Cambodia, Democrat nationalism, double standards and support for PAD

12 11 2009

Also available as กัมพูชา ประชาธิปัตย์คลั่งชาติ สองมาตราฐาน และการสนับสนุนพันธมิตร

As PPT observed a few days ago, it is clear that the Democrat Party is learning (if they needed to) that xenophobic nationalism is a powerful weapon in their fight against their enemy. Here we mean Thaksin Shinawatra, not Cambodia or Hun Sen. The latter are tools in the attack on Thaksin rather than the real targets of animosity.

About as reasonable as it gets in the Democrat Party is a reported statement by Kraisak Choonhavan: “I think it is time now for the ASEAN Secretariat to step up, perhaps a shuttle diplomacy toward this unsettling issue…”. He does add that , “Hun Sen should reconsider to reduce this antagonistic approach toward Thailand…. You can only see escalation and that’s no good for anybody, not only on a bilateral basis but as an organization as a whole.” Kraisak is a recent member of the Democrat Party, brought to them by his vehement opposition to Thaksin. But he too forgets the provocations of the past, by the Democrats and PAD. Of course, Hun Sen’s memory is long, too (see another version here). On the latter, also see Bangkok Pundit.

Related to the battle against Thaksin, the Democrat Party and the government it leads now find it useful to align with other xenophobic nationalists. PPT take a different view to some otehr analysts who argue that PAD and the Democrat Party are in competition. For example, Shawn Crispin states: “Maintaining strong pressure on Cambodia could also win back ground lost to the upstart New Politics Party (NPP), which recently formed from the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement and has appealed aggressively to notions of Thai nationalism vis-a-vis Cambodia. While in the political opposition, the Democrats were viewed as in cahoots with the PAD, but since the Democrats have taken power the two sides have fallen out, as the newly formed NPP is expected to compete for votes in areas the Democrats consider their strongholds.” There’s something in this, but only if the main game is seen to be electoral politics. PPT suggests that the main game remains defeating the Thaksin regime and this keeps the Democrat Party and PAD aligned.

In the Bangkok Post (12 November 2009: “Boonjong: No order to join PAD rally”) in one of those classic denials of something that pretty much means that it is true, the Interior Ministry says that it “had not ordered provincial governors, kamnan (sub-district chiefs) and village headmen to lead their people to join the mass rally by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in Bangkok on Sunday, as alleged…”. All it did was order “local officials to make it clear to local people that the PAD had a constitutional right of assembly…”.

And, of course, the “government’s decision not to invoke the Internal Security Act to deal with the yellow-shirts is not because it has double standards. It is because the planned demonstration is aimed to protect the high institution, not to create social division like those of the red-shirts…”. What could PPT say? That says it all really. Having a stated double standard is not a double standard at all.

PAD and the Democrat Party government are aligned in their war on Thaksin and remain firm allies. Electoral politics has always been a sideshow for PAD and the royalists and military who back them.

Update 1: What might seem odd in this is that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to be taking a more conciliatory line on Cambodia. In the Bangkok Post (12 November 2009: “PM calls for unity and patience”), saying the “government will adhere to peaceful means in solving the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia…”. PPT guesses he means no war.

He also says that “the conflict will not be allowed to lead to political changes in the country as some people may want…”. As we noted above, Abhisit and his followers are focusing more specificially on the “real enemy.” Abhisit “called for the people to stay united and not to believe rumours.” PPT is not sure which rumors he is speaking about. A coup perhaps? The king’s health, again? Or war preparations on the border?

Talking softer on Cambodia he says: “And the conflict will not be discussed at Asean level…”. Abhisit currently chais ASEAN. On the Thaksin extradition request, Abhsiit says “our extradition request was made according to international practice.” Well, sort of. By its own account, it did not contain the required documentation.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post (12 November 2009) has an interesting comment from Thai Rath:

Thailand stands to lose more than Cambodia will in the ongoing war of words and diplomatic row over deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Riding on the crest of nationalism, the ruling Democrat Party has exploited the situation for its own advantage. At least, testy economic issues and corruption allegations have been pushed aside by the media’s focus on Thaksin and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

However, it is big Thai investors and border traders who will suffer if the conflict drags on or escalates into a bigger political issue.

CP Group, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand and Siam Cement Group are among big Thai corporations who have invested altogether more than 10 billion baht in the neighbouring country. Not to mention the huge number of Thais who make a living supplying goods to Cambodian traders.

Despite strong action from the Thai side, PM Hun Sen has reiterated he will not extradite Thaksin to Bangkok to serve his two-year jail term. He maintains the former premier is a victim of political persecution.

The Abhisit government must weigh its options carefully, as the impact of the diplomatic crisis will be felt strongly by Thai investors, traders, and the people of both countries.

Update 3: Relations between the two countries are getting worse. Thailand is reviewing aid and there has been a further deterioration of diplomatic relations with Cambodia expelling a 1st Secretary and Thailand responding.



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12 11 2009

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