Convicted fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra is looking for the panic button. This particular panic button is not to stop panic, but simply to cause it in Thailand.
There clearly is a mind game underway in Thailand. The government seems to be taking extraordinary measures to show they are in control. They are deploying thousands of police and military to thwart possible Red Shirt spot violence. The down side of this action as always, people are use to governments holding back some information to stem panic. This does leave the question of how bad is bad going to be.
In reality the government seems to be feeding Thaksin’s fire, but it is a necessary evil to counter the out and out lies coming from the Thaksin camp. Rumors of a coup must be countered as they pop up. This is simply to avoid sheep mentality panic that Thaksin is counting on. When the government announces in advance what will happen with police and military deployments, it ends the coup rumor in its tracks.
So in the arena of mind games, the government is also showing the Red Shirts they are not walking into a field of sheep, but more into a field of lions and to think carefully of the consequences. To send a message that the violence they plan will quickly be dealt with.
On the other side, the actual number of protesters is yet unknown. With the large amount of money recently deposited in the bank accounts of Red Shirt leaders, there is plenty of protester buying power available. It will be the personal choice of each protester if the money being offered is worth being in the middle of a violent riot or not. Much of that will be based on when they will get paid to attend.
If non violent protestors do attend they will quickly scatter if violence starts leaving the small core seen in April 2009 to raise mayhem. The government will be able to quickly ascertain the violence potential of the mob with a visual check on the ages of the protesters. Old protesters are just for the visual effect of fill, while young protesters are the ones to be concerned with.
On Thaksin’s side they simply lack reasons to rally and getting people to come to the rally will require financial persuasion as there is so little to invoke emotional motivation. Prime Minister Abhisit has been transparent and has set a new standard never seen in Thailand. Over the past several weeks Abhisit’s approval rating has soared as Thaksin is providing ample opportunity for Abhisit to display his Alpha male side that Thais can connect with. Abhisit’s decisive handling of the April riots was the last time his approval rating was very high.
So if Thaksin can cause panic, he may have a chance as just an out and out head on collision with the military and police is destined to fail. But if he can cause confusion people will just overwhelm the governments ability to deal with the Red Shirts and people will inadvertently help Thaksin.