Saturday, January 29, 2011

Frenemies in the streets

Sat, Jan 29, 2011
The Nation/Asia News Network

Chaiwat Sinsuwong appears to be a lonely man lately, though his ambition is to bring together a million people - both yellow and red - to bring Abhisit Vejjajiva down.

Leading a splinter group of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Chaiwat approached some of the red-shirt leaders in jail to sound them out on the idea of a yellow-red merger against the prime minister.

"Their response was positive," said Chaiwat, who was granted bail on Thursday after being detained in connection to the infamous 2008 Suvarnabhumi Airport seizure by the yellow shirts.

"We need an uprising of a million people of both colours, making it the biggest political rally in Thai history, which will put Abhisit away," he said.

Lack of immediate response from mainstream yellow-shirt leaders, namely Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang, might make a mockery of Chaiwat's grand plan. But in Thai politics, if he manages to get some momentum, anything can happen. After all, Abhisit has become the arch-enemy of both "colours", although the mainstream yellow shirts have been considerably less belligerent towards him than Chaiwat's Thai Patriots Network.

Merging both movements is easier said than done, though. The red shirts were born out of proclaimed resentment against the use of "undemocratic means" to force political change, the ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra. The yellow shirts favoured these very "undemocratic means" and yet would not mind if Abhisit were removed from office in the same way.

Analysts say a "tactical" tag team is always a possible scenario for the red and yellow shirts. The reds, who have blamed Abhisit for the bloody crackdown on protesters last year, could focus their anti-government campaign on that. The latter, upset with the way the government has handled territorial conflicts with Cambodia, can concentrate on the border issue. If events evolve into a political hurricane that results in an "undemocratic" removal of Abhisit, the reds would just turn a blind eye the outcome.

Chaiwat is no stranger to some of the key red-shirt leaders. In fact, he fought alongside many during the 1992 uprising against the military. Chamlong was a key leader of that battle, which, ironically, ended military intervention in politics and brought the Democrat Party to power.

Lately, Chaiwat and Chamlong have been drifting farther and farther away from each other. Their estrangement was one of the main reasons the Thai Patriots Network was born, with the unorthodox Buddhist sect Santi Asoke, once Chamlong's political base, serving as its backbone.

Chaiwat yesterday insisted that it was not a travesty for the red and yellow shirts to join hands. Such realignment or re-alliance was common in "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", he pointed out. Enemies can work together to fight the more powerful common enemy first and take care of their own scores later.

"The people can't be divided. They need to join hands," said Chaiwat. "The Thaksin government only cheated the nation, but this Abhisit administration has sold out the nation."

Harsh or drastic as it may sound, this very same criticism against Abhisit has been blaring out from the mainstream rally stage of the yellow shirts. Chamlong, remarkably, has refused to rule out PAD protesters abandoning their peaceful means and resorting to something more aggressive.

"We won't do anything yet in the next few days," Chamlong said. "We just want the government to respond to our demands."

Those demands have been rejected by the government, which leaves the question what the mainstream PAD is prepared to do next. The answer may disappoint Chaiwat, or it may boost his much-taunted idea to unite the two political "colours".


Post a Comment