Thaksin and the royalists: Who is damaging the monarchy?

1 07 2009

The renewed call by the red shirts for a signature campaign to have Thaksin Shinawatra get a royal pardon has raised the hackles of a number of his opponents.

The Nation, long a vociferous and biased critic of the former prime minister, has a front-page story on the royal pardon and also has opinion page scribe Avudh Panananda go on the attack.

The page 1 story (The Nation, 30 June 2009: “Legality of Pardon Move Doubted”) begins with this: “An ‘unprecedented’ mass signature drive to seek a royal pardon for fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra was called into question yesterday for possibly putting political pressure on the monarchy.” It quotes Senate Speaker Prasopsuk Boondet as stating that the “signature campaign could be viewed as improper for bothering the King and bringing a political matter to the monarchy.”

Inside the paper, Avudh (30 June 2009: “Is Thaksin serious about seeking a royal pardon?”) at first claims that this is an old, rehashed, publicity-seeking tactic, but given the recent electoral victories by pro-Thaksin forces, Avudh wants to further damage Thaksin and his red shirted supporters. The best way to do this is by invoking lèse majesté .

Thaksin and Veera Musigapong are accused of being uninterested in the signing campaign. According to Avudh, “The two just want to find a pretext to take a swipe at the country’s revered institution and mock the lese majeste clause at the same time.” If the point isn’t clear, Avudh proclaims: “Thaksin can answer for himself why he appears determined to politicise the monarchy although he has been insisting on his unwavering loyalty.” Thaksin is accused of trying to “involve the Royal Palace in his predicament.”

Avudh then adds, “If a coup is a cardinal sin for a democracy, then how will he [Thaksin] justify any attempts, regardless of good or bad intentions, to undermine the monarchy?”

Why get so upset by this call for a signature campaign, especially if the last such drive by Thaksin supporters didn’t get off the ground? It is clear that the election victories by Puea Thai over the past two weeks are spooking the government and its more yellow/PAD supporters. Painting Thaksin as disloyal and anti-monarchy is their political weapon of choice in fighting back, as it has been since Sondhi Limthongkul began his anti-Thaksin campaign in 2005.

While Avudh ignores the fact that the palace itself took sides in this campaign, he is right in observing that, by making this claim for a royal pardon, Thaksin and his supporters point the finger at the most significant political opponent that the red shirts face. What Avudh and other royalists fail to acknowledge is that their own campaigns, those of the PAD, and the palace’s own involvement in political events have done more to damage the monarchy than Thaksin could ever have done.



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