Chirmsak on civil war

3 01 2010

Just before New Year, PPT blogged about former Army commander, former but never elected prime minister and now president of the king’s Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda appearing in military uniform in public for the first time since the 2006 palace-military coup. That was an important event as Prem seemed to be rallying the royalists that a showdown with the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra forces is not far off.

Since then we have blogged about some of the more maniacal statements from the yellow and red sides on the predicted fight.

To make his point about the looming battle, Prem recommended a newspaper article by Thaksin critic Chirmsak Pinthong (แนวหน้า, 28 December 2009). Prem recommended the article to those who were visiting him, saying it “important and a must-read.”

If Prem thinks this piece of great significance, then PPT thought it important to provide a summary. PPT’s commentary is limited to some points in square brackets and a couple of points in concluding this post.

Chirmsak Pinthong was one of the first batch of elected senators and was a firm and well-informed Thaksin critic when in the Senate. Later, however, he threw in his lot with the yellow-shirted People’s Alliance for Democracy and has been an important intellectual critic of Thaksin and the red shirt movement.

In his article, Chirmsak’s basic point is that Thailand has entered the first phases of a yet to be decided civil war. On one side is the “legitimate government” of the “kingsom of Thailand.” On the other side there are the Thaksin forces. They aim not just to overthrow the Abhisit government, but to radically change the system of government, eventually establishing a republic and a dictatorship. Chirmsak explains how the pro-Thaksin lot going about this civil war in eight major points.

His first point is to note that the first stage in a civil war is for one group to reject the authority of the state. [PPT guesses that Chirmsak would distinguish the red shirts from his PAD colleagues by arguing that PAD didn’t reject the “state” but just “illegitimate government.”]

His second, closely related point, is the rejection of the 2007 Constitution and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government as illegitimate. On the latter, Chirmsak argues that the Abhisit government came from the same elections as the Samak and Somchai governments and there should be no reason to reject it as a legitimate government.

[Like many on Abhisit’s side, Chirmsak ignores the shenanigans and outright corruption orchestrated by the military and others in establishing a Democrat-led coalition. Of course, the questions surrounding the destruction of earlier elected governments by coup and legal manoeuvring doesn’t enter the equation. And, Chirmsak was one of those appointed by the military junta to draft the 2007 Constitution.]

As evidence of this rejection, Chirmsak cites the fact that government ministers cannot perform their duties in some parts of the country due to red shirt hostility. [That is true and was a tactic developed by PAD as it chased ministers out of its strongholds during the previous governments.]

In effect, the red shirts are establishing a separate jurisdiction or a territory of their own, separate or overlapping with that territory under the jurisdiction of the Thai state. [Again, PPT assumes Chirmsak exonerates PAD because he would see them as nationalists, not as here where he implies that the red shirts are traitorous.]

A third element is the use the media to confuse and divide the public by inventing stories and misleading people so that there is hostility towards the government. Chirmsak points to DTV and complains that it is media established solely with a political purpose to undermine the state and the Kingdom of Thailand rather than any ideas about professional journalism and the ethics this would involve.

[Chirmsak is obviously on very shaky ground here as PAD pioneered this media approach. PPT has not noticed any particular attention to facts or ethics from ASTV/Manager.]

The fourth point is about “soldiers for hire.” Chirmsak refers to General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and the Class 10 army officers who are “on the march” for Peua Thai and loyal to Thaksin. They are a minority, unlike the police who remain loyal to Thaksin, as evidenced by their failure to investigate the attacks on “peaceful PAD rallies, causing several deaths.”

[The recruitment of old soldiers to Peua Thai is seen by the anti-Thaksin forces as highly dangerous as it threatens a split in military ranks when a “final showdown” looms. The pro-Thaksin loyalty of the police is dangerous, but the potential for a struggle for the military is threatening indeed.]

Related, Chirmsak’s fifth point is about the involvement of foreign states or foreign forces or influences in the movement against the Thai government. Chirmsak states that it was only after General Chavalit travelled to Cambodia that the Cambodian government’s stance towards the Abhisit government became negative.

[Here Chirmsak is on very shaky ground indeed. PAD and the Democrat Party have been hostile to Cambodia and Hun Sen for several years. The racist attacks from the PAD stage are unlikely to be forgotten by Hun Sen. But Chirmsak again wants to show the red shirts as traitors to the “Thai Kingdom.”]

Sixth and still related, he makes the point that the pro-Thaksin forces take secret state documents and disclose them, including to foreign states, even when they relate to national security. [As noted above, Chirmsak is accusing them of traitorous acts.] Worse, they give false meanings to the documents. This is part of the strategy to create division and mayhem by continually telling lies about the legitimate government. [Again, this strategy is one that PAD used rather successfully also.]

As a seventh point, Chirmsak says that the motivations of the participants in fomenting the civil war need to be considered so that it can be understood how the Thaksin lot can lure them in. There are the political activists, who Chirmsak likens to prostitutes, who sell themselves and their “spirit” for the money they get. For the “old Communists,” this allows them to raise class issues. Then there are the republicans and like-minded red-shirt academics who hate the idea of “democracy with the king as head of state.” They want a change of government, first making the royal institution symbolic and then gradually changing to a presidential system. Or the aim might be to weaken the monarchy as in Cambodia. There is also the group who want a return to the 1997 Constitution and the attraction is to get rid of the current constitution. The hired soldiers just want the money and benefits or are traitors who want to rule over Thailand, hoping that if Thaksin comes back they will enjoy greater power and benefits.

