Moral bankruptcy

18 01 2015

A couple of weeks ago PPT posted on planning by the puppet National Reform Council for a special body to foster moral values and good governance among public-office holders. We noted that this should cause panic amongst people as these elitist lecturing on morals is more of their nonsensical propaganda. Ji Ungpakorn has a further commentary on this including reference to some of the recent revelations of elite sex parties involving a judge and other well-known “identities.”

PPT is not generally given to moralizing, but when the moralizers are the military brass, you just know it is horse manure meant for the consumption of the gullible in Bangkok’s middle class and the enforcement of morals on others. Ji makes some good points:

The Morals of Thugs and Gangsters
January 17, 2015 uglytruththailand
Giles Ji Ungpakorn

A sex scandal is doing the rounds of the Thai media.Video clips of middle aged officials and business people touching naked young women in a “Fitness Centre Party” have been widely circulating. The junta have come out and condemned this behaviour and promised an investigation.

This is just blatant hypocrisy. Thai elite males regularly pay young women for sex and the military is well known for its parties where women are paid to parade naked in front of young men in uniform. The Crown Prince is also well known for making his women pose naked for photographs. Thai elites have no respect for women or the majority of the population.

Previously, head Coupster Prayut and his acolytes announced that they were to set up a “National Moral Forum” as part of their anti-reform process. If it were not for the expense involved and the vicious nature of the junta, it would be a joke.

Just like the so-called “reforms” which they lie about, their “morals” will be exactly the opposite of any moral principles. This is their first crime: lying. The junta and its supporters have lied about why they took power, they have lied about their intentions for democracy, they have lied about the law and the constitution, they have lied about how the majority of the population “support” the government and they have lied about being able to extradite the many Thai exiles who are charged with lèse-majesté. They also lie repeatedly about the killing of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators in 2010… which brings us to their next immoral crime.

Generalissimo Prayut and his hired gunmen deliberately shot down unarmed red shirts in 2010, using special snipers. Nearly 90 civilians were killed in cold blood, some of them while sheltering in a temple. This was murder, pure and simple. But according to the so-called “National Moral Forum”, cold-blooded murder like this is the peak of moral fortitude.

The use of deadly force, including military coups, in order to have your way, in opposition to the democratic wishes of the majority, is the behaviour of gangsters. But naturally, coup-making does not figure in the National Moral Forum’s list of immoral acts.

The junta has given out jobs to its boys and Prayut and his fellow generals have lined their own pockets with multiple salaries; corruption, pure and simple. Yet the National Moral Forum will view corruption as a “relative” issue. It depends on who is involved. If it is the junta’s opponents then it is most certainly corruption. But if it is the junta and its lackeys, then it is “justifiable reward for hard work”. Prayut has complained repeatedly about how tired he is with all his responsibilities. People need to relieve him of them all and allow him to rest for years in a prison cell.

Physical and mental torture are accepted as immoral acts by decent people. Yet the National Moral Forum will work on the idea that to criticise the ruling order or the monarchy is a heinous crime, whereas the destruction of free speech and the incarceration of innocent people in appalling conditions under the abominable lèse-majesté law is “defending the morals of the nation”. Threatening to kill or rape people, as part of the junta’s “attitude changing activities”, is torture. But the National Moral Forum will regard this activity as “bringing peace and happiness to society”.

The National Moral Forum will no doubt praise “egotism” and “arrogance”, special qualities shown by Thailand’s Dear Leader Prayut.

But in reality, the National Moral Forum is about “obedience”. It should be the National Obedience Forum because what these megalomaniacs believe is that the majority of the Thai people should bow their heads, crawl on the ground, and fix false happy smiles on their faces while being obedient and doing what the junta tells them. This is a measure of the moral degeneration of Thai society under the jack boot of the military.

Middle-class politics

8 11 2014

Serhat Ünaldi is Project Manager at the Bertelsmann Stiftung and is one of the author’s of the Foundation’s Asia Policy Brief Asian Middle Classes – Drivers of Political Change? (opens a PDF).

