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NightWatch 20100416


For the Night of 16 April 2010

North Korea: Yesterday, 15 April, was the Day of the Sun in North Korea, which honors and celebrates the birthday of Kim Il-sung, Pesident for eternity of North Korea. North Korean media effusively praised the leadership qualities of Kim's grandson, Kim Jung un, manifest in his "organization" of the fireworks display, whatever that means.

This is the second fireworks display he has "organized" that reportedly pleased his father, Kim Chong-il, according to North Korean media. The two displays are extolled as proof of his rightful claim to be the next leader of North Korea, as if the North were an amusement park. That plus he looks like his grandfather.

Note: Even North Koreans recognize that the succession propaganda campaign is errant nonsense, but they go through the motions. In fact, the record of achievement of the Kim family post Kim Il-sung is rather barren and mostly ruinous, especially that of Kim Chong-il. Leadership and courage in the Kim family line apparently died with Kim Il-sung..

Thailand: Five thousand people rallied outside the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bangkok, where the government's Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations is located. The group delivered a letter to the government asking for more action against terrorists and violent protesters. Another 20,000 gathered outside Surat Thani province's government hall to show their support for the government.

The police attempted to arrest the leaders of the Red Shirts at their hotel. The operation was poorly executed and failed. It prompted the Prime Minister to make a change of command and to recast the opposition activity.

Prime Minister Abhisit said the "unsuccessful efforts taken so far" against the protesters had prompted the government to "review structural issues". He replaced Deputy Prime Minister Suthep with Royal Thai Army Commander-in-Chief General Anuphong as the person in command of actions to control the emergency situation.

"… Army Commander General Anuphong Phaochinda shall be appointed as the chief official in charge of the areas announced in the declaration of this severe state of emergency, and he will be responsible for the prevention, rectification, suppression, and deterrence of the offenses related to terrorism in accordance with the Penal Code in the areas announced by the declaration of the severe state of emergency."

Abhisit also redefined the protests as terrorism, primarily because of the shooting deaths by sniper fire of three Army officers during last week's clash.

Abhisit said the leadership change would help the chain of command to become more "effective and swift," an apparent reference to the military chain of command. He said the new authority would be able to "call in forces in a more united and integrated way, so that they can handle the terrorism-related activities specifically", he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep was in charge of Friday's failed operation to arrest key red-shirt leaders. He had announced that the police were there to take "decisive measures against terrorists."

Authorities will continue to try to arrest red-shirt leaders after failing to capture them in a hotel raid on Friday morning, government spokesman Panitan Wattanayakorn said. This is just a start, he said.  Whether the unsuccessful arrests were because of the plan was leaked to outsiders, Panithan said a further investigation is needed before he can answer that.

Comment: Today, 16 April, marks the start of a new cycle of instability. After two days of no reported violence, the government used police against the protestors and that failed. In less than 24 hours it installed the mechanism for the third overreaction phase since early March.

Asia Times Online analysis is that the police and the Army are divided over support for the protestors or the government. This explains the mention of leaks by government spokesman Panithan. AToL sources apparently report that the police effectiveness has been undermined by opposition sympathizers in the crisis center. Army units also are said to be sympathetic to the opposition.

The introduction of the Army suggests a Thai variation on the Bangladesh scenario in which the Army backed a civilian government in January 2007 during a state of emergency imposed to restore law and order. That appears to be the model the Thai have chosen for restoring order and economic normality, using the military but in support of civilian government. Expect more clashes in this phase.

Kyrgyzstan: Update. With Bakiyev gone, media attention has shifted to the political plans of interim leader Otunbayeva. She said she has not decided whether to run for president in elections, tentatively set for October. The next step in political normalization is drafting a new constitution.

Sudan: Update. Election officials have begun counting millions of ballots after five days of voting in its first multiparty elections in 24 years. The election, which has been tainted by boycotts and accusations of fraud, was extended for two days after many polling stations opened without ballot papers.

The only candidate for the presidency is Omar al Bashir, who has promised to include opposition parties if he is reelected.

They were the first multi-party polls since 1986 and part of a north-south deal to end two decades of war. Another part of the deal is that the southern Sudanese, who are Christians and animists vice Muslims, are to hold a referendum on independence in January 2011.

In this election, voters elected the president and 450 members of national assembly, as well as governors and legislative bodies for 25 states. The results are due next week. All reports from international observers, including former US President Carter, indicate no violence disrupted the election, miraculously. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 16 April.

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