Alleged plot raises troubling questions
Purported attempt on PM's life must be fully investigated or govt will stand accused of manipulation
The alleged plot to assassinate caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, foiled by police after a car packed with powerful explosive devices was found in the general vicinity of his residence yesterday morning, has ratcheted political tension to a new high. The prime minister's claim to have "escaped" the attempt on his life was followed in quick succession by the sacking of General Pallop Pinmanee, the deputy director of the Internal Security Operation Command, after an Army officer attached to the agency was arrested in connection with the car carrying the devices, which had yet to be assembled.
After police investigators announced their initial findings that pointed to a conspiracy to kill the prime minister, Thaksin came out with his own account of other "assassination attempts" against him over the past several months, which had not previously been made public. The questions that must be answered are: were there really other attempts on Thaksin's life that the public had not been aware of, and why did the prime minister choose to reveal such politically sensitive information at this time? Such a dramatic turn of events will have serious implications for democracy in Thailand in general and the upcoming October 15 nationwide election in particular. After all, if a plot to assassinate a democratically elected prime minister were to be carried out, it could lead to chaos, potentially bloody confrontations and the possible deterioration of our democracy.
Claims of an assassination plot by police and Thaksin appear to have been corroborated not only with hard evidence in the form of unassembled explosive devices found in the car, but also by the capture of the suspect, an Army lieutenant who is now in police custody. Police investigators must now widen their investigation in order to bring other perpetrators and masterminds, if there are any, to justice.
The assassination attempt, if proven, is a capital offence that must be dealt with using the full weight of the law. Such a plot, regardless of who carries it out, is a crime against democracy.
What's more, the alleged plot to assassinate the country's top political leader dealt yet another serious blow to Thailand, already beset by political uncertainty and economic instability as the result of months-long turmoil. It also gives the impression that not only has the country's political system been weakened but the rule of law, which is the main pillar of democracy, has also been eroded.
The public must remain calm and vigilant and closely follow unfolding developments in the alleged plot on Thaksin's life, as well as the repercussions it might have on national politics. It is encouraging to note that the public has learned to maintain a healthy dose of scepticism when it comes to Thaksin's statements and actions after having spent five years under his iron-fisted rule - a rule tainted by corruption scandals, intimidation against political opponents, blatant violations of civil liberties, and a crafty manipulation of public opinion.
To be fair, sensational political incidents, which invariably involve the occasional "foiled plot" or "bombing attack" that seems to be aimed more at intimidation rather than causing casualties, are a staple of Thai politics. It is widely suspected that political forces in Thailand use such tactics from time to time in order to either gain public sympathy by portraying themselves as victims, to cast opponents in a negative light, or to achieve both of these ends in one clever stroke. This explains why investigations into such incidents usually go nowhere. Police usually drop their investigations as soon as newspapers drop these sensational cases from their front pages - the public soon forgets about them, and these unsolved mysterious cases are then left to fade from memory.
The fact that opposing political forces in this country - which by all appearances is supposed to be a modern, albeit fledgling, democracy - continue to dabble in such "extraordinary" political tactics is symptomatic of a deeper malaise. It shows that Thailand is still far behind its goal of establishing a genuine democracy in which the rule of law, good governance, public accountability, rational public debate and free and fair elections can be taken for granted. If the country is to make any headway in its bid towards a fuller democracy, such political tactics must be abandoned and rejected as illegitimate by all parties. In the meantime, the Thaksin government owes it to the public to get to the bottom of this matter and prove beyond any doubt that yesterday's incident is not yet another instance of these dirty tactics being applied.