Pale PM looks weary of dodging 'guerrillas'
Guerrilla tactics employed by the detractors of Thaksin Shinawatra, have taken their toll on the caretaker prime minister.
Thaksin looked pale and disheartened yesterday as he was forced to take a back elevator at the Central World Plaza in downtown Bangkok to escape a small group of protesters who planned to embarrass him with "Thaksin get out!" shouts.
Security was tight as Thaksin was scheduled to attend an exhibition at the Digital TK Park, on the eighth floor of the Central World Plaza. His detractors wanted to repeat a similar incident at Siam Paragon on Saturday when a young boy and some grown-ups hurled abusive remarks at Thaksin.
This has become a new guerrilla war, if not a social sanction, waged against Thaksin. The PM's supporters, however, were quick to defend him by punching or kicking his opponents.
Yesterday was a repeat of the Siam Paragon incident where Thaksin's supporters resorted to Thai boxing to hurt detractors while the police turned a blind eye to the ugly scenes.
The pressure for Thaksin not to seek re-election is rising, as there are more fears that violent clashes between his opponents and supporters will turn into a political crisis.
As Thailand is facing a bitter political divide, clashes between Thaksin's supporters and opponents could continue until the October 15 election if Thaksin insists on fighting for the premiership.
Thawee Surarithikul, dean of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University's political science faculty, warned the current political situation is similar to October 6, 1976 when the public was divided between left and right.
He said the government at that time used stiff measures in suppressing its opponents whom it believed were communists. Many people fled into the jungle to take up arms against the government.
Speaking before yesterday's clash between the two groups at Central World Plaza, Thaksin yesterday denied a statement by Chat Thai Party leader Banharn Silapa-archa that he had told him he would take a break from politics.
Thaksin said he had not met Banharn on the matter. When asked what they talked about over a shark-fin soup dinner two weeks ago, Thaksin said the shark-fin soup dinner with Banharn was a long time ago.
Gothom Arya, chairman of the National Economic and Social Advisory Council (Nesac), advised Thaksin not to judge his political standing based on the number of his supporters or opponents.
Gothom said the scuffles that had occurred in the past few days between supporters and opponents stemmed from the fact that Thaksin had not announced whether he would stand for re-election. His supporters wanted to give him moral support to get re-elected, while his opponents were trying to force him to stay on the sidelines.
"Thaksin must find a peaceful place to do some soul-searching before the conflict widens or turns more violent,'' he said.
Caretaker Senator Sak Khosangruang also called on Thaksin to make a sacrifice before the conflict develops into a full-blown crisis. He criticised Thaksin for stepping up security for himself saying it created a negative image for both the country and the leader.
"The media reported that state security officials were the one's who assaulted the people,'' he said. "It could be the thin end of the wedge. Thaksin must review his role now,'' he said.
Caretaker Senator Sophon Supapong called on Thaksin to step down and enter the monkhood. He warned Thaksin was taking the wrong path by trying to cling to power and creating a rift in the country. "When he has a problem with people, instead of trying to reach an understanding with them, he brings out his supporters to create a stand-off with those who oppose him. We must stop this confrontation in our society immediately,'' he said.
Sophon said he had once advised Thaksin to enter the monkhood and come back to build four temples in Thailand as he would find true happiness and be more valuable than he is now. "Being a PM, he should stop and not instigate conflicts among the people. Thaksin should do some soul-searching about whether he is really happy creating conflicts in society. To contribute to the country, he can do so with a different status,'' Sophon said.
He said Thaksin was taking the wrong path in trying to uphold his power by pushing for the election on October 15 and trying to delay the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party.
The Academic Network for Democracy issued a statement demanding Thaksin stop using force against his opponents.
"Use the law, not force. Do not exaggerate the news trying to make you look like a victim,'' the statement said.
A number of people signed the statement including Pratapjit Neelapaijit, a daughter of lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit who has been missing for over two years.
While observing the exhibition at Central World Plaza, Thaksin recited a poem by Sri Praj, one of Ayudhaya's greatest poets, to a group of children. "This Land bears witness for me. I am a disciple with a master. If I do wrong, I would be glad to go to the scaffold. If I do no wrong and you insist on killing me, let the sword return to you," Thaksin said.
Then he turned to the children and said: "The situation is like mine now. I have to go this way."
Thai Rak Thai Party secretary-general Suriya Jungrungreangkit said the party felt uneasy that Thaksin had not committed to either getting re-elected or taking a political break. Suriya said most party members would like him to take the premiership again but Thaksin had not made a decision yet.
Asked to comment about Banharn's statement that quoted Thaksin as saying he would take a political break and support caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak as the next PM, Suriya said the party and most local people want Thaksin to be re-elected.
Suriya said he believed Somkid would contest the next election in the party-list system. The media had earlier reported Somkid would not accept any post after the next election.
A human rights activist group yesterday issued a statement condemning Thaksin for causing conflict in the country and for refusing to step down, while also condemning the Pathumwan Police Station for discrimination and the pro-Thaksin group for using force against anti-Thaksin groups.
"No political party and no politician should allow such human rights violations like those that happened [yesterday],'' Metha Maskhao, co-ordinator of the group said.
Thaksin was scheduled today to preside over the ceremony to launch a Police Award project at the Police Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.