Thailand’s prime minister appears convinced he knows who is behind the Monday bombing in Bangkok.
“There are individuals or groups who seek to destroy our country. The ongoing attacks might be politically motivated, targeting the economy or tourism for whatever reason,” said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
No prizes for guessing who those groups might be. The finger is being pointed at the “redshirts”, fierce opponents of the traditional ruling classes whose movement sprang up in 2006 in support of their champion, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the army.
In Thailand it is easy. The opposition is red, and those supporting the status quo wear yellow. Even easier, red is for the poor, yellow is for the elite, red for anti-military dictatorship versus the yellow educated and upper classes revolted by corruption, and monarchist.
The red’s stonghold is in the north where more than 10% of the population lives in poverty. The others are concentrated in and around the capital, and in the rich touristic south.
The man accusing the reds of being behind the attack, and wanting to strike at the heart of the country’s wealth is the man who a year ago took power through a coup d’etat. General Prayut Chan Ocha swiftly changed his uniform for a business suit , but only after as head of the army declaring martial law following several months of political crisis. He had the blessing of Thailand’s king.
A few days before he had ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the former PM, who had won the 2011 elections. One of Thailand’s wealthiest families is pitted against the army and monarchy, and the rivalry continues.
For 10 years the battle has gone on, with the Shinawatra’s populist policies scooping up electoral majorities among the poor, but each time their administrations have fallen victim to corruption and scandal.
But despite that the Shinawatras still have many supporters. Since 2006 the redshirts have been a constant thorn in the side of the establishment, and they continue to demand their hero’s reinstatement, and respect for due democratic process.
The junta has no legitimacy and has been condemned by the international community. It can only gain from stigmatising the redshirts as being behind the attack. It will shore up its power, and strengthen its hand.