The peace and order supposedly guaranteed by Thai Army Chief-cum-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is increasing danger of coming to an end, with two small bomb blasts in Bangkok in recent weeks. The latest occurred Saturday night with a grenade attack on the Criminal Court, which did little damage and left no injuries.
Twin pipe bombs were exploded outside a Bangkok shopping mall in February, slightly injuring two persons. Police detained two individuals Saturday night in the latest attack, accusing them of being connected to Red Shirt sympathizers of the Pheu Thai government headed by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that was ousted last May 22 by a coup led by Prayuth. The former general told reporters that “The perpetrators want to create panic and chaos… in order to make the public aware that they still exist.”
But despite impressions of relative calm, the fact is that the coup and the military crackdown have done nothing to solve the deep divisions in Thai society despite a near-universal belief among Bangkok’s royalists and elites that removing all vestiges of the political dynasty of billionaire politician Thaksin Shinawatra would deflate all protest and send the rural poor back to their farmlands. Neutral observers in Thailand have long been waiting for trouble to start in the wake of the army coup, the most extensive crackdown since the 1932 putsch that ended the absolute monarchy.
As Asia Sentinel reported on Feb. 12, the royalist elite, represented by the Yellow Shirts – the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the military – may have gone too far in their attempt to guarantee that the rural Red Shirts and backers of the Shinawatra dynasty never hold power again. There has been deepening concern that emasculating the opposition Red Shirts so completely would ultimately delay a final reckoning with them. Driving them from power in the intervening years after the 2006 coup that ended Thaksin’s premiership eventually culminated in bloody riots that took at least 95 lives, most of them Red Shirt followers, in May of 2010 and left the center of Bangkok on fire.
While Prayuth has promised elections for 2016, leaks involving the actions of the committee writing a new constitution for the country have clearly indicated that the new charter is designed to make sure that allies of the Thaksin forces would be permanently neutralized. The army-chosen National Legislative Assembly is due to deliberate on the new document next month. There is little hope that it would deliver a charter to allow credible elections. Many believe that is possibly the spark that would bring the Red Shirts back to the streets.