Veera Prateepchaikul had an interesting op-ed at the Bangkok Post a few days ago. It indicates how the Democrat Party, while always royalist, has moved to a more radical ultra-royalist position in recent years, most notably under the “leadership” of Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Bhichai Rattakul has been one of the Democrat Party’s patrician leaders for many years. He knew Khuang Aphaiwong, one of the founders of the party, and claims that Khuang, also a member of the 1932 People’s Party and who claimed royal lineage in Cambodia. A bit like Abhisit much later, Khuang became prime minister for a third time in 1947 following a military coup, and it was the military and royalists who hoisted him to the position. Bhichai claims Khuang encouraged him into politics, and from 1969, served 9 terms in parliament. He was head of the Democrat Party for 9 years and served as parliamentary president and House speaker. He held several ministerial appointments over the time he was in parliament.
This all means that Bhichai is Democrat Party through and through. He’s now 87 years old and remains the deputy chair of the Democrat Party’s policy advisory group. Hence, it is easy to imagine the surprise in the party when Bhichai appears on the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra VoiceTV to criticize his own party.
One of Bhichai’s criticisms was that “he was frustrated by the colour-coded political impasse of the last few years and tried to do something about it – but his own party blocked his efforts.” He went on to criticize the Democrat Party over what Veera mistakenly calls “an unruly incident involving Democrat MPs in the House of Representatives on May 30.”
It wasn’t an “unruly” incident, it was a violent disruption of parliament that included an assault on the House Speaker while parading Nazi salutes. Abhisit, who goes on about the “rule of law,” defended his party by saying they didn’t break the law, so it was okay. At the time, in The Nation, Abhisit “explained” that his party: “had no choice but to be rude [sic.] in order to block a dangerous legislative move that could bring the country to ruin…”. He added: “Insolence [sic.] on the part of the Democrats was unavoidable because they were denied the right to speak on the House floor…”. Abhisit, by defending the thuggishness by his less than democratic party, showed no leadership or principles. Then, PPT commented:
What has been most startling this week is the manner in which Democrat Party politicians have behaved in parliament. With physical attacks on other parliamentarians, extreme rancor, and several Nazi salutes, they have shown a disdain for parliament, parliamentary practice and process, and for the democratic politics of which parliament is a most significant institution.
It is this behavior that caused Bhichai to criticize his party and demanded that it “make an apology.” The response from the so-called Democrat Party and its supporters was intense:
Shortly after the interview was broadcast and posted on the social media, the savage criticism began. He was accused of having been bought by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of betraying the party and of being a chameleon.
Veera says that the aged politician “appears unperturbed by the offensive remarks” and that he went on to be interviewed in Matichon. While he claimed Abhisit did have some principles – PPT hasn’t seen them – he was also critical. Essentially, Bhichai seems to say that Abhisit is ignoring the older, more liberal, members of the party. Essentially Abhisit has thrown his lot in with the extremists in the party who support the ultra-royalists.
Explaining how Abhisit rejected reconciliation, Bhichai explained a plan “about it two years ago” when he had consulted a few “higher ups” about bringing Thaksin back to Thailand. This deserves citing in full:
Then he elaborated on his plan, which he claimed Thaksin accepted, which was as follows: He would fly there to meet Thaksin and would convince him to accept the two-year jail term imposed by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions and they would then both fly back to Thailand together.
Upon arrival in Thailand, they would travel together to Siriraj Hospital for an audience with HM the King, in Thaksin’s capacity as a former prime minister, and seek a royal pardon. If an audience was not granted, Mr Bhichai would have promised to ask senior palace officials to accept a bouquet of flowers from Thaksin as well as his petition for a royal pardon.
After that, both would travel by car to Bang Kwang maximum-security prison. Mr Bhichai said he would have spent time in prison with Thaksin, but in another cell, until a royal pardon was granted. This was a guarantee to the ex-premier that his days in prison would be limited, not the full two years of the sentence imposed by the court.
He felt the deal was a win-win solution to Thailand’s protracted political conflict.
Bhichai says that this was acceptable to Thaksin, but then Prime Minister Abhisit rejected it. Abhisit said that there could be no pardon and that Thaksin’s “conviction must stand.” The result, according to Bhichai, is that the Democrat Party gave Thaksin no “way out.” And, with a no compromise position, Abhisit and the Democrat Party left themselves no “way out” either.
Bhichai’s approach to political compromise is seen as anachronistic by the now extremist Democrat Party and the criticism of his “revelations” has been unending.