It’s only 6 PM in Thailand and there is still time for further developments. But it’s getting late here in Australia so here is my brief reflection on the day’s events.
After today’s “final showdown” things are as unresolved as ever in Thai politics. Both sides can claim victory. The PAD succeeded in delaying the joint meeting between MPs and Senators and, although they showed their now familiar disregard for the rule of law, their behaviour was more restrained than many had expected. The government can claim credit for avoiding a confrontation over the parliamentary meeting and for the restrained police handling of the PAD protestors. The pro-government red-shirts wisely kept their distance. Hopefully, if the night ends peacefully, overblown PAD rhetoric will be the only casualty.
Where to now? Of the various scenarios set out by Ed Cropley (of Reuters) I’m leaning towards the “PAD campaign fizzles out” alternative. Thaksin’s provocations will give them some energy, but the PAD simply cannot mobilise sufficient mass support to maintain a drawn out campaign. Today’s rowdy bus trip to Don Muang was probably as far into the electoral hinterland as many of the protesters are willing to venture. And their allies in the union movement may well be more talk than action when it comes to widespread strike action. There is every chance that, left to their own devices, the PAD will degenerate into a rather eccentric political cult with a bankrupt and self-absorbed leadership. They may be able to maintain a few shrines of protest at key locations in Bangkok but eventually the time will come for a civic clean up.
However, this will only happen if they are left to their own devices. As I wrote in May this year when the latest phase of PAD street protest was still in its early days:
Whoever is launching the attacks on the rallies held by the People’s Alliance for (Sufficiency) Democracy in Bangkok is doing the PA(S)D a big favour. With their cause looking increasingly tawdry and discredited, the most the PA(S)D can hope for is that their credibility will be boosted by the impression that they are standing firm against the dark forces of violence and dissension. … Whoever is organising the attacks must be aware that they are doing the PA(S)D a big public relations favour.
Nothing has changed.