Junya Yimprasert interviewed (Part II)

13 09 2011

PPT presents the second part of the interview of Junya Yimprasert. The first part of  Mark Teufel’s interview is posted here.

MT: So for you the question of the monarchy is only a [kind of] sub-question in a transition to democracy. It is not the core problem. Some people say it’s the core problem, and without destroying the monarchy, and they mean the Ammart, not [only] the monarchy, there will not be any transition to democracy. But we saw in other countries like in South Africa, where there was also a system that suppressed the majority, that a bloodless transition to democracy was possible. From what you said I understand, that you have the opinion, that this could be possible in Thailand too.

JY: But if I look into the history of Thailand from 2006, after the coup, I can clearly see that there had always been violence. If the Thai people do not learn from the international community that aggression, that violence by the government is not the right way, and if they do not change that practice, and if they hide behind the economy growth … for me that is more dangerous.

What Thailand needs to learn about universal rights. People really need to know the principles of universal rights. That is something that is not so much empathized in Thailand. I have been answering a lot of questions from Europeans. They asked, what is the Thailand Agenda? What is the long term vision of the future. I haven’t seen it. And that is the reason why the UPD has set up its political agenda. There is a lot in Thailand to be fixed. The psychology of the ruling class had been to rule with blood. Every change of the dynasties for so many hundreds of years has been a story of killing someone. Killing the [royal] brother, killing the king. So it became the normal practice for any government of Thailand; even Thaksin used violence. And the people think that it is acceptable to use violence, to kill people when running a country. That needs to be changed.

MT: I have been reading an article about the speech of Craig J. Reynolds in Prachatai recently and it shocked me because one could more or less understand that he believes that the people of South East Asia like autocratic rule. What do you think about that?

JY: Yes this is stupid, we cannot let them use Thainess and Asian values [to explain] autocratic rule. That was also what Thaksin was [doing/saying]. He was authoritarian. He was not democratic. Even people from his party tell me that he is not democratic. It is ridiculous that we allow Thailand to use Thainess as an excuse not to discuss ecology, democracy. Or because of China; because the world compromises with China, it accepts “Asian rules” or “Asian Values”.

People want freedom, people do not like autocratic rule. We know that people have been protesting in Malaysia. In Singapore dissidents had been put in jail for how many years? Because they tried to demand equality. It is not the people’s will or that they are happy about it. It’s the rulers who want and who like autocratic rule. They control by guns or by cutting every opposition into pieces.

MT: Coming back to Thaksin, who you said is also tending to favour autocratic rule, he came under strong criticism because of that. Maybe without the coup he might not have played such an important role now. But what he did not know was that he opened a Pandora’s box with the politics and the backing of the red shirts. The people felt that they could do something, that they could change something. One day in early 2008, Nick Nostitz said that one former Thai Rak Thai politician had told him that he was aware that the coming of the Red shirts marked the beginning of the end of the old-style money and relationship politics, and that the TRT, by co-operating with the red shirts, was going to lose its power and influence in the long run.

JY: I feel by nature everyone is struggling to liberate him or herself. When you really look back into the uprisings in the modern history of the Chakri Dynasty, there is a lot of bloodshed. We have the Lampoon uprising, Lanna Thai – Chiangmai, Lampang, then Ubon, Roi Et uprising under Rama V. King Rama I to Rama V sent many troops to rule over Pattani, they even burned the whole city down and Pattani’s golden age was lost. The spirit of the uprisings, the feeling of independence had been present throughout the whole Chakri Dynasty. What makes the Red Shirts special is maybe there is also a political party fighting. In the past they cut the head off the political parties, Kana Ratsadorn after 15 years [post-1932] had been totally smashed, killing, ministers had been assassinated, they killed the leaders and the party totally collapsed. But Pheu Thai Party, because they have such a huge number of member of parliaments, even though the [regime] got rid of Thaksin, and two to three level of leaders, they still have many people. And that it what makes the difference. The people have been always struggling, but struggle with the support of political parties is much more powerful. We have to give credit to Pheu Thai for having enough people for standing up, after the leader had been switched out.

