A Strategy of Tension

15 Jan 10 Attack on Army HQ
13 Feb 10 Grenade goes off near Government House
14 Feb 10 Unexploded bomb discovered near site of Thaksin verdict
15 Feb 10 WARNING: source from Special Branch Police said intelligence officials had learnt that 8 more bomb attacks would be carried out around Bangkok before the end of the following week. Deputy PM’s Secretary-General said the two incidents were apparently staged to create turmoil but government not worried because it had prepared security measures to protect all key government offices. The Internal Security Operations Command also monitoring situation
16 Feb 10 WARNING: Security tightened ahead of verdict
20 Feb 10 Bomb threat at Ministry of Education
27 Feb 10 Motorcyclist lobs bomb at Bankok Bank Silom
27 Feb 10 Motorcyclist lobs bomb at Bankok Bank Phrapradaeng
27 Feb 10 Motorcyclist lobs bomb at Bankok Bank Srinakarin
27 Feb 10 Motorcyclist lobs bomb at Bankok Bank Rama
28 Feb 10 WARNING: Tighter security measures announced in wake of bombings
2 Mar 10 WARNING: Intelligence reports warn of more attacks in the coming days
6 Mar 10 WARNING: Abhisit warns of sabotage attacks on March 14
6 Mar 10 ARREST: Police arrest Phornwat Thongthanaboon for threats on YouTube
7 Mar 10 THEFT: 6,000 assault rifles and explosives reported stolen from Engineering Regiment in Patthalung; part of suspected plot to “incite unrest”
8 Mar 10 WARNING: Prime Minister says intelligence showed there would be bomb attacks in at least two locations and grenades would be thrown at 30-40 locations, particularly “important places”.
12 Mar 10 Bombs go off at Surat Thani, no injuries reported
15 Mar 10 Grenade attacks (2 explode) wound two soldiers
15 Mar 10 Bangkok Bank attacked with “Giant Firecracker”
16 Mar 10 Attack on company of Newin’s in-laws
16 Mar 10 Grenade lands on roof of private home; no injuries
19 Mar 10 Molotov thrown at tank outside camp; no injuries
20 Mar 10 Garbage collector injured outside Ministry of Defense
20 Mar 10 Attack on site under construction at NCCC
20 Mar 10 WARNING: Suspicious object found near Phra Pinklao Bridge
22 Mar 10 Grenade attack outside National Highways Department, no injuries
23 Mar 10 Two grenades near planned Cabinet meeting; no injury
24 Mar 10 Attack on City Hall
24 Mar 10 Grenade found at Central Aiport Plaza
24 Mar 10 Greande lobbed at Legal Execution Department, no injuries
25 Mar 10 Grenade thrown on bed of pick-up truck
25 Mar 10 Grenade planted near Bankok Bank ATM, no injury
26 Mar 10 Unexploded grenade found at Attorney General’s Office
27 Mar 10 Attack on Channel 5 injures 7, 4 seriously (2 soldiers)
27 Mar 10 Attack on Customs Department, no injuries, minor property damage
27 Mar 10 Unexploded grenades found at Pattawikorn Market
27 Mar 10 4 soldiers injured at NBT Studio
28 Mar 10 Grenade thrown in Borommaratchonnani Road, no injury
28 Mar 10 4 soldiers injured in 2 grenade attacks
28 Mar 10 1 pedestrian injured at Barnharn’s House
28 Mar 10 Grenade lobbed into compound at Administrative Court, minor property damage
29 Mar 10 Bomb planted in phone booth near Wat Moon Muang
31 Mar 10 Property damage at official residence in Chiang Mai, no injury
4 Apr 10 WARNING: Police warn of fertilizer pipe bombs
4 Apr 10 Grenade attack from motorcycle at NBT, no injury
4 Apr 10 Attack at Poseidon slightly injures one man
6 Apr 10 2 injured in grenade attacks at Democrat Party HQ
6 Apr 10 Bomb found outside gates of Chulalongkorn University
7 Apr 10 Hand grenade at Tesco Lotus, 2 injuries
7 Apr 10 Attack aimed at Anupong’s office, Army Headquarters, no injury
7 Apr 10 Unexploded home-made bomb found at Fashion Island
8 Apr 10 Grenade attack at TPI Polene, 1 injury
8 Apr 10 Attack on New Politics Party, no injury
9 Apr 10 Live grenade found inside compound at Provincial Electricity Authority
