Monday, August 17

Bangkok Erawan Shrine bombing: Are Thaksin Shinawatra and U.S. Amb. Glyn Davies the prime suspects? (UPDATED 2X)

Latest on Bangkok Erawan Shrine Bombing  3:30 AM EDT, Aug 18 -- my collection of latest news and analysis on the bombing.  
UPDATE 1:25 AM EDT - Aug 18

NBC News 1:01 AM EDT Aug 18: CCTV Video Near Bangkok Bombing Shows 'Suspect,' Thai PM Says
NBC reports that the death toll now stands at 22 including 8 foreigners and that no group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing. The authorities are looking for a possible suspect shown on a CCTV camera near the site of the bomb blast and reviewing other CCTV tapes in the vicinity. Also from the NBC report: 
The bomb blast did not match the tactics used by separatist rebels in Thailand's south, the country's army chief said on Tuesday (local time). ... "The type of bomb used is also not in keeping with the south," Royal Thai Army chief and deputy defense minister General Udomdej Sitabutr said in a televised interview. ... At least two people from China and one from the Philippines were among the dead, a tourist police officer said. Media said most of the wounded were from China and Taiwan. ... "The perpetrators intended to destroy the economy and tourism, because the incident occurred in the heart of the tourism district," Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told Reuters.
From an earlier AP report on the incident: "Chinese tourists, many on cheap package tours, make up the single biggest group of overseas visitors to Thailand, with about 4.6 million arriving last year."

Often in the rush and tumble of trying to understand what happened in a terrorist attack I overlook the purely human element of the tragedy. So I begin by offering condolences to families of the victims of the Erawan Shrine bombing, which at this moment number at least 20 and more than 120 wounded.

American expat in Thailand and "geopolitical researcher" Tony Cartalucci has already posted at his Land Destroyer blog his analysis of the bombing. But the analysis is short on detail about the bombing and long on his suspicions as to whodunit, as you might intuit from the title and lede, US Savagery Visited Upon Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Now Visits Bangkok: "US ambassador's appointment portended deadly attack."

But while Tony rehashes American Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies's focus of studies at the U.S. Naval War College, which boil down to 'How to make a lot of trouble without actually declaring war,' he heaps the lion's share of the blame on his favorite whipping boy, former Thailand Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and Thaksin's cadre, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or "Red Shirts" as they're known, who turned overtly violent in 2010.

Would Thaksin be so dastardly as to orchestrate a terrorist attack on a Hindu shrine that is a large attraction for East Asian tourists in Bangkok?

Thaksin reminds me of the typical Chinese provincial boss in China's ancient Boss System of dealing with troublesome provincial situations.  The system is simple.  The ruler -- the big boss -- tells the local boss, 'I'm tired of hearing about this situation. Deal with it.'

How the boss deals with it often results in very unpleasant tactics to restore the peace. But if the boss does a good job he can move up fast in the pecking order, which is how a nobody named Hu Jintao eventually became the big boss in China. He did such a good job of keeping order in Tibet that he was known as the "Butcher of Lhasa."  

I add that there's a certain symmetry to the Boss System, as we can see by the present big boss, Xi Jinping, deciding that Hu and his cadre are now pests.

To return to Thailand, some years ago Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej asked Thaksin to tamp down the country's illicit drug trade. By the time the king realized what had happened, hundreds if not thousands of Thais having no connection to the drug trade had been massacred. But by gum Thaksin did manage to terrorize a fair number of drug kingpins into high-tailing it for Burma and other points outside Thailand.  

The difference is that King Bhumibol didn't give him a gold star. He recoiled from the tactics and from then on supported Thaksin's ouster from power.    

Yes, I think Thaksin is capable of telling the Red Shirt leaders to keep up the pressure on Thailand's military by any means necessary. There is evidence to indicate he's done it before, going back as early as the 2010 Red Shirt protests in Bangkok, which were a thinly disguised attempt at a violent coup. 

But would he go so far as to encourage terrorist acts in Thailand in order to score points with Americans who've supported his attempts to regain power in Thailand?   

Another question, far more serious than the first, is whether the American military would encourage Thaksin to harry Thailand's military through the use of violent tactics.  

Tony Cartalucci obviously thinks the answer to both questions is yes, and sees the installation of Glyn Davies as a telling omen.

Tony reasons thusly about the pile of circumstantial evidence against Thaksin:
In May 2014, the Thai military finally ousted the Shinawatra regime in a peaceful coup and has since begun dismantling Shinawatra's terrorist and political networks - much to the displeasure of the US. It was predicted then, based on demographic and strategic analysis, that the "civil war" and mass demonstrations Shinwatra and the Western media threatened Thailand with were all but an impossibility, and that the only option left would be a campaign of systematic terror - terror that has since unfolded.
In early 2015, two powerful bombs would detonate just down the road from the most recent bombing in downtown Bangkok. The bombing was carried out just days after Shinawatra's red shirts vowed to "create violence like that seen in the South."
In April 2015, there would another bombing carried out in coordination with a concerted propaganda campaign launched by the Western media to degrade Thailand's economy. The bombing attacked a popular tourist destination.
There was also a grenade attack on Thailand's Criminal Court building in a desperate bid to derail moves by the Thai government to hold accountable the Shinawatra regime for its various and egregious crimes committed while in power - the suspect linked directly to Thaksin Shinawatra's brother, Chaiyasit Shinawatra.
It is abundantly clear that Shinwatra's US-backed political front, unable to muster mobs in the streets and being systematically uprooted from the political landscape of Thailand, has turned to a campaign of terrorism to extort concessions from the ruling Thai government. Many of Shinawatra's closest allies remain both in Thailand and [are] prominent members of the political opposition.
So when it comes to fingering Thaksin's Red Shirts as a prime suspect in the shrine bombing, I think Tony could be on track. But when it comes to connecting Thaksin's machinations with U.S. military ambitions directed at Thailand, I think he goes off the rails: 
While Thailand possesses several key advantages over Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, primarily the fact that the US and Shinawatra are incapable of fielding military forces capable of challenging Thailand's territorial integrity, the prospect of a protracted and [vicious] terrorist campaign aimed at disrupting Thailand's capital, including tourism and commuting is seen as a point of viable leverage the US can use against the Thai government.

In addition to ousting and uprooting a loyal US proxy [Thaksin], the current Thai government has been gravitating ever closer to China, disrupting long-laid plans to use Southeast Asia as a united front with which the US can encircle and contain Beijing.
Tony sees Amb. Davies's appointment to Thailand as part of this encirclement plan, but he's seeing things upside down. Thailand's government is just as happy with China throwing its weight around in the region as are all the other regional players: which is to say, not at all. 

This doesn't mean they refuse to do business with China and doesn't mean they don't try to get along and go along with China's government as best they can. But everyone in the region is tired of China playing the Big Boss -- and now more than tired, worried.  Worried enough to have put out feelers to the U.S. military.

From that vantage point, the arrival in Thailand of an American official who's made a formal study of state-sponsored destabilization tactics could be read as a not-too-subtle message from Thailand's military to Beijing.

To put this another way, if the U.S. wanted to involve Thailand in a regional coalition against China, sending in an ambassador to help wreak mayhem on tourists in Bangkok would be a strange way of going about it.

This said, Tony did a great job a few years ago of ferreting out a links between Thaksin and some American lobbying firms -- and these firms fall in the category of "pantalla," that great word Mexicans use to describe the masks for shadowy players who control other shadowy players.  

If these links still exist, I think it's up to the U.S. Department of State to see they are severed. 


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