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NightWatch 20110630


For the Night of 30 June 2011

North Korea-South Korea: North Korean officials told South Korean firms with assets at Mount Kumgang resort to come to the resort and submit proposals on property readjustments, according to the Korean Central News Agency. If the firms do not submit proposals by 13 July, the North Korean government will consider their property abandoned and take relevant legal action.

Comment: This looks like a contrivance to confiscate the South Korean resort in North Korea under color of law.

Thailand: On 3 July Thailand will hold general elections that will determine whether Prime Minister Abhisit's Democratic Party coalition government remains in office or is replaced by a proxy party of fugitive prime minister Thaksin, the Pheu Thai Party. Thai political analysts are divided about the election outcome and its meaning. About 40 parties will field candidates in 375 constituencies for seats in the House of Representatives.

One view is that polls favor the Pheu Thai Party and that secret deals have been made that will allow Thaksin's proxy party to win in order to achieve political reconciliation and restore investor confidence. This is the party of northern Thailand and the rural poor and the Red Shirts who staged prolonged violent demonstrations in Bangkok last year.

The other view is that the King and Royal family continue to favor Abhisit over Thaksin, who as prime minister was disrespectful to the King. In this view the military backs Abhisit, as do the political and business elites in Bangkok.

There are always secret deals and temporary alliances, but the Palace usually gets its way, eventually. The Palace is careful to not tip its hand, but the King has made an unusual number of public appearances since he dissolved the House of Representatives in May. Some very astute analysts judge the timing and circumstances of the appearances have favored the Democratic Party, though Pheu Thai leads in the polls.

Lebanon: Lebanese and international news reported that the bill of indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which has been investigating the February 2005 assassination of the late prime minister Hariri, names four Lebanese men, two of whom are members of Hezbollah. Three officials from the Tribunal, which is based in the Netherlands, delivered the indictments to Said Mirza, Lebanon's prosecutor-general, who is supposed to arrest the suspects.

Comment: This is the first time that individuals and their affiliation have been identified in the bill which the Prosecutor submitted to the Tribunal in January. What it means is that Hezbollah, which sponsors the new Lebanese prime minister, was responsible for the 2005 murder of Hariri. 

Hezbollah vowed to stage public demonstrations against the Special Tribunal in the event the murder was blamed on Hezbollah. However, as its political influjence in Beirut has increased since January, Hezbollah has treated the Tribunal as no longer relevant. Other groups, especially Sunnis, will have a different view. Public demonstrations are likely this weekend.

Egypt: The United States will resume a policy of limited contacts with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, US Secretary of State Clinton said at a 30 June news conference. Clinton said such contacts can be beneficial and have occurred in recent years.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesman said the Brotherhood welcomes any formal contact with the United States because it would allow the Brotherhood to clarify its vision and general views on issues. However, he denied that any contacts have been made yet.

Comment: Although still illegal in Egypt, the Brotherhood is the only political organization independent of the government that is organized and prepared to participate effectivelhy in an Egyptian general election. The Brotherhood's new political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, has promised to remain secular, nonviolent and to respect women's and minority rights. It appears to be following the model of Turkey's Justice and Development Party.

The formation of the Freedom and Justice Party is part of the Brotherhood's strategy to remake its public image by separating the new political organization from the Brotherhood's Islamist roots. In the absence of serious competition, the Brotherhood's party would be likely to dominate elections if they were held soon. Elections have been postponed, however, to allow more time for preparations and for the formation of a wider field of political competitors.

The Brotherhood  apparently is comfortable with this because six months ago it was officially a subversive, underground organization. Thus far it is the main beneficiary from the overthrow of Mubarak.

Venezuela: Update. In an address to the nation, President Chavez confirmed that he underwent a second operation to remove a cancerous tumor. He claimed the operation was a complete success. However, he did not state whether he will return to Venezuela from Cuba in time to celebrate Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence on 5 July.

End of NightWatch for 30 June.

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