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Thai foreign minister will "find no peace in his life"

It only makes sense that Thailand's new premier, when appointing a foreign minister,  would choose a career diplomat who once served as U.S. ambassador.

But Kasit Piromya, the PM's pick for foreign minister, also supported the "yellow shirt" protesters who paralyzed parts of Bangkok late last year. He even spoke at their rallies inside a government compund blockaded by protesters.

And here comes the backlash.

After Thailand's yellow-clad "People's Alliance for Democracy" protest faction seized both of Bangkok's airports and the prime minister's compound last year, the group left a lot of bitterness in its wake. Their street campaign helped dismantle a rival political party, whose members are now banned from politics for corruption charges.

And, after helping rid Thai politics of this popular party,  the protest group also indirectly helped Thailand's recently appointed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — who belongs to Thailand's Democrat party — ascend to leadership.

This has provided valuable ammunition to Abhisit's rivals, a.k.a. the remnants of the politicians whose extinction is owed to yellow-shirt protesters.

Fortunately for those who casually follow Thai politics, these rivals are color-coded in red.  (As a fellow foreign correspondent told me a while back, color-coded movements sure beat acronymns.) This red-shirt faction actually does go by an acronym, but it's in Thai. Their chosen name in English is the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship.

For the next two weeks, this group promises to rally hard to shame the yellow-friendly foreign minister into leaving.

He is, in a sense, helping coalesce rural Thais disaffected by the current urban-centric government. If you despised the airport takeover — which knocked the bottom out of Thailand's now-struggling tourism economy — come march against one of its well-heeled supporters. (Or so the pitch goes.)

I caught up with Jakrapob Penkair, a co-leader of the "red shirts," at the rally that kicked off the protests against the foreign minister. (We tried to find some quiet in a nearby van, but you can hear the lively protests outside.)

Jakrapob is a popular television figure and former spokesman for the previous prime minister (the one ousted on corruption charges). Like the new premier, he's foreign-educated, articulate in English and rather debonair. But they operate on opposite ends of Thailand's political chasm.

I was mostly interested in the red shirt faction's new satellite TV station, the subject of a forthcoming GlobalPost dispatch. But Jakrapob was also eager to talk about their ongoing rallies. And I couldn't resist sharing.

If Kasit, the foreign minister, doesn't resign, he will find "no peace in his life," Jakrapob says:

 

And here's his opinion of Thailand's new prime minister, Abhisit, who Jakrapob derides as an actor scripted by his political party:

CORRECTION: This post previously stated that Thailand's foreign minister spoke at Bangkok's airport after it was seized by protesters. He actually spoke at the seized prime minister's compound.

http://www.globalpost.com/notebook/thailand/090202/thai-foreign-minister-will-find-no-peace-his-life