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NightWatch 20100411

NightWatch

For the Night of 11 April 2010

North Korea: For the record. A North Korean military delegation told Chinese military officials during its trip to Beijing that it was not behind the explosion that sunk the Cheonan. Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified diplomatic source.

North Korea's military warned South Koreans to stop sending leaflets over the border -- usually dropped from balloons -- that criticize the isolated regime, threatening decisive action if the propaganda continues, The Associated Press reported 10 April. The military also claimed in a message to Seoul's military that South Koreans who cross the border for joint projects were waging a psychological campaign to discredit Pyongyang.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea's military will take "decisive measures soon" unless Seoul discontinues the "despicable psychological smear campaign" and formally notifies Pyongyang.

The North has been extremely prickly this year, frequently threatening exaggerated consequences for small slights. This is the military style, not that of a healthy Kim Chong-il.

Thailand: Thai "Red Shirt" protesters on Sunday ruled out negotiations with the government and said they would not give up their fight for early elections, after clashes with security forces the previous day killed 20 people, including four policemen, and injured 800.

Government spokesmen claim the soldiers fired tear gas and rubber bullets, but eyewitnesses reported seeing protestors killed by live rounds, as troops tried to clear rock-throwing protesters from Bangkok's historic district, Agence France-Presse reported. Protestors also tried to force their way into a military base in Bangkok, but were repelled with water cannon

Protests also occurred in the northern city of Chiang Mai over the weekend.

Comment: The most diagnostic development to watch is whether protests occur in more outlying regions. Chiang Mai is in the heartland of the opposition, so by themselves, protests in Chiang Mai do not signify. Nevertheless, political instability always is centripetal in the sense that it always begins on the periphery and moves to the center of power.

The periphery is defined as the geographic periphery and the politically disenfranchised, such as the Red Shirts in Bangkok. The activism of the politically disenfranchised in the capital has not been matched yet by serious uprisings in the geographic periphery. If an increasing number of peripheral towns outside the north and northeast experience violent uprisings, the Abhisit government will fall because the security forces would be unable to cope.

Afghanistan: Militants launched a pre-dawn attack on an Indian road construction camp in eastern Afghanistan, burning vehicles and equipment and sending the crew fleeing, The Associated Press reported 10 April. The Afghan Interior Ministry said there were no deaths or injuries reported in the attack in Khost Province's Domanda district. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Note: Attacks against Indian companies always are in the service of Pakistani intelligence. Khost Province borders the tribal agencies of Pakistan. Indian companies and the Border Roads Organization have been building roads in many provinces of the Pashtun heartland, on the borders with Iran and Pakistan. Indian influence in Kabul makes some in Pakistan uneasy and they communicate this through their Afghan Taliban or Haqqani proxies.

Russia-Kyrgyzstan: Russia transferred $300 million in loans from a development fund to the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan, according to acting National Bank chair Zair Chokoyev, Itar-Tass reported 10 April. Chokoyev said Russia had given the country's development fund the loans a few weeks ago, and that the state banking system and the $22 million left in the state treasury are safe. National Bank Deputy Chairman Abdybaly Tegin Suyerkulov said Kyrgyzstan is not bankrupt, but it will experience difficulties.

Comment: President Bakiyev refuses to resign and has moved about in southern provinces this weekend to build support. Some reports state he has passed out weapons and threatens civil war. If he persists, he might precipitate an invitation for Russian and allied troops to enter as peacekeepers, just like the old days.

Hungary: Hungarians voted on Sunday in an election that is expected to produce a center-right Fidesz government, after eight years of Socialist rule and the country's near financial collapse. According to the BBC, Fidesz leader Viktor Orban said Hungarians had voted "to defeat hopelessness". The far-right Jobbik party, which capitalized on anti-Semitism and anti-Roma (gypsy) sentiment, will occupy seats in parliament for the first time.

The final division of seats will only be decided after the second round, which is set for 25 April. Preliminary results indicate Fidesz won 206 seats in the 386-member parliament, the Socialists 28, and Jobbik 26.

Orban, who is set to be the next prime minister, said, "Hungarians voted on Hungary and Hungary's future. Today Hungary's citizens have defeated hopelessness. Fidesz, which last ruled between 1998 and 2002, campaigned on cutting taxes, creating jobs and supporting local businesses to boost Hungary's economy.

The Socialist government led by technocrat Gordon Bajnai since April 2009 made painful budget cuts to reduce the deficit under a deal led by the International Monetary Fund, which provided emergency financing for Hungary amid a crisis in 2008.

The budget cuts have helped stabilize Hungary's finances and rebuild investors' confidence but worsened the recession. The preliminary results confirmed the pre-election polls that Hungarians overwhelmingly are looking for a change in government and are looking to the conservatives for solutions because the Socialists failed.

Sudan: Voters waited in line for hours in the sun, to participate in Sudan's complex and controversial elections, according to Pakistan's The News.

Officials spent months preparing for the polls, but confusion soon erupted on Sunday as center after center, sometimes hours into the voting, discovered that voters were using the wrong ballot papers or that names or symbols of candidates were either missing or incorrect. Votes are being cast for two presidents, 24 governors and 26 state and national assemblies, using three different voting systems and up to 12 ballots.

Many opposition parties boycotted the elections, citing widespread fraud before the voting even began.

The National Elections Commission had insisted it was ready, despite demands from the opposition for a short delay to ensure the process ran smoothly. One election official said the system was foolproof. In fact, it has proven to be just foolhardy, poorly prepared and poorly managed.

Mexico: Multiple news services reported on 10 April that an explosive device was thrown over the fence of the U.S. Consulate General compound in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, detonating behind the American Citizens Service (ACS) building. No injuries were reported though the building may have sustained minor damage.

This is the second recent attack against US official persons or property in the border region. The cartels seem to want American officials to leave the buffer zone they are constructing south of the Texas border.

End of NightWatch for 11 April.

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