New: Jakrapob on the struggle for democracy and against the aristocracy

18 08 2009

Prachatai (19 August 2009: “Jakrapob on Democracy movement leaders”) has a story with some translation of a column by Jakrapob Penkair on the struggle for democracy. He says: “The incidents of 14 Oct 1973, 6 Oct 1976, and May 1992 are struggles for Democracy within a framework of Aristocracy, but from 2006 until present it has been the first ever fight between Democracy and Aristocracy.”

Jakrapob is critical of the UDD leadership as he provides a revisionist account of 1992’s Black May but is especially critical of the role of (now PAD leader) and central figure in May 1992 events, Chamlong Srimuang: “the May 92 incident was not an encounter between the conservative elite and the people as is happening today, but a conflict among the conservative elite’s own minions who dragged the people in between their battle lines.”

Aristocrats, Democrats and a compromise

2 04 2009

Aristocrats and politics: The Nation op-ed writer Avudh Panananda (2 April 2009: “Thaksin: A Don Quixote for democracy or a Shylock for power?”) claims that Thaksin Shinawatra’s claims about Privy Council involvement in his downfall “has no new information.” This is becoming a common refrain. However, the responses to Thaksin have certainly brought to light details not previously known and has made them public. That Privy Councilors Prem and Surayud have spoken on these events in some detail is new. The author adds: “Practically all leading figures, the so-called aristocracy, turned their backs on him. By staying silent about the coup, the aristocrats, like Prem and Surayud, spoke volumes on how they viewed him.”

Avudh also makes the claim that: “The Privy Council is an established institution with exemplary records for more than a century. There is no reason to suspect a bad-mouthing by Thaksin can alter anything.” This would be more accurate if the activities of the Privy Council were more transparent. Outside the closed circles around the palace, little is known of the Council’s activities.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post (2 April 2009: “UDD sets Wednesday for showdown”), Veera Prateepchaikul attacks the Democrat Party-led government, saying that “the Democrats need to shape up in their handling of the [UDD] protest, and especially in their handling of Thaksin. That Thaksin manages to make regular, uninterrupted phone and video-link calls to his supporters to launch attacks on the government and … Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda clearly shows how ineffective the Democrats are in coping with the problem despite the huge resources the government has at its call. The Democrats have also failed to come to the defence of Gen Prem, accused by Thaksin of being behind the coup which toppled his government in 2006. In the war to capture media space now being fought between the government and Thaksin and company, the Democrats are falling behind.”

Veera’s commentary has some resonance with the claims made in the pro-PAD outlets such as ASTV and Phujatkan. Calls for the Democrats to defeat Thaksin and the UDD are getting stronger in these outlets as are the calls to “protect” privy councilors, always worried that the councilors are the king’s men and that attacks on them reflect on the monarchy.

A compromise?: Suthep Thaugsuban has spoken of a willingness for talks. Now House Speaker Chai Chidchob (The Nation, 2 April 2009: “Person with a lot of clout ready to mediate: Chai”) has said that negotiations may be in the works, referring to “a person with a lot of clout” who would act as a mediator between the parties.

Thaksin wants more support for the red shirts

28 03 2009

In another speech to UDD red shirt demonstrators through a video link (The Nation, 29 March 2009: “Join red-shirt protest, Thaksin tells people”), deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called on “people who had benefited from his government’s policies to come out and support the red-shirt movement….I call on you to rise up throughout the country to join the red-shirts and bring back democracy for our children…”. He also called for politicians from his banned and dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party to “lead your countrymen in the fight”.

Thaksin directed his attacks at the Democrat Party-led government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, “portraying it as pro-aristocracy and inefficient in tackling the country’s economic problems.” He told his supporters, “It’s time to return democracy to the people, or the confusion will never end…”.

Abhisit dismissed Thaksin’s complaints as “an old story.”

A clip from Thaksin’s speeches is available at the pro-Thaksin site Thai E-News/คลิปเสียงและภาพ วิดิโอลิงก์ ทักษิณ ชินวัตร วันเสาร์ที่ 28 มีนาคม 2552.

On the 2007 Constitution as “pro-aristocracy”

27 03 2009

Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-archa, leader of the Chart Thai Pattana Party created after the Chart Thai Party was dissolved in December 2008, has made some observations reported in The Nation (27 March 2009: “Charter to blame for seemingly unending conflict: Chumpol”).

Chumpol, reflecting on the red shirt/UDD protest and presumably the allegations regarding who was behind the 2006 coup has “said many provisions in the charter had made it difficult for the government to run the country.” He is reported as saying, “The 2007 Constitution sucks. This charter was written by the yellow-shirt people; it is pro-aristocracy. Many provisions were added [to the previous charter] and government has become entangled…”.

Chumpol adds that “protests, this time by the pro-Thaksin red-shirt people, would continue as long as the Constitution is viewed as being unable to ensure justice for all.”

While such comments are not unexpected from a member of a party that was heavily damaged by the dissolution of its predecessor, it is interesting to see just how much the Thai political debate is shaped by ideas about the monarchy and royalism.

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