Thailand’s Democrat Party Is Hilariously Misnamed

28 11 2013

That’s TIME magazine’s headline not PPT’s. PPT might have changed “hilariously” to “dangerously.” For a long time now, PPT has refused to use the word “Democrats” as a way of describing the Democrat Party and we have even referred to the DemoPAD and PADocrat Party ins some posts. The point has been, as TIME now notes, that there is nothing democratic about the Democrat Party or its leadership.

The article notes that:

On Tuesday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister, repeated his call for a “people’s revolution” to replace the elected Yingluck administration with a nonelected royalist council. Attempting to downplay personal ambitions, Suthep declared “before the sanctity of Buddhism that I, Suthep Thaugsuban, will not be Prime Minister in the future.” A warrant has since been issued for his arrest for unlawfully entering government buildings.

Suthep also stated, at the Bangkok Post: “We like peaceful methods,” …. But he added, “If we don’t succeed, then I am prepared to die in the battlefield.”

Getting the strategy rightAnd, as PPT noted earlier, the Democrat Party and its leader Abhisit Vejjajiva have announced in a report at The Nation that the “party is determined to overthrow the ‘Thaksin regime’, with Abhisit affirming his craving for power: “If it leads us to win the battle, we won’t hesitate [to resign from parliament] with unity…” to join the street battle. Abhisit and the Democrat Party used to talk of rule of law and claim all kinds of democratic principles. But as TIME notes:

It’s just that when it comes to Thai democracy, the ironically named Democrat Party is among the worst practitioners. Tens of thousands of Yellow Shirts are marching across the country, but demanding the establishment of royalist councils is hardly a people’s revolution. If anyone has been exercising people power, it’s the 15 million voters who elected Yingluck and her Pheu Thai party in July 2011. Thaksin-backed political parties have won the previous five elections with significant majorities, and Thaksin’s own populist policies helped bring millions of rural poor out of poverty. He remains the kingdom’s most popular Prime Minister since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to oppose the billionaire telecom mogul: the catalog of nest-feathering business deals from his time in office left few in any doubt of his lack of scruples, while his 2003 “war on drugs” involved some 2,800 extrajudicial killings. The image of him directing demonstrations from his lavish Dubai haven, while his Red Shirt supporters risk arrest, violence and occasionally their lives, is hardly a heroic one. But the opposition’s failure to exploit these weaknesses is astonishing.

TIME’s account then flounders on facts and its use of dubious commentators.

It says that the “Democrat Party last won a majority in 1992.” This is a serious error. There were two elections in 1992. In the first election in March, the party did not even win the most seats in the election. In the second, in September, the party did win the most seats. It won 79 of the 360 seats. It is only pro-Thaksin parties that have ever won majorities in the Thai parliament.

TIME also says the power base of the Democrat Party “is the Bangkok bourgeoisie,” and quotes Cornell University Professor Benedict Anderson in describing it as: “timid, selfish, uncultured, consumerist and without any decent vision of the future of the country…”. But this gives the Democrat Party too little credit. It’s party machine in the south is well-organized amongst a population that is relatively well-off in Thailand, but they are not the bourgeoisie. It also neglects the fact that many of the Bangkok protesters are relatively recent, often Sino-Thai entrants to the middle class who resent and fear pro-Thaksin government policies that are redistributive.Fear easily breeds hatred of Thaksin and of those who support him.

TIME thinks that the “Yellow Shirts’ seizure of government buildings has also backfired.” To back this up the article turns to a tainted source on Thai politics, Benjamin Zawacki, now said to be a senior legal adviser for Southeast Asia at the International Commission of Jurists. Readers can search for our earlier posts on the lamentable Zawacki, who claims that: “Yingluck has snatched something resembling victory from the jaws of defeat,” says  adding that Suthep “has likely overplayed his hand.” TIME continues with this “source”:

Regrettably, all signs now point toward an escalation instead — and soon. Dec. 5 is the 86th birthday of now ailing King Bhumibol Adulyadej and an important holiday in Thailand. Some believe Suthep will not want to mar this occasion and so will, in Zawacki’s words, “seek escalation now in the hopes of a coup or at least a temporary declaration of martial law” before the holiday. These are thuggish politics. The Democrat Party might cling onto its name, but seeing many of its supporters swap yellow for black shirts seems strangely apt.

TIME might have made more of the story by examining the Democrat Party’s own anti-democratic statements, from its royalist beginnings to its alliance with monarchy and military in military coup and judicial coup. But it is a great headline.


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30 11 2013
Double standards (again) | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] international media needs to take up the challenge of TIME magazine’s headline and show the deeply and dangerously right-wing ideologies and actions that the Democrat Party […]

30 11 2013
Double standards (again) | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] international media needs to take up the challenge of TIME magazine’s headline and show the deeply and dangerously right-wing ideologies and actions that the Democrat Party […]

12 06 2014
Holding the dictator’s coat | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] over by the extremists who drove the anti-democrat movement. Of course, others have noted this and scoffed at the party and its failures. As we have regularly observed, the Democrat Party has a long history of cuddling up to dictators […]

12 06 2014
Holding the dictator’s coat | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] over by the extremists who drove the anti-democrat movement. Of course, others have noted this and scoffed at the party and its failures. As we have regularly observed, the Democrat Party has a long history of cuddling up to dictators […]