[In all of this Chirmsak is suggesting that Thaksin supporters are either just in it for the money that they get or they are traitors to the Thai state. The money claim has been made regularly for some years. The implication is that there are no principles involved. If there are principles, they are held by those who are dangerous to the monarchy.]

Chirmsak also mentions “the poor” and couples them with “those people with insufficient information” who hope that Thaksin can come back and resurrect their failed dreams.

[PPT separated this out as it is worth noting how easily Chirmsak dismisses “the poor.” How many millions of people and votes are simply ignored in this sentence? Coupling “the poor” with the “ignorant” – those with “insufficient information” – is not new for the anti-Thaksin opponents. However, it is interesting that a leading right-wing intellectual remains so resolutely dismissive of so many millions of citizens. Chirmsak’s appeal is to the frightened middle class and the poor hardly matter in the “Kingdom of Thailand.”]

Chirmsak concludes that teaming up with Thaksin has many attractions and inducements, but he concludes that everyone of them is essentially missing the main aim, which is personal interest. The Shinawatras want to avoid all the legal cases and prevent the confiscation of 76 billion baht in “unusual wealth.” [This claim has been made since PAD was inaugurated.]

Chirmsak’s eighth point relates to the strategies of the pro-Thaksin forces in making war on the “Kingdom of Thailand.” The “big boss” is firing off the “intercontinental missiles” that “drop from the skies on the Kingdom of Thailand”. Some red shirts are the “infantry” creating all the problems in the country. Others are the “artillery,” using television as their weapon. The Peua Thai Party in parliament are the “cavalry in tanks,” protected by their parliamentary position but causing confusion. The “spies” are the senior government officials who are provide secret information, impede and disrupt. [The point is that each of these “squads” is dangerous and need to be defeated – see below.]

The civil war has begun but the outcome is not certain, so what can be done? The government is not going to be able to administer the country in any normal manner. The government needs to be more aggressive in maintaining the state’s power. The constitution has to be maintained. The power of the judiciary has to be protected so that it can enforce the law.

[It seems to PPT that Chirmsak is advocating a greater use of state power to crush the red shirts. He emphasizes the legal means – just as Abhisit repeats “rule of law” ad nauseum – but implies a partisan and highly politicized use of the law as a tool to crush opponents. This is the authoritarian direction that the Democrat Party-led coalition has been refining in recent months.]

Above all, the government has to maintain stability to protect the interests and happiness of “the majority.”

[An interesting point. It is not at all clear that “the majority” Chirmsak writes of is indeed a majority. And, in the recent past, anti-Thaksin ideologues have repeatedly been disdainful of majorities that derive from elections.]

Chirmsak cites a Chinese proverb: “If you are to capture warlord you must shoot his horse first.” This is because if the warlord doesn’t have a horse, he can be controlled more easily. Hence Chirmsak advocates enforcing laws strictly. Most especially the cases already in place against Thaksin have to progress, preferably simultaneously, strictly enforcing the law. There is a need for more “information” so that the government can go out and fight its opponents in society. All that can be done has to be done to end this civil war.

[Obviously the proverb could be read in several ways. It could easily be a call to crackdown on the various pro-Thaksin groups he has detailed above. In Chirmsak’s hands, however, it seems to be that – hence the call for a stricter enforcement of laws against opponents – but is also a call for more and much broader judicial activism. Apparently Chirmsak has no doubt about guilt in any of cases and wants them finished as fast as possible.]

Chirmsak concludes by asking: Can we do it before the country is covered in blood?

PPT conclusion: We find it interesting that Prem singled out this account. Most of the points made are those that the anti-Thaksin crowd have used to sustain their views of the Thaksin regime and its supporters for several years. Many of these views are foundational for the policies and actions of the Abhisit government. What seems new is the claim of “civil war” as a red shirt strategy and the call to oppose it with all means available to the Thai state. Prem is again uniformed. Yellow-shirted intellectuals like Chirmsak are calling for action, the government is apparently preparing, right-wing commentators have been labeling opponents as traitors and enemies of the Thai state, and its seems that many red shirts now see a showdown and violence as inevitable. Chirmsak seems to want to the showdown sooner rather than later.



7 responses

4 01 2010
More on the war (of words) « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Take Action New: Chirmsak on civil war […]

17 01 2010
New: Prasong speaks « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] seem set in their task of destroying the foundations of the Thaksin regime (for the details, see PPT’s earlier post on Chirmsak’s civil war […]

18 01 2010
New: Super sleuths at the Democrat Party « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] “has come up with a similar analysis…”. They might have also pointed to the similarities with Chirmsak’s civil war analysis of late […]

5 03 2010
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[…] PPT because the first major public statement that we know of referring to a “civil war” was by the vehemently anti-Thaksin Shinawatra royalist Chirmsak Pintong, where he also set out a strategy for winning the “civil war.” In that […]

20 04 2010
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[…] 5 identified by royalist Prawase Wasi or by royalist and anti-Thaksin campaigner and propagandist Chirmsak Pinthong in his civil war article from 28 December […]

6 04 2011
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[…] Longtime readers of PPT will recall that it was just over a year ago that many, including royalist and yellow-hued intellectuals took up the civil war discourse. […]

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[…] by the People’s Alliance for Democracy and dominated by a deep personal hatred of Thaksin. Back in 2010, he was howling about “civil war” and suggesting that Thaksin supporters are either paid by the tycoon or are traitors to the royal […]