A coup in the making?

15 06 2013

The yellow-tinged 2Bangkok.com doesn’t make long editorial comments all that often. However, its 14 June outline of the path to a military coup is interesting for the way it constructs the narrative for another anti-Thaksin Shinawatra coup. Its frustration with the elected government and its sigh of relief that the opposition to Thaksin is finally getting the anti-democratic troops marshaled are palpable.

Its all-inclusive account begins with the murder of Akeyuth Anchanbutr, a former ponzi scheme operator, self-promoting and personally arrogant crook  and self-styled Thaksin critic, who was fond of creating political scandals, both real and fabricated. The yellow lot are all convinced that a man with hundreds of enemies must have been killed by the Thaksin side, who hated him. It is possible that this was a political murder, but there’s simply no evidence for this yet and no one amongst the yellow shirts is prepared to let the investigation get too far, but that seems to matter little as the yellow shirts try to create a political crisis.

2Bangkok.com then goes on to explain the movement towards a military or judicial coup (that would require the backing of the military’s guns).

It begins with “academics and the heightened rhetoric of the ‘white mask’ anti-government demonstrations…”.  In fact, the “academics” are seldom deserving of this title for they are self-styled “public intellectuals,” attached to the royalist elite, who never do any research but pass judgements and peddle opinion, often for a fee or position. The editorial observes:

In Thai culture in general, it is expected that the elite and educated pass judgment on others [PPT: this is wrong. It is the elite that decide they have this position; the cultural bit is that years of military terror means that it is grudgingly accepted by the populace]. The city dweller (assumed to be the elite and educated) passes judgment on the hoards of country people who bring regional tycoons to power. In politics these elite are one of the unelected and informal checks that are expected to temper the activities of the elected [PPT: again, this is a result of the great wealth and power of the elite who abhor electoral politics and self-allocate this position. In any case, the era of the regional political and economic tycoons ended in 2000, only to be brought back to political life by the 2007 military-tutored constitution]. The elected are held with some suspicion, as it assumed that they will inevitably seek to benefit themselves and their status by harnessing the supposedly uneducated voter [as Thongchai Winichakul has shown, this is a royalist construction. For the royalist genesis of this line of argument, His useful academic piece can be located with bit of searching that will link a reader to the original article at several sites].

But here’s the point for 2Bangkok.com:

When seminars begin again that include academics passing judgment on a sitting government, it means the classic Thai cycle in the lead up to a coup is starting. It will later include the “Chula doctor’s letter” where, again, elite physicians from Thailand’s most prestigious university present a letter to the government saying it has engaged in overreach. This trend includes expressions of disapproval and concern from military figures, those in the state bureaucracy, and elder statesmen (like Anand Panyarachun who this week spoke out against the government).

This is combined with a “ramping up of media scrutiny (this time being conducted on the internet as the mainstream Thai papers are considered, rightly or wrongly, to be already co-opted by the Pheu Thai) and regular ongoing protests.”

Of course, the “ramping up” is of  a more politicized reporting and editorializing that is often little more than the repeating of concoctions found on social media. In fact, the media is divided, and there has never been a “ramping down” of anti-Thaksin, anti-red shirt, anti-Puea Thai editorializing.

But the social media stuff is said to have “significance” in the “sudden regular white mask protests” – a handful of yellow activists and Democrat Party supporters trying to “create either a genuine groundswell of public opinion or at least the appearance of it.” Not sure how the word “genuine” got into this sentence, but the idea of creating an appearance of public protest is certainly important for the coup makers.

It is noteworthy that 2Bangkok.com specifically mentions that the “English-language press has joined in as the government is referred to as a ‘regime’ and even the Nation has decided to begin referring to Thaksin as the ‘defacto leader’ of the government.” Of course, neither the Bangkok Post nor The Nation have ever hidden their yellow, royalist, Democrat Party credentials, so the change is simply these media “ramping up” their anti-government activism to give the appearance of an anti-government groundswell.

The significance of this is explained:

It is important to note that the military cannot take open action without feeling confident that there will not be widespread protest or dissent. They must be able to claim that they have support for any action. The pro-Thaksin camp can rest assured that they can make things sufficiently painful for the military. The military has always been inept at governing and their humiliating outing after the coup in 2006 means there is little real stomach to act against Thaksin amnesty [sic.] with tanks on the street–even if it were assured a Red Shirt siege threatening Bangkok would not happen again.

If the military needs convincing, there is an alternative:

The courts are a much better weapon to use against the government. Warnings about a “judicial coup” have not aroused the same alarm as when there are actual tanks on the streets. Government and Red Shirt calls for the court to be abolished or judges resign to make way for those friendly to Thaksin simply do not play the same way to the public as when the military is abrogating a constitution.

The editorial reckons that the trouble now is all to do with “amnesty bills,” the desire by some to “bring Thaksin home” and “constitutional reform.” PPT thinks this is all a beat-up and that if one looks at the period since the 2011 election, that the yellow shirts have been seeking and testing openings from day 1, and this is simply a more coordinated effort by them, probably because the funders of yellow shirt action, with their coffers recharged by a strong economy under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, are feeling that they are able to maintain an anti-government activism for a longer period.
As the editorial has it:

Now Thaksin foes think they have the government significantly weakened. PM Yingluck was drawn into the fray in April with her speech praising the Red Shirts and Thaksin and the courts successfully weathered attempts at intimidation while wracking up an impressive list of cases that can be used to shake up the government if necessary.

It adds, perhaps hopefully, that the red shirt movement is seen as weakened. Yet the editorial says that more time is needed as the red shirts and government need to be further weakened and the elite more convinced that the military or judiciary needs to act.

The rejection of an elected government – seen as no democracy at all by the yellow lot, who anyway prefer elite rule by hierarchical institutions – is part and parcel of the anti-Thaksin agenda, but it is a stance that requires considerable undermining of the government before the stamp of the military boot can be accepted. After all, the undermining of electoral politics has been tried and it was rejected, repeatedly, so the digging out of the foundations of “electoralism” will take considerable time and money before the tanks can roll:

The opposition, having experienced the Thai Rak Thai years when the media and business became political pawns of one-man and one-family rule [sic.], fears this future. It works against it by again starting the cycle of academic disapproval, weekly protests, and the threat of judicial sanctions to bring the elected government to its knees.

That’s how the military coup can be put back on the agenda.



4 responses

23 06 2013
Anand pontificates | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] a post several days ago, PPT commented on a 2Bangkok.com editorial. In that editorial it was noted that, “In Thai culture in […]

23 06 2013
Anand pontificates | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] a post several days ago, PPT commented on a 2Bangkok.com editorial. In that editorial it was noted that, “In Thai culture in general, it […]

29 06 2013
Rice and fish(y) media | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] couple of weeks ago, PPT posted on the yellow-tinged 2Bangkok.com and its construction of a narrative for another anti-Thaksin […]

29 06 2013
Rice and fish(y) media | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] couple of weeks ago, PPT posted on the yellow-tinged 2Bangkok.com and its construction of a narrative for another anti-Thaksin […]

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