- Posted February 7, 2014 by
WANTED DEAD OF ALIVE: SUTHEP THAUGSUBAN
Wanted Dead or Alive: Suthep Thaugsuban
By Michael Yon
[Due to time constraints, this is a one-pass writing with no edit. This is raw, based on audio of a conversation yesterday with Khun Suthep and Akanat. Please excuse any typos -- the information as offered to me is 100% accurate.]
I spent yesterday morning speaking with Dr. Warong who is one of Thailand's leading rice experts, and then taxied over to talk with rice farmers who have converged on the Ministry of Commerce to demand the promised payment for their rice, or to receive their rice back so that they can sell it themselves. Yesterday, again, the farmers received no satisfaction.
From the rice farmers, I taxied to speak with Suthep Thaugsuban, who literally is wanted dead or alive by the Yingluck government. Suthep has raised and led millions of Thai people from all social, economic and professional lines, to overthrow the Yingluck government. The Yingluck government has used voting to achieve dictatorship. (This may seem alien to Americans yet this is true.)
The following is a summary of our nearly hour-long conversation:
The talk started off about the rice farmers because their plight is most acute. Suthep wishes to support the rice farmers, but their movements and protests are best kept separate from PDRC so that the political waters are not muddied.
Suthep said that tomorrow (now today) he will begin a two day march in Bangkok to raise 10 million baht to help the farmers to organize their separate protests. The farmers are welcome to join PDRC, but best that they run their own show.
My thoughts on this === PDRC has remained peaceful despite ten killed and about 600 wounded from attacks on their protests. (One of the killed was a policeman on 26 December but that was separate from PDRC.) At the urging of Suthep, PDRC has resisted provocation and violence. The farmers also are peaceful now, but it is my estimation that they will not suffer the casualties that PDRC has suffered without retaliation. There is no "Suthep" among the farmers to lead them peacefully. The farmers movement is growing spontaneously from dozens of provinces and what must be hundreds, or possibly thousands of villages. The farmers have no overall organizer or voice of reason. As example, yesterday at the Ministry of Commerce, a farmer who must have been 60 years-old began to climb over the high Ministry fence, until finally they opened the gate to talk with protestors. The farmers' are not as patient as the PDRC. Many police were present to greet the farmers, but no police are needed for PDRC. If the farmers join PDRC, and the farmers resort to violence, that will be blamed on PDRC, giving the government an excuse to attack PDRC openly, undermining the entire movement. === End my thoughts.
The approximate 15 farmers I spoke with yesterday were neutral to positive about Suthep, which is amazing considering that two years ago he would have been considered a blood enemy. Yet while I type these words, Suthep and PDRC are marching in Bangkok to fund the farmers' protest.
Suthep talked more about rice, and finally I asked "What now are the next steps for you?" Suthep answered that now he is seeking that more people from every sector in Bangkok join in, to increase the people power. He also wants the civil servants to increase participation, and to leave their offices, but with care not to leave offices that are critical, such as Telecommunications of Thailand (ToT), who want to join but this would damage too many people. But he did say that ToT is a difficult one to decide. The difficulty is in increasing pressure on Yingluck and the cabinet while reducing pressure on citizens, which can be mutually exclusive.
Suthep believes that Yingluck will not quit unless Thaksin gives the okay. He said that Thaksin never plans to lose the game. Suthep believes that Thaksin has his own Army, maybe some in Cambodia. I mentioned that I am unaware of any Cambodians that have been killed or captured. Suthep then switched from speaking English to Thai, and his step-son Akanat began to translate.
Suthep said that he believes that during the redshirt fighting of 2010 (when Suthep was Deputy Prime Minister), there was a militant group of Cambodians, who came in to attack the Thai Soldiers. He said he believes that 30-40 Cambodians were killed, but they had no identity cards or identification. He said he believes that a Cambodian force has been transported in recently for an operation here. The commander of the Thai Navy SEALs stated similarly. Suthep believes that the head of the Army is also following this issue closely.
I asked Suthep what he thinks about the involvement of the United States in the protest issue. Suthep answered that he thinks Thai people are disappointed.
Suthep said that he believes Americans and Thais have been good friends for a long time, but so far it seems that the American government has sided with Thaksin. (This is also my sense.) "What we expect is for the Americans to stay neutral, to stay independent." Suthep's personal thought is that there are many powerful American investors who have vested interests with Thaksin, including interests in natural resources, and these investors have influence over US policy.
Suthep said, "With all the intelligence and capabilities of the United States government" he does not believe that we do not know the situation. Ambassador Kristie Kenney appears to be pro-Thaksin, he said. (I and some other Americans here sense this to be true).
I asked that if I were to speak with Ambassador Kenney, what would be an important question. Suthep said that her understanding of the situation needs to be tested. "The question that you should ask is," if she knows the situation, she should understand that Khun Thaksin is not working for democracy, he is like a tyrant." "He want's complete control of Thailand." (That is obvious.)
"When I (Suthep) was Deputy Prime Minister, a representative from the CIA" came to talk with me. The CIA representative "said that Thaksin would use weapons of war to create violence and terrorize" and not long after that, violence erupted. (I was there.)
Later on, Suthep said he met again with the CIA representative, and he said the American government knows that Thaksin will try to take control of Thailand. (Nobody needs the CIA to see this.) The CIA representative said that if Thaksin takes control, it will post a problem for the US government.
I circled back to Ambassador Kenney, asking what specific questions are important. "I'd like the Ambassador to see that this movement belongs to the people. This is the way that people around the world should stage demonstrations without violence." Suthep continued, "Peaceful demonstration, without violence, complies with the Thai constitution. The people have the right to come out and conduct peaceful demonstrations. We don't see any reason why the Ambassador should come out and side with the Thaksin regime."
I asked how long Suthep is willing to continue this effort. "I thought the fight shouldn't take long," he said. "Initially I thought that when millions of people nationwide joined together by general will," he believed that many government officials including the Army and the Police would come out to join the people. Many officials have come out, but still there exists many others from many Ministries who remain undecided. The majority remain undecided, he said.
I said that it appears clear that the Army and the Navy have sided with the PDRC, to which Suthep answered that the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force worry about this government's actions. But they don't know what their place in this movement would be. Suthep said that he told the Commanders, that if they come out, the people can reclaim their sovereign power, and then the people can set up their peoples' assembly and push forward reforms.
=== This constituted nearly half of our conversation. If readers wish to read the other half, please say so in the comments. ===