Ensuring that people vote the “right way”

11 04 2011

Robert Amsterdam, best known for his work with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and Thaksin Shinawatra, had a piece a week ago at Eurasia Review that readers might find interesting. He begins: “While all eyes are fixed on the drama and fireworks of the Arab Spring, a much more quiet military takeover of government is creeping forward in Thailand…”.

Amsterdam is convinced that the elections are meant to produce an outcome that the ruling elite will find acceptable and that the military will act as enforcers:

General Prayuth [Chan-ocha] himself has often signaled that he would not hesitate to intervene if things were not to go his way. Most recently, he has echoed the Prime Minister’s warning that the elections are a choice between the Democrat Party’s policies and a new cycle of violence and instability. The implication is that if Thai voters reject Abhisit [Vejjajiva], yet again, the military has no qualms about giving the next elected government the same treatment it offered the last three.

Amsterdam sets out many of the actions by the current regime meant to “fix” the election. He concludes:

There is no doubt that the upcoming elections offer the Thai people a clear choice. The decision before the Thai electorate, however, goes well beyond the endorsement of alternative policies or candidates. The choice before them is whether to accept military rule and legitimize its implausible civilian façade, however begrudgingly, or to once again defy Thailand’s unelected establishment with a vote that demonstrates an enduring commitment to democracy and self-determination. Choosing democracy over dictatorship is guaranteed to have its costs, as the Thai military has never taken kindly to the public’s effrontery. But it would be worse still for Thai voters to succumb to intimidation and fear, and wait for future generations to deliver the country from military rule. To give the generals the opportunity to further consolidate their grip is to allow the costs of eventually taking on the military to multiply several times over. As the tragic events of 2010 have reminded us all, those costs are measured in human lives.


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