A spate of news reports attest to the continuing political struggle in Thailand as disgruntled royalists seek to undermine the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. These battles focus on Thaksin Shinawatra, the events of 2010 and the military junta’s 2007 constitution. In this post, in no particular order of significance, we summarize some of these struggles and reports.
A critical royalist ally is the judiciary, which continues to punish red shirts and to “teach lessons” in power to those who oppose royalist political domination. This is made especially clear in a report at the Bangkok Post that has the Appeals Court upholding a “Criminal Court’s ruling, denying Pheu Thai Party MP Korkaew Pikulthong bail and sending him back to Laksi temporary prison.” Korkaew is one of the red shirt leaders who was bailed on terrorism charges from 2010 – lower level red shirts remain in jail on related charges or have already been convicted. His bail was withdrawn by the Criminal Court for allegedly “threatening the judges of the Constitution Court.” His appeal was denied because “Korkaew showed no regret…. There was no assurance that he would not break the conditions again if he was granted bail…”. This is punishment for challenging the judiciary and is meant to send a message of the inviolability of that royalist bastion.
On the other side, flip-flopper-in-chief at the Department of Special Investigation Tharit Pengdit has announced that former premier and current Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his former deputy Suthep Thaugsuban will be summoned to acknowledge additional charges of authorizing killings during the 2010 red shirt rallies. These charges relate to events including the “the murder of Kunakorn Srisuvan and the attempted murder of Samorn Maithong, a van driver who was seriously injured in the same incident in which taxi driver Pan Kamkong was shot dead.” Tharit reaffirmed that “military officers ordered to crack down on red shirt protesters in 2010 could not be held responsible for the deaths of civilians killed as a result.” PPT wonders when other members of the coterie of officials, military brass, Democrat Party politicians and Tharit himself, as part of the infamous Centre for Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES) that was responsible for implementing the various actions against red shirt protesters. That aside, building pressure on Abhisit and his lot is causing increased hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies on the royalist side as those who have murdered citizens in political acts in the past have generally done so with impunity.
A focus of the political rivalry is constitutional change. The royalists and others who supported the military junta’s drafting of the 2007 constitution repeatedly claimed that if the opposition to the military and its coup didn’t like the basic law, they could easily change it if their party won an election. Of course, the military-royalist coalition assumed that they could engineer a Democrat Party election victory and protect the constitution. But the Democrat Party has lost every election to Thaksin-backed parties and so the promises were quickly buried and there has been rabid opposition to any constitutional change.
One of the demon seed elements of the constitution is appointed, unelected senators. Interestingly, as part of the push for constitutional change, Puea Thai MP Sunai Jullapongsathorn has proposed that “the terms of all appointed senators be ended once the charter revisions take effect. Elected senators would be allowed to carry out their duties till their terms have ended.” At present, it seems that the unelected lot are in place for several more years while the terms of elected senators end next March. This proposal is an attack on one of the significant elements of the constitution that maintains royalist-military political domination even when elected governments are in place. Hence, the anti-democrats support the military junta’s spawn. For example, Democrat Party MP Thana Cheeravinit babbled that “appointed senators had taken up their posts legally in accordance with the Constitution. He said appointed senators have contributed to the country and should not be deprived of their constitutional rights.” Their contribution to the “country” is actually to support the anti-democratic minority and the royalist elite.
The current struggle’s epicenter is the Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly demonstrated political bias and remarkable corruption. A relatively small group of red shirts has been protesting at the Court. Now some of them are calling “on fellow red shirts nationwide to join a rally in front of the court next week in order to step up pressure against the nine members of the bench,” and hope for tens of thousands to rally in support. The royalist judges continue with their consideration of petitions by fellow royalists that seek to declare more than 300 MPs and senators to be, in effect, treasonous in their intent to make constitutional changes. The Bangkok Post reports that the Court’s legally bizarre bid to force these representatives to “explain their stance” has been extended by 15 days. The extension is because every single representative has so far refused to comply with this kangaroo court’s preposterous interference with the legislature. Of course, the biased judges “decided to postpone consideration of a petition by Pheu Thai MPs seeking its ruling on the parliamentary status of opposition leader Abhisit…” related to his loss of military rank and the related question of his status as an MP.
Finally, and perhaps the most sordid of the battles, is the anti-democrat’s response to Yingluck’s speech in Mongolia. That speech, which was a spirited defense of electoral democracy and a statement of the events of recent years has caused considerable royalist and anti-democratic hatred to be expressed. The yellow social media and media are alive with claims that a speech on democracy and its challenges in Thailand amounted to spin and deceit or even “treason,” and there have been related and very nasty and deeply sexist remarks that she is a whore for finally standing up and speaking some truths about the anti-democrats. One of those truths is that the royalists and their political allies are democracy haters.
Update: And, of course, we should have mentioned the battle over Thaksin and amnesty, which has also re-heated. The Bangkok Post reports that the deposed prime minister backs Chalerm Yubamrung’s proposed amnesty bill and says: “I want to come home. Tell the Democrat Party not to worry. If I come back, I don’t want anything…”. That last claim might be hard to believe, but whenever Thaksin talks of return, the coup supporters quickly reassemble for another bout of anti-Thaksinism. There will again be plenty of heat around Thaksin.