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NightWatch 20100412

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 April 2010

Thailand: The U.S. State Department warned Americans today to avoid political demonstrations in Bangkok which are expected to continue through the Songkran Thai New Year holidays from 13-16 April.

In Washington today, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University that he blamed the international community for failing to take action against fugitive ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whom he blamed for the country's political unrest.

"Everyone is washing their hands, but he is a bloody terrorist," said Kasit, citing countries, such as Russia and Germany, for turning a blind eye to Thaksin's corruption conviction and allowing him in.

He also cited Dubai, which the billionaire Thaksin had reportedly used as a longtime base after being overthrown in a military coup in 2006, as well as Nicaragua and Montenegro, both of which he recently visited.

Deputy premier Trirong Suwannakiri, who was also at the SAIS forum, warned that if the current crisis raged out of control, the military could stage a coup to restore order. The military has a duty to "take care of the country and restore order," he said, pointing out that such an action could be a "worst case scenario."

Red Shirts. A senior leader of Thailand's Red Shirt protesters said he would hold no more talks with Prime Minister Abhisit and threatened new protests unless the parliament is dissolved. Weng Tojirakam said protests will continue unless parliament is dissolved immediately and the country goes to the polls.

He added that Red Shirt leaders will hold a meeting to organize new protests.

Waning support for Abhisit. Thailand's National Election Commission called Monday, 12 April, for the dissolution of Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party because of illegal party finances. The call is based on allegations of an illegal multi-million-dollar donation to the Democrat Party during the 2005 election campaign, five years ago.

Reacting to Saturday's bloody clashes in Bangkok, Army Chief General Anuphong Phaochinda also said that parliament must be dissolved to restart the political process.

Finally, stocks declined 5% on Monday, reacting to the weekend violence. Thai press reported retail sales are down and that tourism and hotels have sustained serious losses in the past two weeks, as warned by the head of the Bank of Thailand on 5 April.

The government. The Prime Minister's office leaked in a trial balloon that it is considering calling elections for October, according to a senior member of his ruling Democrat party.

The government plans to see how the situation progresses this week and then make its decision about the future. The spokesman said that early elections might calm things down, but the government does not want to show that it is giving into the demands of an "armed gang." The official said the government asked security forces to reassess the way they handle violent protests.

Note: On 5 April Abhisit offered to hold elections in December, which is a year earlier than scheduled, but this was rejected by the Red Shirts.

Comment: Since 11 March the Abhisit government has gone through two cycles of the three phase process of decline in government authority as it fails to find a political position that it can hold. The three phases are under-reaction, over-reaction and concession, followed by a recycle.

The first complete cycle began 12 March when the Red Shirts converged on Bangkok to open the latest round of confrontational demonstrations. It ended on 29 March when the Abhisit government and the Red Shirts held brief talks which failed.

On 5 April the Red Shirts attacked the national election headquarters with impunity as the government under-reacted by offering to hold talks and elections in December.

When Parliament was stormed on 7 April, the government imposed the state of emergency, portending a crackdown, an overreaction unless effectively enforced.

On 10 April, when security forces backed down at the ThaiCom satellite station, the latest concession phase began, also manifest in the willingness to talk and hold elections in October.

Powerful political forces showed today, 12 April, they have lost confidence in Abhisit. Their concern is the restoration of order in Bangkok, above all other issues. He can no longer count on Army support. The business community is against any prolongation of the unrest. The statement by the National Election Commission suggests even higher authorities want the protests to end and have laid out an exit strategy, if Abhisit cannot find one on his own.

The Foreign Minister's statements made in Washington today blame outside influences for the government's mishandling of internal unrest, always a losing tactic and symptom of a failing administration. The Deputy Premier openly warned his audience to expect military action to restore order, not to salvage the Abhisit administration.

Without Army backing and with no prospects of compromise by the Red Shirts, this government has no political line it can hold. It is marking time.

If violent demonstrations resume in the holiday week, as seems inevitable, the government will not survive. Momentum is on the side of the Red Shirts and they seem to know it.