The lightly-referenced report is the subject of Ünaldi’s article at The Diplomat on “The Tyranny of SE Asia’s Establishment.” It begins with the claim that “The ‘old middle class’ in Southeast Asia is turning against democracy in a bid to protect its interests.”

The analysis that rejects some older modernization theory claims, suggests that “a substantial middle-income population does not translate into a healthier state of democracy in any straightforward manner.” It also notes the “diversity” of a class defined only by income level.

The article looks beyond Thailand, but as we are Thailand-focused, we thought the comments on the country of interest:

Anti-democratic protests in Thailand were likewise driven by an urban-based middle class with fond memories of a time when Thai generals ruled the kingdom in tandem with the monarchy. Democratic support, in contrast, seemed to come from members of the emerging lower middle class in the provinces.

The notion that there is a provincial-urban split on politics in the middle class may be descriptively accurate for a particular period in Thailand, but it too ignores the diversity of the middle class and the contingent nature of support for democracy amongst all classes. Still, worth a read.

Updated: Thailand’s protesters don’t want democracy

29 01 2014

There have been some pretty horrid defenses of the anti-democrats by some journalists and bloggers in recent days. One of the features of these pieces has been the almost complete absence of factual information and the reliance on a few informants from the anti-democracy camp.

Perhaps the worst of this lot was the long Newsweek piece by Hugh Gallagher, called “What I saw at the Revolution.” Perhaps it should have been “What I saw at the Counter-Revolution.” This scribbler essentially had one source – a woman who happened to live in this guy’s condominium.

Saowaluk, 30-something TV producer, was one of them. She met me that morning in my building’s lobby. Dressed in jeans, black T-shirt and running sneakers, she tucked her smartphone into a designer handbag, brushed her long black hair aside, and led me out into the protests.

Smartphone, designer bag, etc. This is upwardly mobile Thai-Chinese middle class Bangkok.

Many people pouring into the streets of Bangkok today received their diploma directly from their king. The PDRC movement is filled with such educated professionals, whom detractors have spun toward the more derogatory label of “elite.”

Saying the “revolution” was more than the middle class and elite being pissed that they thought their privilege was going down the drain, the author then introduces “famous people” at the protest. He makes PPT’s case: this is a highly protectionist elite and their hangers-on protecting a system that has suited them and kept the rest down.

Equally hopeless was a piece at The Guardian by Dave Sherman. We were initially surprised that a respected newspaper like this would publish such week journalism, but then we realized that this is one of those stories that anyone can publish, kind of like a long comment at a blog.

Then we found out that this Dave is Bangkok Dave. He hasn’t posted anything at his blog for ages, but he came out for The Guardian. We won’t say too much about the article, but let’s contextualize it. This is how Dave describes himself:

I’m not a journalist…. I am not a neutral observer. I’m against the red shirts – their ideology; their goals (not their stated goals, but the actual ones); their methods, particularly the calculated use of violence; their hypocrisy and sense of entitlement; their lack of compassion and self-awareness. But most of all, I’m against their political master: Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire former premier turned fugitive who’s organized the red shirt movement, funded its activities and infused it with his sociopathic personality and political ethos.

So Dave is a commentator who hates red shirts. Should we then listen to him when he supports the anti-democrats? Well, yes, if he made any sense.

Does he make sense? Try this, his: “Myth 1: The protesters are mainly ‘Bangkok elites’.” What is it then?:

In reality, while the protests indeed have their centre in Bangkok, most protesters are fairly diverse, and include the city’s middle and working classes, as well as students and people of all walks of life from Thailand’s south. Crucially, the majority of the Bangkok-born working class do not support the government.

“Fairly diverse”? Everyone says the Bangkok middle class is there (see above), so nothing new there. But the working class of Bangkok? The first thing to notice is that Dave has no evidence for this claim, and PPT certainly hasn’t seen this class at the rallies. Of course, the leadership of tiny state enterprise unions have supported the anti-democrats, going back to 2005, mainly through the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk.

But this is a “labor aristocracy.” It is a tiny fraction of the Bangkok-based working class that was so emphatic in its support for the red shirts and which repeatedly votes for pro-Thaksin parties. Evidence is not one of Dave’s strong points.

