms prevail over the Yellow Kingdom, the Blue Kingdom could go after the Red Kingdom afterward. The Red Shirt leftists are only pawns. Thaksin might still cannot make a comeback because the Blue would not want him to become their boss. The Blue and the Red are only having a shot-gun marriage, ready to break apart any time.

Still, Thailand is being trapped in the triangle of impossibility.


READ MORE---> Romance of the Three (Thai) Kingdoms...

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