By Avudh Panananda
Published on January 25, 2011
Does Thailand stand to gain or lose in the face of agitation by the red and yellow shirts? Today the People's Alliance for Democracy will lead the yellow shirts on to the streets in order to pressure the government to meet three demands related to the Thai-Cambodian border dispute.
Meanwhile, the Sombat Boonngam-anong faction of the red-shirt movement will also rally to demand justice and democracy, despite the reds holding a march on Sunday.
Public anxiety goes up a notch when red and yellow rallies converge. The yellow shirts will encamp at Makkhawan Bridge near Government House while the reds will rally at Democracy Monument, about two kilometres away on Rajdamnoen Avenue.
Next week, the mainstream reds led by Thida Thawornseth will finalise legal plans to file a complaint about injustice and last year's bloodshed at the International Criminal Court, in The Netherlands - which has no chance of being heard but is being done for show.
It is ironic that the red and yellow shirts are treating their country like a punching bag, in order to fight for causes which they believe will bring about a better and stronger Thailand. Under the norms of diplomacy and international politics, border negotiations take place behind closed doors. But the PAD has cited accountability, transparency and freedom of speech to justify its public debate on border issues.
Even though it takes both countries to sort out their common borders, the PAD has curiously focused its attack on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government as if the Thai side alone can make a unilateral decision on where Cambodian territory should be.
The yellow shirts are spearheading an "awareness" campaign over border areas near Preah Vihear Temple and at Sa Kaew, opposite Cambodia's Bantaey Meanchey, to voice concern about the risk of Thailand losing territory to Cambodia.
The yellow shirts have been releasing documents to back up their attack on PM Abhisit for his supposed mishandling of a border dispute, but their arguments could backfire and compromise Thailand's position in any future negotiations on boundary settlement. The belligerent noise generated by the yellow shirts will adversely impact on boundary talks. The two neighbouring countries need an amicable atmosphere to settle their borderline.
Since border agreements are the legacy of the colonial era, Thailand is already in a disadvantageous position. Thai forebears made a painful sacrifice to shed land in order to safeguard independence.
If the yellow shirts are true patriots, then they should carefully weigh the pros and cons of what they are doing, particularly their marshalling of lopsided information on the World Court verdict on Preah Vihear and their reference on the location of border marker No 46 at Sa Kaew.
Of the three demands, the yellow shirts aim to cancel the 2000 memorandum of understanding prescribing negotiations as a way to resolve the borderline. The cancellation of negotiations could end up in military confrontation. But any armed conflict with Cambodia would certainly bring about international intervention. Can the yellow shirts guarantee their fellow compatriots that Thailand will win support from the international community after bullying its smaller neighbour?
Just like the yellow rivals, the red shirts have invoked democracy to justify their struggle. The judicial process has not been exhausted in regard to last year's bloodshed but the red shirts say they want to air their grievances at the International Criminal Court, despite the fact it only ever hears cases such as genocide and crimes against humanity.
Last century, Thais fought hard to overturn extraterritorial jurisdiction imposed by foreign powers. Their descendants, however, claim they can only rely on international courts as they refuse to listen to one another or trust in their own judiciary.
Critics say the reds have no chance of launching a case in the ICC. They overlook the reds' real intent - they just want to embarrass the government.