10 Apr 10 Attack on Crime Suppression Division, some property damage, no injury
10 Apr 10 High voltage electricity poles targeted with 6 bombs
10 Apr 10 Around 15 grenades launched during clashes
19 Apr 10 Bomb in garbage can injures 2 girls
20 Apr 10 Attack on two Bangkok Bank branches; no injuries
21 Apr 10 22-million litre oil tank targeted
21 Apr 10 CLASHES: UDD and PAD clash at Silom Road
22 Apr 10 CLASHES: UDD and PAD clash at Silom Road
22 Apr 10 1 dead, 75 injured in 5 grenade attacks at Sala Daeng BTS
25 Apr 10 8 injured in grenade attack on Barnharn’s House
25 Apr 10 Live grenade found under car on Rama 9 Road
25 Apr 10 Grenade damage to Chiang Mai Police HQ, no injuries
28 Apr 10 Attack on Bangkok Bank, no injuries
28 Apr 10 CLASHES: Clash between UDD and army; 18 UDD injured, 1 soldier killed by friendly fire
30 Apr 10 CLASHES: 200 Red Shirts search the hospital for troops, leading to evacuation of 600 patients
08 May 10 Shootings and grenade attacks kill 2 policemen and injure 10
10 May 10 Home-made bomb lobbed at home of ECT Chairman
14 May 10 Grenade attack on Sala Daeng BTS, 2 injured
14 May 10 Grenade attack on authorities at Sarasin Intersection
15 May 10 4 injured in attacks on police flats in Lumphini
15 May 10 Reports of grenades fired at Bon Kai
16 May 10 3 grenades at Dusit Thani, no injuries
19 May 10 4 troops and 1 reporter injured at Thai-Belgian Bridge
19 May 10 ARSON: 39 buildings set on fire, including CentralWorld and Stock Exchange
21 May 10 Unexploded bomb found by Pornthip
2 Jun 10 Grenades ignite fires at night markets in Chiang Mai
22 Jun 10 BJT headquarters attacked with gas-cylinder bomb
24 Jun 10 Unexploded gas-cylinder bomb at Ramintra Soi 81
24 Jun 10 Unexploded bomb found at Udon Thani
28 Jun 10 2 grenades launched at Army fuel tank
30 Jun 10 WARNING: Suthep warns that certain areas of Bangkok remain at risk of attack or violent incidents and may continue under the state of emergency
01 Jul 10 WARNING: Security stepped-up after reports of assassination plots
12 Jul 10 TRIAL: 7 cases referred to courts over bomb attacks
25 Jul 10 Bomb kills 1 and wounds 9 at Big C Rajdamri
30 Jul 10 Bomb in front of King Power wounds 1
01 Aug 10 Grenade found in drainage ditch at Government House
5 Aug 10 WARNING: Security stepped up following reports of planned bomb attacks
7 Aug 10 WARNING: Bridges under observation for terrorist attacks
12 Aug 10 Unexploded bomb found near market in Chiang Mai
26 Aug 10 Bomb at King Power wounds security guard
27 Aug 10 Suspicious object found in department store
31 Aug 10 TV station attacked from toll way, no injuries
5 Sept 10 2 grenades lobbed at Mae Rim military base
8 Sept 10 Bombs defused at parking lot in Nonthaburi
8 Sept 10 Bomb found near Santirat Wittayalai school
8 Sept 10 Bomb disarmed at Public Health Ministry
9 Sept 10 2 grenades lobbed at Mae Rim military base
12 Sept 10 Bomb explodes at construction site owned by Newin relative
21 Sept 10 Bomb goes off at condo, minor property damage
24 Sept 10 Bomb injures 2 schoolgirls and 1 man
24 Sept 10 Bombs damages car in Talingchan
25 Sept 10 Bomb at Royal Turf Club, no injuries
26 Sept 10 Bomb fails to detonate at Omyai market
27 Sept 10 Bomb goes off at Attorney General’s Office, no damage
28 Sept 10 Bomb disarmed near houses in Bang Kruai
29 Sept 10 6 vehicles damaged at factory bombing in Chonburi
1 Oct  10 Bomb threat at Siriraj Hospital
2 Oct 10 Grenades thrown at Krung Thai branch
4 Oct 10 Bomb explodes under car at Thonglor Pet Hospital
5 Oct 10 4 killed, 9 injured in explosion in Nonthaburi
13 Oct 10 Bomb goes off at Prem T. School
5 Nov 10 Ping pong bomb explodes in mailbox
21 Nov 10 Bomb goes off inside phone booth
8 Jan 11 Bomb goes off at Prem T. School
15 Jan 11 Mae Sai district office hit with IED

