Sunday, April 02, 2006
THAILAND'S ELECTION DAY
lection polls closed at 3 pm today without any major incidents (apart from a series of fake bomb scares in Pattani), but 40 minutes later, several bombs exploded outside polling stations in southern Narathiwat province. Several soldiers providing security for the ballot were seriously injured in the attacks.
People's Alliance for Democracy leader, media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul delayed his return from Guilin, China last night, where he had fled amid charges of lese majeste. Bangkok Airways received a bomb threat yesterday against the Bangkok - Guilin flight on which Sondhi had planned to return, and a pro-Taksin group vowed to besiege him at the airport. Sondhi arrived in Bangkok this morning, but said he would not vote. He did threaten to sue those accusing him of lese majeste (offense to the King), including the Army Chief of Staff General Sonthi Boonyaratklin, who says that such remarks upset members of the armed forces. Gen. Sonthi was quoted in The Nation saying:
"I think you know what could happen if the armed forces are displeased."Yes. We all know what could happen, and I haven't heard a General making such a statement, since the last time it happened. The toughest part about these lese majeste incidents (often used in the past for political purposes), is finding out what the actual statement was, since any media that airs or prints it also becomes liable to charges. A mob beseiged headquarters of The Nation Group after one of its smaller Thai language magazines printed a reference to Sondhi's statement. The paper apologised, and punished itself with a voluntary 5 day closure.
But from what can be pieced together (see 2Bangkok for more), Sondhi had been attacking Taksin from the demonstration's stage, telling him that if he sends a law to the King for signature, and there is a mistake, he should be responsible and resign. If he doesn't do so, does the PM then expect His Majesty to "resign" for the mistake? That's treading on pretty thin ice, it will sound very jarring to almost every Thai ear . Sondhi better be careful, although I'd like to see the tape before judging how close he stepped.
The Prime Minister warned his opponents as he cast his ballot today, saying that his tolerance of civil disobedience will be sharply reduced after election day. PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang, voting at the same station, vowed that demonstrations will resume next week, and will continue until Taksin resigns. Photos of these and other Thais on election day are on The Nation's 2006 Election Gallery. It really looks like a shot of tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan voting, at the last photo on row 2, though he's not identified. There are two shots of the Chula prof arrested for destroying his ballot, and that's the Democrat Party's new generation leader Abhisit Vejjajiva at the end of row 5, Chamlong at the end of row 7, and elder statesman Anand Panyarachun in the last photo from Bangkok. Photos from the provinces round out the collection.