Thailand to beef up security for regional forum: latest interview

16 07 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said that he would invoke a harsh internal security act to prevent protests at a regional summit in Phuket next week.

Mr Abhisit said the cabinet had agreed to declare the internal security act in Phuket and five kilometres around the tourist island from July 10 to 24 for the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting.

The forum groups foreign ministers from the 10 ASEAN members plus 16 dialogue partners, including the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

The move comes after an incident in April when anti-government protesters loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, forced the cancellation of a major Asian summit in the Thai resort of Pattaya. The declaration will allow the military to assist the police at the meeting.

So, what measures the authorities will likely put in place during the summit?

938LIVE poses this question to Dr Pimrapaat Dusadeeisariyakul, program manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Bangkok.

“The government will impose Internal Security Act as if they fill it’s necessary to do so. I think there will unofficial soldiers and police put in place in Phuket. Because they can never be challenged like they were in Pattaya. If I can refer to the situation in Pattaya, you see a lot of blue shirt guards. They are not with the government and they are not with the Red protesters. But they are somehow linked to one of the component parties in the current government. As far as I can see, you can have those kind of people in Phuket just to make sure that things do not get out of hands again.”

Leaders of the Red Shirts group had said that they have no intention of trying to disrupt the Phuket meetings. Do you think they can keep their promise as they are still demanding that the government should call for a general election?

 “They said that they wouldn’t break in to the conference during the meeting in Pattaya, and they did. And things went out of hands. So we can not be so sure that they wouldn’t do it again in Phuket. So I think the government has to be very careful in dealing with the situation and planning it so well in advance. I think they should have troops in place maybe not in large number but smaller to make sure that the protestors can not get closer to the delegates to the meetings. Because last time there was a debate right after the Pattaya meeting. But there was no law in Thailand that says like how many kilometers that you cannot get close to the meeting. Now I think the police are eventually aware that they cannot allow protestors to get closer to the delegates or to the meeting venue like how far they can go. So I think this time they are better prepared.”

According to Thailand’s constitution, under what circumstances will the government be forced to go for snap polls?

“Vote of no confidence in the parliament, that’s one thing. But if you follow the situation in Thailand close enough, you will listen to a statement by Prime Minister Abhisit. He said many times that once situation put in place he will dissolve the house and call for an early election. I think now all parties are prepared for a general election anyway, either before end of the year or before the King’s birthday in December or early next year. So I think it now depends very much on the assessment of the prime minister. Because the component parties did not do well in the by election and there is a constant internal conflict within the coalition. So we can say that the government is very fragile and they will call for an election anyway, it’s just a matter of time, because this type of coalition can not survive for so long. I think the government realises it right from the beginning.”

Mr Abhisit must bring unity to his coalition to ensure his government’s survival. Is his coalition likely to fall apart, and if so, what are main causes behind its collapse?

“Now we have to refer to why this coalition government was formed in the beginning. Because the Democrat Party did not have enough majority to form it, right? And now when they have Bhumjai Thai to form the coalition government, they were confident that BhumjaiThai could do better. And the result of the bi-election recently confirm that is not the case. So after the result of the bi-election, then you hear a lot of stories about Unity government that DP might form another coalition government with Puea Thai. So that’s one possibility and I can say that it’s still possible. The other is that they can form the same coalition government after the next election and Bhumjai Thai has to perform better. Without Bhumjai Thai, Democrat party can not form a government anyway.” With a big turnout at a rally of his supporters and another landslide by-election win for his party at the weekend, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has proved he is still a force in Thai politics, even in exile. How strong is Thaksin’s support in the country now? “Very strong. And I need to refer again to the bi-election result, because we thought Democrat Party has been doing better with all the component parties in the coalition government. But it doesn’t prove to be the case as I mentioned it earlier. So that also confirms that Thaksin is very strong in the rural areas especially in the north and northeast. And he has powerful people in those areas who can work for him and he doesn’t need to be present in the country at all.” Analysts say the strengthening of Thaksin’s parliamentary and extra-parliamentary movements could plunge Thailand into deeper political turmoil, stifling economic recovery efforts and heightening the risk of more civil unrest. What are your thoughts on the issue? “I think it will have the same impact on the economy and political and social division in the country as when the Red protestors did it. So, it’s not very healthy in the country with social division and political polarisation because we cannot have a short term solution for this. And it will adverse impact on our economy and out political stability because we may have an election either end of the year or early next year, but it doesn’t mean that it will preaid stability. The country will not be stabilised for a number of years.” Click on the above speaker to hear this on podcast.


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28 03 2011
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