January 09, 2014 00:00
By PAKORN PUENGNETR
ANALYSTS SAY MILITARY AIMS TO PREVENT VIOLENCE, RATHER THAN STAGE A COUP
THE BANGKOK shutdown planned for January 13 is intended to trigger military intervention in the ongoing political stalemate, security sources said yesterday.
The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) plans to mobilise 35,000 people from seven southern provinces to shut down seven locations in the capital on Monday to paralyse Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker administration, the sources said. They noted that some middle-class people in Bangkok might join in, but the southerners are the core of the operation.
The first phase – the first two days of the shutdown – would cause the operations not only of government agencies but also of many businesses to cease, as people might experience difficulty in travelling to work. People might be able to come out of their homes to work on Monday morning, but might not be able to return home in the evening, the sources said.
The second stage, on the third and fourth days, would see a chaotic situation develop, as people in the blockaded areas in the capital struggled to find their way in and out. The protesters themselves would be able to stay in one location for many days.
In the last stage, if the chaos lasted for more than four days, many people such as taxi drivers and street vendors who cannot earn their daily living might riot. There could also be clashes among groups of people in many locations, they said.
“If the situation develops into a riot, we have to look at how the government, the military and the PDRC would react to such a situation,” a military source said.
Only the military has the manpower and equipment to handle such a situation, he said, adding that heavy military hardware has already been moved into the capital. Under the pretext of preparing for Armed Forces Day on January 18, the military has moved tanks and other heavy weaponry into the capital. The military said it would hold the parade on that date at the 11th Infantry Regiment, but the space there is too narrow for such a big parade, the source said.
However, an intelligence source said the possibility of a military coup was still not very high. The military would act as a stabiliser to maintain a balance of power in the political scene, he said. What the military will do is to prevent any parties such as police and unknown elements – ie, “men-in-black” – from using violence, the source said.
Yingluck’s caretaker government will try its best not to resort to violence to handle the protest, as the government knows that violence will lead to a military intervention. The red-shirt group would not come to Bangkok to confront the protesters, he said.
The intelligence source expected that the Bangkok shutdown would last only a week and would not seriously affect business operations. Traffic might be paralysed, however, he said.
The elements that would bring Yingluck’s government down are constitutionally mandated independent organisations such as the Constitutional Court and the anti-graft agency, he said, adding that these bodies tend to move slowly.