Abhisit’s political insulation

There is no doubt that everyone in Thailand is screaming at Prime Minister Abhisit to do something about the Red Shirts. But if you step back and look at things, you will find at the present level of declarations, Abhisit does not have the final say.

As Connecting the Dots understands it there are 4 basic levels of declarations. With each level responsibility shifts to different people. Depending on what level, different people are in the hot seat.

The First level is no declarations. This simply means things are normal. Everyone does their job according to their job description. The government governs making all the usual decisions. The police do their job. The military is left to its tasks and various deployments.

The second level is The Internal Security act. What this does is simply give the government more muscle legally and literally. The military can be asked to step in and assist, the scope of laws is extended but the Prime Minister still is in control making the calls.

The Third level is State of Emergency. At this level for the most part the Prime Minister has relinquished all controls to the head of the military for dealing with the situation that caused the state of emergency. All the logistics, the who, what, where and when are completely decided by the military. The only power the Prime Minister has is telling the military to stop or proceed. The Prime Minister also has the power to extend or end the state of emergency. Other more normal issues related to governing remain with the government.

The fourth level is Martial Law and very simply this turns Thailand into a military state. All functions of the government are suspended and the head of the military becomes supreme leader making all decisions of every aspect. In short the government goes off line.

At the present state of emergency, Prime Minister Abhisit is clearly pushing for action, but the say of how and when to proceed rests with Army chief General Anupong Paochinda. With the general set for mandatory retirement in a few months, he tends to be the logical choice politically to be in the hot seat. No matter what happens in a few months the general will enter retirement from military service and someone else will assume command for at least 1 year depending on his age. This insulates Abhisit, and as long as Abhisit can be publically seen pushing for action to evict the Red Shirts, few will be able to fault him for things out of his hands.

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