Some comparisons

15 03 2010

Abhisit and elections: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave an early answer to the red shirts demand for the dissolving of parliament by noon Monday. By 10 a.m., in a televised statement, Abhisit, who was joined by representatives of his coalition parties, essentially stuck to his previous statements: no dissolution. He modified this somewhat by saying that no government could make such a decision by noon, but this is dissembling as the red shirts have essentially made this demand over several months. It is not as though this was news for Abhisit. At the same time, it is not news that he rejects the idea.

Abhisit made some claims about red shirt speakers inciting the crowds to take strong action. While PPT didn’t hear all speeches, there was nothing particularly inciting in them. Most speakers repeated claims that the red shirts have made for some time. One specific claim that Abhisit made was that the red shirt accusation on double standards in the legal system was unjustified. He specifically stated that cases against the other side – the People’s Alliance for Democracy – were underway. If that’s true, there’s been no evidence of this. But it is noteworthy that Abhisit took the time to say this.

In rejecting a dissolution of the lower house, Abhisit made the comment that his government governed for all Thais and essentially made the now oft-repeated claim that the majority does not want new elections but wants the government to get on with its job. One wonders why, if Abhisit feels he has a majority behind him, why an election is a bad choice.

Abhisit has a consistent approach on the idea of elections to solve political impasses. Readers will recall that, initially, he supported not a new election when he was in opposition, but a royal intervention to place a new government in power. When this idea was rejected, and Thaksin Shinawatra called a snap election in April 2006, Abhisit and the Democrat Party boycotted those elections. Abhisit and many of his fellow Democrat Party members repeatedly threw their weight behind the PAD’s movement to overthrow successive governments.

In this sense, avoiding the popular vote is not new for Abhisit. His claim today – as it has been previously – was that his government came to power via the 2007 Constitution and under the system of democracy with the king as head of state. PPT believes that the red shirts understand this only too well.

Numbers at rallies: A BBC World report this morning had the reporter claiming that the red shirt rally was the largest in Bangkok for 30 years. PPT thinks he’s probably right, although PAD did have one very large march back in 2005. Most news outlets claim 100,000 at the red shirt rally yesterday. PPT thinks it was probably more than that. We base this on a claim by a pro-government commentator who stated that it would take 200,000 people to fill Rajadamnoen Road from Pan Fah Bridge to Sanam Luang. On that basis, we’d put the crowd at 150,000 last night.

Reporting the red shirts: Thailand’s new reporters should be ashamed today. Their “reporting” of the red shirt rally was truly abysmal. PPT has already commented on this in an earlier post, but we remain staggered at how little on-the-ground news came from the rally. Almost all reporters hung out at the main stage, waiting for the red shirt leadership to say controversial things, thus missing the sociological and political import of the rally.

Interestingly, the reporting of the move of the red shirt convoy from the rally site to the Bang Khen military base is more detailed than any of the reports from the rally yesterday, with breathless reporters seen on television actually looking like they were in place. Very little attempt to link with the demonstrators. The yellow shirts showed how to overcome this problem by having their own media that could be easily plagiarized by sympathetic reporters. Almost no reporting has drawn on red shirt news sources.



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16 03 2010
Ignoring parliament « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] PPT noted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s patchy record on elections. Despite this, he had maintained a […]

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