Updated: Only the beginning

27 02 2010

Update: The Nation today (28 February 2010) leads with several stories on the new cases that will flow from the Supreme Court decision. View them at The Nation’s website.

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PPT has several times posted of the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case as being seen by many as a “final showdown” and of some on the government side, at least for a time thinking that the “final showdown” might also involve a confrontation with red shirts. But there was no red shirt rallying, apart from small gatherings to listen to the long reading of the verdict on 26 February.

As it turns out, the “final showdown” was just part of a process. Here we are not joining the chorus that is simply saying that the verdict did not end political conflict. Rather, we are saying that the verdict is one step by the military-backed Abhisit Vejjajiva government to destroy Thaksin, demobilize his supporters and maintain a less liberal political regime that has, as its central mission, the maintenance of the monarchy.

PPT has already posted on how the military leadership is standing firmly behind its royalist governmen t. We have also posted several times on the authoritarian trend in the Abhisit government. The success that the government has had in establishing its repressive power is evidenced, for example, by its ability to deploy military in security operations over the past couple of weeks without having to use the Internal Security Act.

Why do we say it is just the beginning of the “war” against Thaksin and the red shirts? Here is some of the evidence, in addition to the strengthening of the security state mentioned above and in earlier posts.

First, the verdict was a rather brilliant piece of media performance, which is meant to show investors and the international community that there is “rule of law” in Thailand (see here and here). By not confiscating all of Thaksin’s assets, these groups may feel more comfortable that justice has been done and that the case was not merely political. What is still unclear, however, is whether the funds can and will be returned any time soon.

Second, royalist academics have already come out to warn, worry and re-start their activities that target red shirts as dangerous and violent republicans and of boosting the government’s security state drift (see here). The People’s Alliance for Democracy joined this chorus while crowing that the court had accepted the yellow shirt arguments. The military remains deployed for civil strife.

Third, The Nation (27 February 2010) reports that as a result of the Supreme Court verdict, Thaksin and his family now potentially face “at least 10 separate criminal cases…”. Readers can see these 10 cases listed in the article. They include cases related to what must now be false assets declarations several times when Thaksin was premier.

More broadly, the decision on the assets case now allows the government to go after a raft of former Thai Rak Thai politicians – most of whom are still serving a 5-year ban from politics – and seek to destroy any thoughts they had of a political comeback.

This is not idle speculation for the Bangkok Post (27 February 2010) reports that Preecha Suwannathat, a former dean of Thammasat University’s Law Faculty said that the verdict meant “all members of the two Thaksin cabinets would have to be held accountable. This was because Thaksin could not have abused his authority alone. The former cabinet members could face criminal charges.” His view was supported by National Anti-Corruption Commission member Wichai Wiwitseree, who said “the verdict rendered the cabinet members and civil servants who served during Thaksin’s tenure liable for legal action.

Indeed, in a speed totally unheard of in the Thai government and justice system, “NACC member Vicha Mahakul said his body had appointed teams to take action against the cabinet members and civil servants in question.”

The process of destroying what the yellow shirts called the “Thaksin regime” is continuing, perhaps with even greater strength in terms of conviction and desire and in terms of the use of the judiciary to do as first exhorted back in April 2006 – cleaning up the “mess” as the king described it. But more than the Thaksin regime, the political and legal cleaning must deal with the red shirts and their supporters if it is to be a victory for an Ancien regime that never forgets its enemies.


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27 02 2010
เพียงแค่ยกแรกเท่านั้น « Liberal Thai

[…] เสื้อเหลือง, เสื้อแดง by chapter 11 Only the beginning February 27, 2010 ที่มา – Political Prisoners in Thailand […]

27 02 2010
28 02 2010
The verdict, security and judicialization « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Continuing a theme of posts on judicialization and the enhancement of security, PPT provides these two links to stories by two of the most experienced foreign political reporters/commentators based in Thailand. Their perspectives on these matters can be read in conjunction with PPT’s earlier post. […]

2 03 2010
Promoting fear and controlling red shirts « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] regime” involved the widely predicted victory against Thaksin Shinawatra in the Supreme Court. As PPT mentioned after that verdict, this was just the beginning, and a series of wider actions against Thaksin, his family and others […]