Pakistan: Protestors demonstrated against renaming Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Hazara, Dera Ismail Khan, Abbottabad and Tarbela, according to multiple local news services.

Protests in Abbottabad, NWFP, turned violent and six people died. In Dera Ismail Khan, political leaders opposed to the renaming said they would not let "any deal among leaders sabotage the rights of 30 other nations living in the NWFP province (sic)." They said a large number of ethic Saraikis were living in the NWFP, therefore there should be a separate province for them.

Comment: Recognition of minority rights implied in the renaming has generated protests in every province, except Baluchistan. Names are politics. As noted above, the NWFP contains some 29 ethnic groups in addition to the Pashtuns, who also want recognition. Some want to subdivide NWFP into ethnic cantons. A minority in Punjab Province demonstrated that it wanted its own province carved out of Punjab.

Update. Under the 18th Amendment, the federal government will divest itself of many responsibilities involving affairs in the provinces and return to a less centralized from of federalism.

As yet there exists no mechanism to manage the transfer of responsibility to the provinces for an estimated 20 ministries and divisions and 100 autonomous bodies and institutions. The administrative domains include health and education. The federal government has until June 2011 to complete the transfer.

A particularly controversial part of the "devolution" of power will be relocating to the provinces more than 250,000 employees working for these organizations. In addition, the provinces must pay for the new responsibilities they soon will have, but also have been granted greater financial autonomy.

Kyrgyzstan: The interim government issued warrants for President Bakiyev and his key followers. Today Bakiyev's brother and security chief threatened civil war unless the interim government negotiates with Bakiyev.

US: The U.S. Transit Center at Manas has resumed normal operations, the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan announced today. Refueling operations are continuing and the transit of troops to and from Afghanistan has resumed.

Kyrgyzstan-Russia: Russia will give Kyrgyzstan a grant and an uninterrupted supply of fuel, AKIpress reported 12 April, citing a senior Kyrgyz official. Kyrgyzstan has asked for more than $150 million, said the official. A Kyrgyz delegation will travel to Moscow on 14 April, where the grant's details will be discussed, he said.

Israel-Palestinian Authority- West Bank: During this Watch, The Jerusalem Post reported that nnew legislation is due to go into effect on Tuesday, 13 April, granting the army authority to deport thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip or Arab countries from which they originally hailed, even if they entered the area legally and have lived there for many years, Israeli human rights organizations warned Sunday.

The new order makes it a criminal act for anyone to live in the West Bank without a permit. Violators can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. The order is an amendment to the Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration, which was originally legislated in 1969 to prevent and punish infiltration from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, all of which were enemy countries at the time.

The amendment is aimed at anyone living in the West Bank who does not have a legal permit or certificate issued either by the West Bank military commander or the Interior Ministry.

The order, uncovered by Amira Hass in Haaretz yesterday, bears the signature of Major General Gadi Shamni in his previous capacity as commander of the IDF in Judea and Samaria.

An IDF Spokesperson said in response to the report: "The laws in Judea and Samaria have in the past permitted the expulsion of Palestinians who are illegally residing in the West Bank.

"The objective of changing the order to prevent infiltrations that will go into effect on April 13 and was signed a half-a-year-ago and was publicized is to allow for a legal process on the deportation procedure of Palestinians illegally in the West Bank by a committee which is headed by a judge and to enable additional oversight of this procedure," the IDF added.

Note: Unless this order is rescinded or modified, all Palestinian and most Israeli news outlets predict violent clashes if the IDF attempts to enforce it. The IDF is following orders, but where have the Palestinian leaders been.

Agence France-Presse reported a strong reaction by France. "We urge the Israeli authorities, in line with international law, to respect the freedom of residence of Palestinians in the West Bank and to allow them to move freely within the Palestinian Territories," Quai d'Orsay spokesman Bernard Valero told a news briefing when asked about the Israeli decision.

Sudan: For the record. National Elections Commission extended voting in nationwide elections for an additional two days until 16 April, Reuters reported 12 April. Commission Secretary General Jalal Mohammed Ahmed said the extension was made to give voters more time.

End of NightWatch for 12 April.

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