February is Spicy Month

So we bid farewell to the first month of 2010.

Here in Thailand that means that the tourists numbers will begin to trickle off and the temperatures (and humidity) will begin rising daily over the next few months. But for those of us living here, we may not even need to wait until Songkran to see the worst temperatures of the year.

The country is anxiously awaiting the verdict on whether or not the government can confiscate 76 billion baht (about $2.375 billion USD) from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup. Some speculate that he’s lost a fortune in the Dubai collapse and so this last $2 billion or so is really, really, really important to him (he denies he’s experiencing any financial difficulties).

At issue is whether or not he used his office as head of the country to enrich himself and his family. Amongst other charges some are questioning whether the former PM and former head of one of Thailand’s largest cellular network providers may have used the office of the Prime Minister to make subtle changes to the tax law that allowed him to avoid paying taxes on his mult-billion dollar stake in AIS.

That’s really neither here nor there though. In Thailand he’s either a saint or evil incarnate depending on who you talk to. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground where he’s concerned.

Many of his supporters are calling Feb 26th their final stand and have been busy stoking the fires that a possible coup is immanent. Who and why a coup would be staged is a little murky as the military’s head-honcho (Army Chief Gen Anupong ) is not shy about expressing his dislike of Thaksin. Any coup arising from the current power structure would only be a means to take a hard line stance against Thaksin as some are growing frustrated that the current government has not shut him up and still allows him to cause problems.

Another possible scenario would be if the good general’s subordinate officers decided to throw him out with the government in a pro-Thaksin coup. Some cite a recent Twitter post by Thaksin as an indication such a plan may be in the works.

“Thais in all foreign countries should get prepared, especially those who love democracy. If a coup is staged, we will form a government in exile together. Now, I have not set it up yet. I must wait for a coup to take place first.”

But that plan may have been killed last week when Gen. Anupong gave one of the thorns in his side, Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdiphol, a very public bitch-slap when he removed him from his command. Other commanders sensing now would be a good time to demonstrate where your loyalties lie lest you find yourself also on Anupong’s shit-list staged rallies of their troops to denounce Gen Khattiya’s disloyalty and pledge their support for Gen. Anupong.

In a strange twist of events, Gen Khattiya has upped the ante since his public rebuff. He’s been quoted as saying “I want to warn judges to be careful both before and after judgment day because I don’t know when they’re going to shoot you. The gunman may be a professional killer or a hit man hired by people, because now the red shirts have become fanatical with patriotic sentiment as they feel they do not receive justice.”

Since Khattiya is also a well-known red shirt (Thaksin) supporter and he has made suspiciously similar predictions regarding red shirt violence right before it occurred many view his remarks as a threat rather than well-intentioned advice.

He may have played himself right into a corner which would provide some evidence of how desperate the upcoming days will become with so much on the line for both sides. If he is aware of a specific assassination plot his words obligate him to reveal what he knows or be considered to be a conspirator. If is unaware of a specific threat then he could be charged with attempting to intimidate the court.

Ahh, Thai politics can be so interesting.

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