Thai Crisis: Iconic global risk consultancy, IHS, says anti corruption unit’s “Judical Coup” escalate crisis (Up-Dated)

(Up-Dated) There appear to be a campaign, by some un-known instigators, directing violence, such as firing rocket grenade and bombs, towards the courts and independent units. Some say it is pro-government instigators to threaten the courts and independent units, and other say it is anti government instigators, in a propaganda campaign to smear the government.

The following is from IHS Jane’s (source)

Risk of Thai government being toppled by ‘judicial coup’ increases as protests escalate into violence

IHS Jane’s Intelligence Weekly

25 February 2014

Anti-government supporters rally in support of peaceful protests during a memorial for the children killed in recent bomb blasts in Bangkok, Thailand, on 26 February 2014. Source: PA

Should the NACC find that a case of corruption can be made against Yingluck, it could suspend her from office under section 272 of the 2007 Constitution, pending a final ruling by the Senate under section 270.

There is an increased risk that by-elections will be disrupted and Yingluck will be removed from office along with other prominent Pheu Thai MPs such as her younger sister, Yaowapa Wongsawat.

The toppling of the caretaker Pheu Thai government raises risks of violence at pro-government Red Shirt rallies in Bangkok and the north and northeast provinces, as well as targeted attacks on opposition-linked assets in Bangkok.

EVENT

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to appear before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on 27 February 2014, to hear charges of dereliction of duty made against her by the opposition Democrat Party in connection with her government’s rice pledging scheme.

The NACC’s decision to launch investigations into Yingluck indicates that the opposition is forging ahead with its strategy to topple the Pheu Thai government via a ‘judicial coup’, as forecasted by IHS. The case against Yingluck is moving in parallel with separate proceedings launched by the Election Commission (EC), which was also instigated by an opposition petition, against her younger sister, former Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Mai, Yaowapa Wongsawat, into alleged violations of election law during Chiang Mai’s 2013 by-election.

Yaowapa is married to Somchai Wongsawat, who served as Thailand’s 26th prime minister until he was toppled by a Constitutional Court ruling that disbanded his governing People Power Party in 2008. This ruling resulted in Democrat Party member Abhisit Vejjajiva becoming prime minister following a parliamentary appointment.

The EC is scheduled to issue its ruling next week, which could result in Yaowapa being banned from politics for 10 years if found guilty. Yaowapa is one of the politicians slated to assume Yingluck’s caretaker prime ministerial role in the event of the latter’s impeachment. The EC’s investigation against her signals the opposition’s determination to pursue members of the Shinawatra ruling family and topple the embattled caretaker Pheu Thai government through legal measures.

The NACC is also conducting parallel investigations into charges of “malfeasance in office” against 312 other politicians (mostly from Pheu Thai), all of whom face similar risks of suspension under section 272 of the Constitution.

The opposition is likely to continue to obstruct the caretaker government’s ability to complete elections and form a government. Although voting is expected to take place on 27 April in constituencies where polling was disrupted by anti-government protests, the opposition People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) is likely to stage street protests to once again disrupt polling. Under the Constitution, a government cannot be formed unless the elections return at least 95% of the 500 members of the House of Representatives. Furthermore, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn has taken the position that the EC cannot hold elections in the 28 southern constituencies unless a fresh royal decree is issued, which the caretaker government disputes. If the EC and the caretaker government fail to agree, the matter is likely to go before the Constitutional Court. This is likely to prolong the political paralysis, increasing the risk of violence escalating.

The government’s ability to quell the anti-government protests has also been curtailed. The Bangkok Civil Court ruled on 19 February 2014 that the government cannot dispel anti-government protesters. On 24 February 2014, the Criminal Court also rejected the government’s request for the issue of arrest warrants against 13 PDRC leaders.

Violence escalates at anti-government protest sites

As IHS forecast, violence at the anti-government rally sites has escalated as the opposition continues to mount legal challenges against the Pheu Thai. On 22 February 2014, unidentified gunmen opened fire on anti-government protesters in the eastern province of Trat, killing a five-year-old girl. The following day, two people died and 22 were wounded in a grenade attack at the Ratchaprasong rally site located near Bangkok’s Central World shopping mall. On 25 February 2014, a three-hour night attack on an opposition rally site in Lumpini left two injured. The Bangkok Post reported that areas near the Thai-Belgian flyover, Lumpini park, Henri Dunant, and Sarasin intersections were attacked by 20 grenades, followed by gunshots near Sala Daeng and Surawong roads.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has continued to escalate the protests. On 20 February 2014, he announced a boycott against goods and products of Shinawatra-linked businesses, leading protesters to gather at the SC Asset building on Vibhavadi Rangsit road. This underscored the heightened risk that businesses linked (or perceived to be linked) to the Shinawatras (including AIS, Thaicom plc, CS Loxinfo, and InTouch) may be besieged or blockaded by anti-government protesters, although the risk of such protesters launching violent attacks on these commercial assets remains low for now, unless police attempt to forcibly disperse them. On 26 February, Suthep led anti-government rallies at police headquarters on Pahthumwan Road, raising the risk of violent confrontations breaking out between protesters and police.

FORECAST

As Thailand’s political paralysis drags on, there is an increased risk of gun or grenade attacks on anti-government protest sites. The authorities have not yet identified the perpetrators, who could either belong to armed hard-line groups intending to trigger violence and provoke military intervention, or pro-government supporters wishing to intimidate opposition protesters. In any event, the risk to individuals in the vicinity of rally sites remains severe.

If both sides fail to reach a compromise and the opposition continues to successfully escalate protests, the removal of Yingluck and/or toppling of the caretaker Pheu Thai government via a judicial or military coup will become increasingly likely. This would in turn raise the risk of pro-government Red Shirt supporters staging violent rallies.

Additionally, there is an increased risk of pro-government supporters staging retaliatory attacks against the assets of those linked (or accused of being linked) to the PDRC. On 15 February 2014, unidentified gunmen shot at the house of Pramon Suthivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organization of Thailand, after he was named without verification as one of the PDRC’s financial backers by the Bangkok Post on 12 February.

The PDRC, along with many of these companies and individuals, have denied the allegations of links. Additionally neither the authorities nor the media have provided any evidence to substantiate the alleged links. Nevertheless the attack on Pramon underscores the heightened risk of retaliatory attacks being launched on assets or personnel of those publicly linked to the PDRC, regardless of whether these links are real or merely perceived. The risk of such attacks is likely to increase as the political paralysis drags on, with the violence taking the form of attacks such as drive-by shootings on homes or commercial assets (designed to harass and intimidate rather than cause actual damage). However, the risk of such attacks occurring and the intensity of the retaliatory violence will increase if the caretaker Pheu Thai government is toppled through a judicial or military coup.

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