World View: Thailand's Elite Minority Seeks to Shut Bangkok Down

World View: Thailand's Elite Minority Seeks to Shut Bangkok Down

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Thailand’s elite minority seeks to shut Bangkok down
  • Syria’s Sunni opposition militias fight each other

Thailand’s elite minority seeks to shut Bangkok down

Anti-government protesters rally in front of the statue of King Rama I at Bangkok's Memorial Bridge (Bangkok Post)
Anti-government protesters rally in front of the statue of King Rama I at Bangkok’s Memorial Bridge (Bangkok Post)

Anti-government protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban of the “People’sDemocratic Reform Committee” are planning a massive rally to shut downthe city of Bangkok, Thailand, next week on Monday, January 13, in anattempt to gain control of the government. Prime Minister YingluckShinawatra has offered to step down, and has scheduled new electionsfor next month. However, that doesn’t work for Thaugsuban, becauseShinawatra’s Pheu Thai political party has won the last fiveelections, and will undoubtedly win the next election. Instead of anelection Shinawatra is demanding that a new “People’s Council” selectthe next prime minister. Presumably, Thaugsuban wants the People’sCouncil to be packed with is allies.

Thailand is in a very dangerous situation. Thaugsuban’smarket-dominant light-skinned Thai-Chinese elite minority do not wishto give up any power, but they’re vastly outnumbered by thedark-skinned Thai-Thai who do most of the menial labor, and whocontinue to support the Pheu Thai political party. So if the latterstick together, they will always win every election, and Thaugsubanknows it.

Thaugsuban’s “yellow shirt” supporters are apparently planningterrorist violence on January 13 to get their way, including gunfireand bombs. If they do get their way, then expect a violent backlashfrom the “red shirt” Thai-Thai. Bangkok Post

Syria’s Sunni opposition militias fight each other

As al-Qaeda linked jihadists pour into Syria, the fighting on theground is becoming more complex. There are now four different groupsfighting in Syria:

  • The “moderate opposition,” or Syrian National Coalition (SNC), including the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are moderate Sunni anti-Assad rebels who initially fought with the Syrian army when the conflict began in 2001.
  • The Islamic Emirate in Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) is the modern outgrowth of al-Qaeda is Iraq of the mid-2000s decade, and has been a magnet for Sunni jihadists from as far away as Pakistan, Algeria and Dagestan. Although nominally an al-Qaeda linked group, the group has refused to take orders from al-Qaeda head Ayman Al-Zawahiri, thought to be hiding out in Pakistan. ISIS is occupying some of eastern Syria through parts of western Iraq in Anbar province. In theory, ISIS is fighting Iraq’s Shia army in the east, and Syria’s Shia/Alawite army in the west.

    ISIS has been fighting the SNC more than the army, leading to a major split between the anti-Assad rebels.

  • The Islamic Front, or Jabhat al-Nusra (“Victory Battlefront”), are also Syrians, but are salafists rather than “moderates.” It was formed in early 2012, and today is a large fighting force, with 11 big brigades. Al-Nusra won’t say publicly which side they take — the moderates or ISIS — but they’re said to be assisting the moderates, promoting Syrian unity over salafist ideology.
  • President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian army is targeting the moderates, and leaving ISIS alone.

The Syrian army has been taking advantage of the increasing fightingamong the opposition forces. Some people are accusing al-Assad andISIS as being allied against the moderates, while al-Assad fools theinternational community by claiming to be fighting terrorists inSyria. The SNC has issued this statement:

“The Syrian National Coalition believes that ISIS isclosely linked to the terrorist regime and serves the interests ofthe clique of President Bashar Al-Assad…. The murder of Syrians bythis group leaves no doubt about the intentions behind theircreation, their objectives, and the agendas they service, which isconfirmed by the nature of their terrorist actions that arehostile to the Syrian revolution.”

Al-Jazeera (TV report) and Joshua Landis

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