Update: Oops, like Dave, we forgot our punchline. The headline of this story is a contradiction of Dave’s. We won’t argue for our conception because he doesn’t either. But, hey, we have hundreds of posts to support us.

Thinking about the end of the monarchy

29 01 2014

The Wall Street Journal has a take on the end of the monarchy in Thailand. We are sure the journalist involved wouldn’t say it that way, but that’s what it is.

It begins rather shakily:

For decades, Thais have looked to King Bhumibol Adulyadej to referee political disputes. But with the king now 86 years old, some people here say it’s time to sort out their own problems.

Of course, this is incorrect. Some Thais have looked to the king.And this is a recent longing, mainly associated with 1973, canceled by the involvement in the 1976 massacre, and then in 1992, canceled by the 2006 coup. The Thais who seem to look to the king most are those who have gained much from a royal connection: the military, wealthy Sino-Thais and the culturally rudderless Bangkok middle class.

It is still a bit lost when it says:

Elevated to almost divine status with the help of the military during the Cold War, King Bhumibol has interceded during flashpoints over the years. Sometimes he has sided with street protesters demanding more democracy and accountability; at others, he has endorsed autocratic military rulers.

In fact, the king has always been on the side of autocrats. They are the ones who elevated him. His occasional comments on democracy have been conservative and reactionary, and mainly associated with notions of Thai-style democracy. When he has supported civilians against the military, it has been when a crisis threatened the roots of autocracy and his ruling class.

It is then stated that:

Unlike some other Asian royal houses that have faded into the background or, in Nepal’s case, been abolished, Thailand’s monarchy is still part and parcel of everyday life here, despite not having any formal power.

This is a common enough statement about the king’s constitutional power. In fact, though, it isn’t correct. Since 1932, and especially since 1958, constitutions have gradually returned real powers to the monarchy. Yes, the current constitution states: “The King as Head of State shall exercise such power through the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers and the Courts in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.” However, many sections give real power to the king:

Section 7. Whenever no provision under this Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided in accordance with the constitutional convention in the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

The king has been encouraged by anti-democrats to use this provision.

Section 90. An organic law bill and a bill may be enacted as law only by and with the advice and consent of the National Assembly and when the King’s signature has been given or deemed to be given thereto; it shall come into force upon its publication in the Government Gazette.

The king has withheld his signature. This effectively kills such bills. There are many other provisions which refer to the king’s “prerogative” and it remains unclear if this is on the advice of the premier.

There are several provisions which relate to the so-called independent agencies, where the king and Senate act in concert to make appointments. Given that the Senate is only half-elected, this is a most powerful weapon used by the king against perceived opponents. So it is that the judges, appointed senators and other “independent” agencies are able to depose governments.

It is true that “Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws penalize criticism of the royal family with prison terms of up to 15 years.”

The interesting bits follow this:

But as King Bhumibol enters the twilight of his long reign, the political divides here in Southeast Asia’s linchpin economy are widening as protesters, many of them invoking the name of the king, try to check the growing power of the country’s elected leaders. And some supporters of the populist government say it is time to stop using the king’s name for political leverage.

Of course it is, but wander about the hawker stands at the anti-democracy protests and you see a lot of paraphernalia that is of the “We love the king” variety common at People’s Alliance for Democracy events in the past. Listen to the speeches and you hear calls for lese majeste to be more vigorously used. As the article states:

The protesters aren’t coy about invoking the name of King Bhumibol. During frequent parades around Bangkok’s busy business district, many wear yellow head bands declaring “I Love the King.” Some of their placards accuse Mr. Thaksin, who was overthrown as prime minister in 2006 and now lives abroad, of plotting to usurp the king’s powers—a charge Mr. Thaksin has consistently denied, and which the king hasn’t publicly commented on.

Red shirts know they are attacked as anti-monarchy and stymied by calls to monarchical loyalty:

“We’re not really supposed to talk about these things in Thailand,” says Wutthipong Kotchathammakhun, a leader of a pro-government “Red Shirt” splinter group here, just north of Bangkok. “But we want people to understand how the establishment is using ‘the sky’ to grab power for itself,” he says, using a common term to refer to the royal family.