The spirit of the people, for freedom and democracy, has always present. And I do not agree with people who say that Thailand will never be ready for democracy.

MT: The Pheu Thai has many different fractions. They have old-style money politicians, and young progressives, old fighters for democracy and pragmatic bureaucrats. This coalition is brought together by the pressure from the military, or let’s say the Ammart. Do you think this party could fall apart?

JY: I would see that [as potentially] positive. If you look at democratic countries, you need three [or] more parties. You now have the monarchy and elite, and on the other side a part of the capitalist elite. A majority of Pheu Thai is part of the capitalist elite. Thailand needs a [true] green party, needs a real grassroots party. And the split of the PT would be important, because it would make the people understand that they will have to find their own group in order to voice their concerns in the parliament, without any compromising. The red shirts are very diverse, the Pheu Thai is very diverse, and more political parties need to emerge to challenge and to negotiate on [the basis of] political ideology. Now you have to chose between Abhisit and Yingluck, no, we have to have more parties.

MT: Do you think there had been made an agreement between Yingluck and the Ammart, allowing Yingluck to govern, as long as she does not touch the military and the question of lèse majèsté?

JY: Many people will believe that this is true. Because this is the type of policy we know. But if it is true, and Yingluck is falling into that trap, she might not face the problem with the Ammart, but she will face problems from the red shirts. The red shirts are now demanding justice. If she ignores them, thinking they are only a small group of people, and believing she could control the majority of the red shirts, I think she will make a very big mistake.

Let me say a word about Germany. Because I think Germany can play a very important role. The way Germany is granting [freedom] of speech is important. A very important example for Thailand. And the way the courts handled the case of the [impounded] airplane of the crown prince is admirable because it demonstrated how independent German courts are. And [it showed] that justice has very strong roots in Germany. That opens up the behavior of other countries, which had compromised earlier, to discuss the question of the Thai monarchy.

On the 19th of September, one of the key documents that will be presented is a compilation of the political assassinations during the last 60 years of the Ammart. The list of the Thai people, who had been killed, assassinated, executed, since 1947 under the current king, may surprise. These are official figures, so they are the minimum. There are 11,000 people. So I want to question Europe. What is the reason you are so silent about the political crisis in Thailand? Maybe because the body count is so small [in 2010]? But if you look at the 60 years, you learn about 11,000 political assassinations, which are officially recognized, while the real figure will be much higher than that. In protecting the monarchy, the war against communism, and for the peace of the country, may be 30,000 people had been killed during this period, with just 11,000 officially recognized. And we will present this to every government we can reach.

I think now is the moment that the international community should address the question of human rights violations to Thailand. In the Thaksin Period we found 6,000 people [killed]. It was the war on drugs and the war in the South. This ideology, which can be seen under all governments, that violence can be used to solve local crisis, must be changed.

MT: Many Thai I know just do not want to know anything about politics. They feel depressed and sad and often ashamed about what is going on in their country and they do not want to get involved or discuss politics. And they tell me that Thailand never will change. What are you telling these people?

JY: I am told this every day. I am facing a lot of questions from the UPD [about] how to do that [bring change]. UPD has been formed from very diverse groups. Today we were talking to some Thai from France who were saying that democracy has nothing to do with human rights. In our agenda we have the holistic picture and we touch a lot on human rights. “We want to go straight to [the] struggle for democracy”. They think this is a step further along. I always say that there is a moment now. Thailand can be changed for good. The power of the people is now like a car in fourth gear. It cannot be stopped any more. There are enough people in Thailand who know, what democracy is, and who want the country to be developed. To be a real people’s democracy. Of the people, for the people, by the people. If we look at the history of Burma, it’s now some 20 years that they have been fighting. Thailand had been proving, for 5 years now, that they [the people] are struggling constantly for change. The seriousness is there. The world should not ignore it.

Thailand has produced [goods and commodities] for the world, has been contributing to the world, it is now on the way to change. The world should give us something back, not just take it easy. And the world should take Thai people who struggle for a change more seriously.

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