Thitinan on Abhisit’s authoritarianism

26 09 2010

Thitinan Pongsudhiral at Chulalongkorn University seems, to PPT at least, to have been a little quiet of late. We do, however, recommend his most recent excursion at the Bangkok Post.

We like it because Thitinan recognizes that the “second arrest of Prachatai Online webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn … exposes Thailand’s solidifying ‘soft’ civil-military authoritarianism…” as a “disguised authoritarianism thus revolves around a necessary hybrid of a civilian democratic facade with a military spine.”

Thitinan is undoubtedly correct when he observes that Chiranuch’s case “portends … growing censorship and selective persecution of those who are deemed to harbour the wrong thoughts.” He is also right to note that “Freedom of expression in Thailand is an endangered commodity.”

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government has quickly led the country to a state of repression that is what would normally be expected of a military regime. However, the ruling class discovered that straight military rule was no longer attractive for the middle class, so a civilian hybrid became essential to allow its continued domination. Hence, Thailand got Abhisit and his Democrat Party. They have responded by expanding authoritarianism.

Now, as Thitinan says, Thailand has the “government’s official news apparatus, reinforced by one-way rightist propaganda elsewhere.” The country is now mired in a “climate of fear, intimidation and coercion attendant with civil-military hybrid repression.”All over the country, the “air of intimidation and fear is pervasive. And it works.”

Interestingly, Thitinan is (appropriately) critical of his academic colleagues: “Thailand’s world of academe has never sunk so low under ostensible democratic rule.” PPT agrees; the few academics who speak up are aware that their careers will languish.

He rightly criticizes the government’s “duplicity [that] relies on a serial doublespeak.”

The only thing that PPT diagrees with is Thitinan’s statement that “Chiranuch’s case will be a test of the PM’s moral rectitude…”. Our view is that Abhisit has already been tested for moral rectitude and has been shown to lie and slither with the best of them. Abhisit is not a puppet; he is an active participant in the processes that are making Thailand a throwback regime.