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NightWatch 20100418

NightWatch

For the Night of 18 April 2010

North Korea: For the record. A Japanese news source reported that the reason Kim Chong-il was to go to China was for a kidney transplant. According to the report, an unnamed but renowned Japanese kidney transplant surgeon was contacted to perform the surgery in Beijing. The surgeon replied that it was not possible on such short notice.

Comment: North Korean media continue to report Kim's public appearances at a wide range of activities, but those are likely to be body doubles. No two hairs lines are ever identical in the photos. In addition, he supposedly is making more public appearances since his stroke last year than he ever made when he was much healthier. Cumulatively, the data seems to weigh in support of the less frequent reports of his declining health.

Thailand: The military said it will not allow anti-government "Red Shirt" protesters to demonstrate in Bangkok's central business district, and that the military is determined to enforce the law, Reuters reported 18 April, citing a military spokesman. The spokesman said soldiers will be sent to secure high-rise buildings near the demonstration area to prevent attacks by more militant protesters, and that the military is seeking to avoid casualties.

Earlier on 18 April the government insisted it had no plan for a crackdown on protesters.

Red shirt protesters are planning to mobilize another mass rally in Bangkok tomorrow, 19 April. During this Watch internet sources reported the Army is preparing to confront the protestors on 19 April. A report from The Nation states that the whole armed forces have been put on alert for a final move to remove the Red Shirts from central Bangkok on 19 April.

Comment: As noted on Friday, the overreaction phase has begun. Overreaction signifies an asymmetric response, not an inappropriate response to unrest.

There are two possible outcomes in this phase. If the use of asymmetric force works, government authority will be restored because power will drain out of the opposition and back to the government. Without a countryside uprising in support of the opposition, this is the most likely outcome. Violence and bloodshed are likely.

If the government and the army are bluffing or if they try but fail to disperse the protestors, there will be violence but the government must fall. That is the second outcome.

Thailand-Cambodia: For the record. Thai and Cambodian troops clashed on Saturday at a border area with injuries reported, local media sources reported. The clashes occurred at the border area near Kap Choeng district in northeast province of Surin, some 500 km from the capital of Bangkok, when a group of Thai scouts encountered Cambodian border troops, Thai PBS TV said.

The shooting lasted 15 minutes and no one was injured, according to a Thai officer. Commanders from both countries met to ease the tension.

Afghanistan: The Sunday Times reported on 18 April that Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has indicated that he and his followers may be willing to hold peace talks with western politicians.

In an interview, two of the movement's senior Islamic scholars relayed a message from the Quetta shura, the Taliban's ruling council, that Mullah Omar no longer aims to rule Afghanistan. They said he was prepared to engage in "sincere and honest" talks.

By late on the 18th, the Taliban denied any offer of talks. The Sunday Times interview looks like a hoax or a defection, but it is not the Taliban position. They have not been beaten back enough nor suffered sufficient losses to adopt a conciliatory position. Rather, the more reliable sources consistently report they are building capabilities and preparing to resist the coming NATO offensive in Kandahar.

The situation continues to head towards power sharing, but not just yet.

End of NightWatch for 18 April.

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