A Strategy of Tension? Bomb, Grenade, and Arson Attacks with Suspected Connection to Politics in 2010, compiled from news reports, aggregated weekly

a campaign of bombings and sabotage as enigmatic as it was frighteningThe announcement, in early 2010, that the Red Shirts were planning large demonstrations beginning in mid-March ushered in what historian Chris Baker called Thailand’s season of “fear and folly” ― a campaign of bombings and sabotage as enigmatic as it was frightening. This campaign, which lasted for the entire duration of the Red Shirt rallies and for several months afterwards, included a string of grenade attacks on some seventy locations in Bangkok and other provinces, the actions of the so-called “men-in-black” on April 10 ― resulting in the death of a handful of soldiers ― and the arson of more than three dozen buildings on May 19. The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had given the Thai people an easy outlet for their anger and fear: the Red Shirts. Indeed, the violence figured prominently in the government’s depiction of the Red Shirts as “terrorists” — a charge that was subsequently used to justify the suspension of civil liberties, the brutal crackdowns of April/May, and the imprisonment of two dozen of their leaders.

Whereas the Abhisit government is quick to label its opponents “terrorists”, it has done little to substantiate these claims. Considering the degree to which the charge of “terrorism” was instrumental to the government’s ability to censor all alternative sources of information, suspend constitutional rights, and crack down on the Red Shirts without triggering an angry backlash by the citizens of Bangkok, one wonders about the possibility that Thailand’s armed forces may have staged many of these attacks for the purpose of inventing a damaging public case against the Red Shirts. In other words, the episodes of violence are consistent with a “strategy of tension” designed to justify the government’s continued recourse to draconian restrictions on the rights of the opposition. It is easy to believe that the government could have staged incidents to justify (or divert attention from) its track record of violence, abuse of power and misinformation.

organized agents provocateur sparked riots that provided the authorities with the pretext to crack downIt would not be the first time this happened in Thailand. “Third hands” are known to have been at play during both the 1973 and 1992 protests when organized agents provocateur sparked riots that provided the authorities with the pretext to crack down. More recently, pro-government “Blue Shirts” attempted to precipitate a confrontation by attacking Red Shirts who were demonstrating in Pattaya in April 2009.

The most important precedent for a prolonged “strategy of tension”, however, is the campaign of violence carried out by the state and state-sanctioned civilian vigilantes in an attempt to undermine the elected governments of the mid-1970s. In the build-up to the 1976 elections, officially endorsed, state-funded groups like the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and the Red Gaurs are known to have engaged in a protracted campaign of extra-judicial executions against purported communists, provincial politicians and rural activists, such as those working for the Farmers Federation of Thailand. The same groups were also responsible for violent clashes with students and workers, for inciting ethnic riots against the Vietnamese community in the Northeast, and for bombings that killed scores of people at campaign rallies all over the country. This violence created a climate of instability and fear that in turn set the stage for the carnage of October 6, 1976. Hordes of civilian vigilantes rallied to the capital city to defend Thailand from “communists,” surrounded the campus of Thammasat University and carried out a horrific massacre. The 1970s campaign of violence completely undermined the public’s confidence in the democratic process. The crackdown of the students sparked no backlash in Bangkok, while the military coup that followed reportedly came as a relief to much of the urban population.

Aside from the fact that some of the architects and financial backers of Thailand’s 1970s “strategy of tension” now rank among Abhisit’s strongest supporters, the timing of the attacks that have occurred throughout 2010 has been interesting to say the least. Victimless explosions at four branches of Bangkok Bank on the night of February 27 led to vague but stern warnings by the government that more “sabotage” was planned in the lead-up to March 14 ― thereby justifying the imposition of the Internal Security Act. The surge in attacks observed during the last week of March was highly instrumental to the imposition of the Emergency Decree on April 8, in anticipation of the April 10 crackdown. Then, the explosions that rocked Bangkok in late April set the stage for the assassination of Seh Daeng and the bloodshed that accompanied the week-long push to disperse the Red Shirt rallies, while the fires on May 19 gave the government enough cover to sweep the dead bodies of ninety Red Shirts under the rug. More than a month later, the bomb at the BJT headquarters muted the intensifying calls to lift the Emergency Decree, leading to the three-month extension handed down on July 6. Then, on July 25, just hours after Abhisit announced to the press that the government would urgently consider lifting the emergency decree, a bomb went off at Big C Rajadamri, killing one man and putting any plans to restore the people’s constitutional rights on hold for the foreseeable future.

The fact remains that terrorist attacks have tended to occur at rather convenient times for the government’s purposes. It is also interesting that “terrorists” always found a way to confirm what the government wanted the public to believe. First it was that the Red Shirt rallies could not be properly contained without the Internal Security Act. Then it was to show that the Internal Security Act was itself not enough. Then it was that the Red Shirts needed to be put down whatever the cost. And then it was to point out that those who ended up dead got what they deserved. Considering that the Red Shirts were desperate to earn the support of Bangkok residents, more than any others these “terrorists” helped the government show that the UDD deserved none of that public support. One might say that the “terrorists” were the government’s best allies; were it not for the “terrorists”, it is quite likely that this government would no longer be in office. Indeed, “terrorists” have rescued Abhisit from almost certain oblivion enough times to make one wonder whether that might in fact have been their objective.

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