THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: October 2-8, 2010
Who could possibly hold a grudge against Newin Chidchob, and why on earth are red shirt leaders being charged with terrorism? Read this week’s chapter of ‘The Bleeding Obvious 101’ for your weekly dose of enlightenment.
The Constitutional Reform Committee completed its proposed charter amendments last week. One of the most significant of the proposals is to end the dissolution of political parties found guilty of irregularities. Instead, guilty individuals will be punished much more severely with political bans of up to 15 years.
Punishing individuals rather than entire parties makes much more sense as the all-too-common dissolution of political parties has hindered the development of a much-needed strong two-party system in Thailand and resulted in nothing more than a never-ending farce of factionalised power plays.
Perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of the old system has been Bhum Jai Thai de facto leader Newin Chidchob, who despite being banned from politics has been responsible for brokering several power deals, and without whom, the current coalition government could not have been formed.
At his 52nd birthday pantomime last week, Newin turned on the tears for the gathered reporters as he announced that one of his old bosses had hired a hit-man to kill him for 20 million baht.
Although Thaksin was not explicitly named, the insinuation was clear. However, Newin has made plenty of enemies over the years and there could well be several dozen people happy to pay for his removal.
As if to underline this fact, it was revealed last week that Newin’s Bhum Jai Thai party was involved in the recent brazen seizure of two parking buildings at Suvarnabhumi Airport by armed men. Apparently, two businessmen had been approached by an aid of the party and invited to invest heavily in a project to manage parking at the airport. However, once they had handed over several million baht, the businessmen were muscled out in a series of intimidating acts that culminated in the armed seizure of the two airport parking buildings and the management offices.
Meanwhile, in the same week that a United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) lawyer called for terrorism charges to be dropped against 19 red shirt leaders and supporters, two major stories broke that severely weakened his credibility.
First came the news that 11 red shirt supporters had been arrested at a suspected militant training camp in Chiang Mai. Based on the confessions of one of the 11, Police claim that the group was being trained in preparation for launching a series of violent acts and political assassinations. Along with 27 other red shirts, the group was believed to have received arms training in Cambodia after fleeing there in the wake of the government clampdown on the Rajprasong protests in May.
The resort owner claimed that they were construction workers.
However, following yet another minor explosion at Thonglor Pet Hospital (a pet hospital, yes, I know!), a far more sinister story also broke early last week when a much larger explosion ripped through an apartment building in Nonthaburi, killing 4 and injuring another 9. It later transpired that the bomber was among those killed in the blast when the bomb he was making went off accidentally.
Samai Wongsuwan, a Chiang Mai native who had been renting an apartment in the building, was also suspected of being responsible for other acts of violence, including planting a car bomb outside the Poseidon Nightclub and throwing a hand grenade at yellow shirt supporters.
Samai had left his wife at their home in Chiang Mai four months ago telling her that he was ‘on a mission’ and that he could not contact her until after his ‘big job’ was concluded.
There are those who would say that Samai received divine justice for his misplaced fervour, but where is the justice for the 3 innocent victims he took with him? And then there are those who would say that Samai is no longer a danger to society, but several others like him remain at large.
While the UDD lawyer refutes claims of terrorism against his clients, the fact remains that, quite simply, those who incite or commit acts of terrorism should be prosecuted under the full force of the law.
Paul Snowdon – October 9, 2010
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