On Sondhi

20 03 2012

A reader has drawn our attention to a post by Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam a few days ago. In it Amsterdam continues his attack on those who see Thaksin as the great divider and points to others who deserve that epithet better than Thaksin. In this post he comments on People’s Alliance for Democracy leader Sondhi Limthongkul.

Amsterdam

PPT agrees that Sondhi is a divisive figure but there are other comments in Amsterdam’s post that caught PPT’s attention. These relate to the “end of PAD” arguments that are going around, not least in Puea Thai Party circles. A few days ago PPT commented that such celebration might not be politically astute.

Amsterdam notes that PAD has had its ups and downs. He describes PAD as:

an extreme far-right protest movement whose political platform eschewed any form of democracy and which proudly proclaimed its preference for military coups rather than elections….

He reminds us that:

Back in late November 2008 as the Yellowshirt protests at Bangkok’s Government House dwindled to a forlorn rump of a couple thousand persons, it all seemed to be over for media mogul Sondhi…. As the self-styled leader of the Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy,… [Sondhi’s] popular appeal had now dwindled to a handful of hardcore fanatics.

Yet neither Sondhi nor PAD were finished. Without popular support Sondhi still had the “backing of powerful figures in both the Thai aristocracy and the military.” Even when its support had dwindled in 2008, PAD could still occupy both of Bangkok’s airports as its backers got the courts to dissolve the elected coalition government.

Sondhi

The question for PPT is whether, when push comes to shove, PAD and its related yellow shirt and ultra-royalist groups can still call on “powerful figures” in the aristocracy and  military. We think they probably can and that the “divisions” between the various groups is simply a current fiction that can easily be turned to alliance. What is missing at present is the catalyst for intensified political mobilization.

Amsterdam notes that:

[S]ince the airport occupation of 2008 the ASTV/Manager media empire ran by [Sondhi] has descended purely into a vehicle of the kind of explicitly divisive hate campaigns and extreme rightwing politics that always fed into the PAD’s political narrative. Racism towards Burmese, Khmers and darker-skinned Isaan Thais is the staple diet of ASTV/Manager’s audience. Ugly brands of anti-Semitism have reared their heads and vicious threats are routinely aimed at anyone deemed insufficiently royalist.

He’s right, but PAD under Sondhi has long evidenced these traits. Such racism and xenophobia were common on the PAD stage.

Amsterdam notes that seeming decline in PAD and its related groups in recent years and its recent “protests defending Thailand’s harsh lese majeste laws.” He observes:

Once again, support for these PAD progeny is very thin and could almost be perceived, in a country of 67 million, as non-existent. Alongside these miniscule protests Lim repeatedly makes obscure claims relating to bizarre conspiracy theories and routinely issues threats of some kind or other to overthrow the democratically elected government.

It isn’t the first time that Sondhi has invented conspiracy stories. Think of the marvelously concocted Finland Plot and several others. Even Sondhi’s current claims that everything happening in Thailand is due to a Western conspiracy, and that Thaksin is a pawn of the West, taken up by the most bizarre of yellow-hued journalists, are not entirely new. Back in March 2007, Sondhi made bizarre claims related to southern conflicts:

He thinks that the violence in the south might be related to western countries, especially the USA. The United States could theoretically back the movement through other countries like Australia and Singapore for the benefit of natural oil and gas assets.

He also cited historical examples of the United States being secretly responsible for economic or political changes in many countries, such as Iran.

He thought that Thai people should change their attitudes and ways of thinking in a bid to survive.

PPT considers that those who think PAD is mellowing or finished and that Sondhi is completely bonkers should recall that nothing much was different before, when PAD was mobilized.

Yes, Sondhi has been sentenced to 85 years for multiple counts of fraud, reduced to 20 years (the maximum penalty), and yet this means zilch to Sondhi when he again announces that PAD is fighting “corrupt politicians.” Isn’t Sondhi a corrupt shyster? But logic is not the measure in this politics. It is keeping Sondhi and PAD ticking over in case the powerful figures in the  aristocracy and the military need him and his group again.


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28 03 2012
Divisive Democrat Party « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] out that his parties had been elected every time an election has been held since 2000. At the time, PPT noted that he made a good […]

28 03 2012
Divisive Democrat Party « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] out that his parties had been elected every time an election has been held since 2000. At the time, PPT noted that he made a good […]




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