Updated: Backgrounder on Suthep

27 11 2013

Reuters has printed a backgrounder on political bruiser, Democrat Party heavyweight and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban. Here are some cuts from it, beginning with a reminder – if that was needed – that it was Suthep who sent the troops against red shirt protesters, resulting in the deaths of nearly 100 and injuring 2,000 in the resulting battles:

In 2010, the last time Thailand was gripped by large-scale anti-government protests, Suthep Thaugsuban, then deputy prime minister, was the man wielding the sword…. The Democrat Party politician authorized a crackdown by security forces that left downtown Bangkok burning and killed scores of red-shirt supporters of his arch-rival, Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist former prime minister who was overthrown in a 2006 coup.Suthep

Suthep is cocky because he thinks Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra doesn’t have the capacity for such violent action against his protesters:

“I believe Yingluck doesn’t have the authority to order the police or military to do anything,” Suthep told Reuters at Bangkok’s Finance Ministry, which has been occupied by protesters since Monday. “They’ve realized she’s a prime minister that doesn’t obey the rule of law.”

Reuters makes an interesting point about Thailand’s politics of hatred:

The emergence of Suthep as a protest leader betrays how just a few personalities – and their grudges – drive Thailand’s political soap opera, with its cycle of violent protests and interventions by the judiciary, military and palace.

On Suthep’s goals:

He has characterized the protests as a movement to eradicate the network of the now self-exiled Thaksin from Thailand’s political system. How that will happen and whether it entails intercession by the judiciary or the coup-prone military is unclear.

Like others who oppose pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties, Suthep has to dismiss election results:

Although Thaksin or his allies have won every election of the past decade, he says that reflects rampant vote-buying, which he says his “temporary administration” would end.

Suthep’s background is as a “former shrimp-farm and palm-oil magnate had held a seat in parliament since 1979. He served in cabinet as Communications Minister and twice as Deputy Agriculture Minister.” As a tycoon from the south, where his political base is strong, PPT would point out that his family operates in a manner of the political godfathers in other parts of the country.

Reuters mentions the 1995 “scandal involving his land reform program caused then-Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai to dissolve the House rather than face a no-confidence vote.” In that scandal, it was “Suthep [who] was criticized for allegedly giving land rights to the wealthy under a reform scheme intended for the poor. He denied the charge but resigned.”

Since then, Suthep has used his wealth and gregarious personality as political assets: “A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008 described him as his party’s ‘backroom dealmaker’.” PPT has referred to him as a Democrat Party boss. He is a consummate political networker.

As the report notes, all of this is ironic: a wealthy, probably corrupt, backroom deal-making, and long-standing politician is leading an anti-corruption, anti-government, anti-parliament movement that is, at its core, anti-democratic.

Update: There’s another backgrounder on Suthep at Asia Sentinel.


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21 02 2016
Anti-democrats and their entrepreneurialism | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] It has long been noted that the Democrat Party has alliances with “dark influences” or “chao phor” in the south. Suthep is sometimes referred to as a “godfather” in the south and has been involved in some deals that raise questions. His sleazy business deals go back to the 1990s. […]

22 02 2016
Anti-democrats and their entrepreneurialism | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] It has long been noted that the Democrat Party has alliances with “dark influences” or “chao phor” in the south. Suthep is sometimes referred to as a “godfather” in the south and has been involved in some deals that raise questions. His sleazy business deals go back to the 1990s. […]