While it might be true that the “king himself has remained silent on the months-long standoff playing out on the streets of Bangkok,” his youngest daughter has been vociferous. We don’t know what the king himself is capable of saying as he is often incoherent as dementia takes its toll.

And here’s the real point of the article:

The clash represents an almost existential struggle to determine what kind of country Thailand should be in the 21st century. On one side are Thailand’s traditional power bases in the military and technocratic political parties, and in the rival camp are supporters of populist politicians backed by billionaire businessman Thaksin Shinawatra.

Actually the struggle is bigger than Thaksin. The army “has a strong and visible attachment to the monarchy,” but that will fade over time and with succession as the connection between the two has been highly personalized via the aged and infirm Prem Tinsulanonda as the royalist wheeler-dealer premier and then privy councilor. That era is at an end:

… the more the demonstrators play the royal card—by making lèse-majesté allegations or simply waving royalist placards—the more they risk undermining the institution in the eyes of millions of Thais who have repeatedly voted for the Shinawatras.

“Everything the royalists do is working against the long-term interests of the monarchy,” says David Streckfuss, a Thailand-based scholar and author. “The lèse-majesté laws, trying to secure the positions: any of it, really, is bad for the monarchy.”

It might be the end, but the real end is a struggle, a battle. And, as was seen post-1932, the monarchy is nothing if not tenacious and resilient and was able to rebuild. This time?

Pandering to the minority?

30 12 2013

The Bangkok Post has joined The Nation in apparently pandering to the anti-democratic movement by naming it as the “People of the Year.” It refers to the “great mass uprising” or “muan maha prachachon” as a kind of middle class revolution that could “go down as a major political landmark and point of progress in Thai history.” The Post adds: “Whether the newly emerged force … will grow into a positive movement that brings about political progress remains to be seen.”

In other words, the selection is, like that of The Nation, either a bit of anti-democratic campaigning, pandering and hope or it is a bit like TIME magazine choosing Hitler as Man of the Year in 1938 which appears as fascination with a demagogue. We don’t know, but we do wonder about the Post’s pitch on this “landmark.”

Let’s look more closely at the claims made in this campaign by the Post (the indented bits are from the newspaper’s story):

Discontent, it is said, is the first necessity of progress.It’s discontent that lies at the hearts of the hundreds of thousands of people who have taken to Bangkok streets since last month to protest against the amnesty law that sought to absolve all crimes and corruption cases from 2006 onwards without any clear justifiable reasons.

It’s discontent against the flagrant abuse of power by a majority of democratically elected representatives who not only voted to pass a law that would have rendered the justice process meaningless but did so at 4:25am _ unbecoming conduct by parliamentarians for such highly questionable legislation.

This is true, as far as it goes. There is no doubt that the ill-conceived amnesty bill was a disaster for all involved. It is true that the amnesty bill motivated many who have demonstrated. However, it is also true that red shirts, both official and others, were also opposed to the amnesty bill. They are not demonstrating.

As the story later states, the bill has since been withdrawn. It might have been added that it never became law.

It is also true that the opposition movement is not primarily about this bill. The anti-democracy movement is primarily interested in destroying what it identifies as the “Thaksin regime” and prevent an election before the rules of elections can again be changed to allow minority interests to control politics.

The almost spontaneous uprising against the draft law started with tens of thousands who joined then Democrat MP and former party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban at a rally on Samsen Road, and grew into hundreds of thousands within weeks.

It is important to recognize that this anti-democratic movement was formed in 2005 and has been active ever since, seeing various levels of support. The opposition to the “Thaksin regime,” as Thongchai Winichakul points out in an excellent op-ed,  may have begun in late November, but this is “only one battle in Thailand’s protracted political struggle since the violent protests of 2006 that ended with a military coup.”

