Friday, November 28, 2008

Power shift from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

In early October, I asked "Will Thailand's government relocate to Chiang Mai?" And I noted:
Such a move makes a certain amount of sense. That's because much of the opposition to the PPP led government is concentrated in Bangkok. Chiang Mai, on the other hand, is PPP territory. The anti-democratic PAD-led street demonstrators would surely not be made to feel welcome in Chiang Mai.
But would this actually come to pass? An article in Friday's Bangkok Post provides the answer:
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat will remain in the northern city of Chiang Mai "indefinitely" because of tensions with the military, a government spokesman said.

Somchai was forced to land in Chiang Mai from a trip abroad on Wednesday after anti-government protesters seized control of Bangkok's two airports.

He declared a state of emergency at the airports on Thursday night as rumours of a possible military coup swept the capital, although the army said it was not intervening.

"As there are still uncertainties in the tensions between the government and army, for his safety the prime minister will stay in Chiang Mai," government spokesman Suparat Nakbunnam said.

"He has no schedule to return to Bangkok, he will stay in Chiang Mai indefinitely for his security," Suparat said
As Bangkok Pundit puts it: "The government has, in effect, moved to Chiang Mai."

Chiang Mai is a friendly city. One can hardly blame the Prime Minister for not wanting to return to Bangkok. . . . Whether this is tenable is another matter. Government ministries, foreign embassies, the military, and so on, are all based in Bangkok.

However, I find myself thinking about the question not merely in operational and political terms, but also in strategic terms.

Thinking down the road . . . . In the event of a military coup in Bangkok, might the government find itself in a position still to defend Chiang Mai? Does not a move to Chiang Mai compel any coup-plotters to control a greater number of army battalions? It promises to complicates things for them. And should the elected government in Chiang Mai manage to retain control of military units in the north of the country, might the country find itself divided? Or worse?

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