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May 30: Playground or War Zone?

The May 30 Constitutional Court decision is likely to be one of the most important events since the September 2006 coup. Various groups are pledging to stage massive protests in favor of or against the ruling, which will decide whether or not to dissolve former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party, Thai Rak Thai.the 61 year-old Democratic Party also faces the same possible fate in the election fraud case, and the court may also decide to bar party execs from holding political positions for 5 years, effectively preventing Thaksin from returning to politics.

If the court rules in favor of the parties, the Council for National Security will be seen as weak by anti-coup groups who accuse the junta of inaction since the September coup. Such a ruling would inflame those parties who want the CNS to take hard-line action against Thaksin, and who would like to see their country return to democracy. But if the court rules to dissolve the parties and ban them from politics, members of the parties affected and their supporters are likely to stir up trouble as well.

Last week, the head of the Thai Rak Thai party announced that his party would “try” not to cause any trouble if the court ruled against them. Members of the anti-coup party also said there would be trouble if the ruling were not to their liking. The chief of police told the press that he wasn’t sure they would be able to control the mayhem in store for May 30. Panic was at peak level. An article in the Nation suggested that some demonstrators might cause agitation in the hopes the military might fire the first bullet, sparking civil unrest, which would, at the very least, wake everyone up. The CNS handling of the whole situation was generally speaking, a PR snafu.

And then the clouds parted. His Majesty the King made a speech. He told his people that he was sad, and that he saw Thailand as a ship that was about to sink. He asked his subjects to behave themselves, urged the courts to make an honest decision, and wished Thailand good luck. Within 24 hours all those movers and shakers got up and said “hey, no worries, we will accept the rulings without trouble.” PM Surayud Chulanont had planned to be in China on May 30, but announced that he would cut his journey short and return on the evening of May 29 after the King expressed his concerns. Such is the power of the King in Thailand, but it remains to be seen if things will go as smoothly as everyone is suddenly believing they will, and it speaks mountains about how incompetent and unaware the current regime is.

Last week, Thaksin was allegedly robbed while eating at a McDonalds in Russia. The contents of his suitcase were worth 1.2 billion baht, according to him, and also contained important documents needed for his trial. And yes, of course, therefore he will have to postpone his trial. Thaksin always has a trick up his sleeve, and can’t stand falling out of the public eye. Was this just a nudge, reminding the junta that even if they dissolve his party, they can’t put him on trial and totally remove him from the scene? Or are there shadier dealings yet to be known? Stay tuned.

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