Airport occupation over... or is it?

The siege is over. Or is it? Yesterday morning PAD leader Sonthi declared unequivocally that his yellow army would stay put at the airports, despite the constitutional court ruling against the governing political parties. Then within hours he had backtracked on his words. "Victory" had been achieved, and there was no reason to stay put. For now...

From Sonthi's volte face it seems pretty clear that Bangkok Pundit's interpretation of events is likely correct. Pressure was brought to bear. It is no coincidence that the King's birthday is fast approaching, and it would clearly be disrespectful for such chaotic scenes to be taking place during a period of celebration. On BP's blog he reminds us of the actual wording of the PAD statement:
The PAD would like to make the following pledges.

1. If a proxy government of the Thaksin regime is set up again or if there is an attempt to amend the Constitution or the law to whitewash the wrongdoings of those in the Thaksin regime, to benefit politicians, or to lessen the power of the King, the PAD will return.

2. From now on, if there is any government which comes into power but is insincere in its efforts to launch new politics with the people, the PAD will return.

We would like to sincerely thank the people for being part of this historic event. Until we meet again when the country needs us.
In the press conference that followed the reading of the statement Sondhi was asked:
Reporter: Does this mean that if on the 8th or 9th the name of the PM from one of the 6 coalition parties is put forward, that you will protest again?

Sonthi : Definitely.
So those of you breathing a sigh of relief about your travel plans to or from Thailand, don't count your buffalo just yet!

Although allies in this (PAD) movement, certain business interests must be hurting badly from the economic disruption. How solid will those ranks be behind Sondhi in the event he decides to renew the airport occupation? Or isn't he more likely to surprise us with a new gambit? If the latter, seeing as he has been upping the ante all along, what could possibly be more effective or newsworthy than taking over the principal international airports of the country?

A hint of the source of some of his earlier backing from a report in The Nation:
"The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking said in a statement that the incumbent government had lost its capability to manage the country, so other parties should be allowed to form a new administration.

"If there is no success, the National Assembly [Parliament] should be dissolved to return the power to the people," it said.

The JSCCIB also asked the PAD protesters to leave the airports immediately and demanded that they stop all unlawful demonstrations."

But reading between the lines of this statement, the suggestion seems to be that Sonthi had gone too far with the airport occupations, in the eyes of the JSCCIB.

The foreign media has been breathing a somewhat naive and premature collective sigh of relief at this unexpected turn of events. There may yet be worse to come. Sonthi is an unpredictable general of his troops. He may in the early days of this conflict have been a tool of unseen pressure groups, but in more recent times he has appeared increasingly willing to take the kind of unilateral action that it is hard to believe has the full support of big business, or indeed any other silent ally with the interests of the Thai nation at heart.

In the days shortly after the Monarch's 81st birthday celebration, after a respectful lapse of time, I suspect we will have a much clearer picture of the situation.

Many twists and turns in this very Thai conflict yet to come, I reckon.

In the meantime, fundraising at the Chiang Mai DAAD headquarters continues, if anything, with renewed enthusiasm. New supporters were passing by throughout the day to donate funds and food, to buy the red bandannas and t-shirts on sale. A spokesman said he saw yesterday's ruling not as a defeat but as confirmation of a determination to quash the popular vote and sideline the less privileged majority of the population whose interests have been overlooked for so long.

An anonymous DAAD official made it clear that he thought violent civil unrest increasingly likely, even unavoidable.

No signs of a rapprochement just yet, then.

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