In fact, the lineage and allies is: People’s Alliance for Democracy (since 2005), Democrat Party (since 2005), Dhamma Army and Santi Asoke (since 2005), Group of 40 Senators (since 2005), palace and military (2006), judiciary (since 2006), No Colors/Multi Colors (from about 2010), Green Politics Group (since 2007), Thai Patriot Network (since 2008), Siam Samakkhi (since 2011), Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land (2012), Pitak Siam (which began its demonstrations in the same month in 2012), Sayam Prachapiwat (2012), the White Mask group, People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime (2013), and now the misleadingly monikered People’s Democratic Reform Committee (2013). Each of these groups -and we are sure we have missed some of them – has had overlapping membership and leadership. Essentially, a small group of rightist leaders have worked from 2005 to mobilize and bring down elected governments.

The spirit of the 2013 uprising, the will to mass together to challenge injustice and the force for change it engendered, has earned the mass uprising, or muan maha prachachon as it has become known, the Bangkok Post’s 2013 People of the Year distinction.

PPT can’t help thinking about the injustice heaped upon every single elector who has voted again and again for the governments the majority wants, only to see them overturned by unelected minorities. We can’t recall, but were red shirts the Post’s Persons of the Year in 2010 for their campaign for an election?

It is the first time that white-collar working-class people and business entrepreneurs have spoken up and demanded they be treated as informed citizens who are willing to engage in participatory democracy, in activities that go beyond casting their ballot on voting days.

When Sondhi Limthongkul formed the People’s Alliance for Democracy six years ago, only a few thousand people in these classes joined him as the so-called yellow-shirt demonstrators….

This is far from factual. Business people have been funding PAD’s demonstrations since 2005 and have been involved in demonstrations previously – recall the 1992 “mobile phone mob.” The “white-collar working class” is an odd term and seems little more than an attempt to identify middle-class protesters who have come out time and again to oppose elections and pro-Thaksin governments. We have to say we are seriously confused by the claim about Sondhi and PAD. The Bangkok Post’s archives tell a different story.

Indeed, the … movement … is not without flaws.

As the uprising against the political amnesty law grew under Mr Suthep’s leadership, it morphed into a demonstration to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government and so-called “Thaksin regime” _ a term used to refer to the influence of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on politics and more loosely to the tyranny of the majority.

It is revealing that the Post uses the term “tyranny of the majority” with no interrogation. The term is usually used to refer to a situation where decisions made by a majority mean its interests are so central that those of an individual or minority are ignored in a manner that constitutes oppression. The anti-democrats, however, use this terminology to refer to the Shinawatra clan and associates getting all that they want. They also use it to complain that legislation the Democrat Party doesn’t like gets passed in parliament.  In reality, the Yingluck government has repeatedly backed down on its electoral promises in order to reduce opposition. Recall what political scientists were saying 6-12 months ago: the Yingluck strategy has been, according to Duncan McCargo, to cool political tensions. Kevin Hewison made similar claims in a 2012 article at Political Insight. None of this sounds either tyrannical or despotic.

While its demand seems to resonate with many people _ hundreds of thousands rose up every time Mr Suthep called on them to march _ it is questionable whether the movement is for a “less flawed democracy” as many demonstrators have claimed, or simply “less democracy” as Mr Suthep’s proposal seems to suggest.

Political analyst Chris Baker is cited by the Post:

He said the movement’s rejection of the one-person, one-vote basic principle of political equality is clear.

“Some supporters have clearly said they think Bangkok people should have more weight in the elections than non-Bangkok people. This is important. We outside observers now know what this movement stands for…”.

Thammasat political scientist Kasian Tejapira is also quoted:

He said what is going on is not different from a putsch. It’s just being done with support from the masses instead of military tanks and weapons. “The muan maha prachachon is a capitalist movement that will lead to the tyranny of the minority…”.

Despite this clarity, the Post still it is fascinated by the anti-democratic movement. Part of the reason for this is explained by Democrat Party stalwart and former ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan:

He said the rural electorate was awakened and made aware of its political power and potency in an open political process over a decade ago.

Now, the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive have become agitated by the ways things are going.

“Deep grievances are being articulated against a rampant and unprecedented level of corruption, abuse of power, cronyism in business, nepotism in the bureaucracy, intervention in the check-and-balance mechanisms, control of government media and intimidation of free and independent news agencies.

“[They are also upset about] pervasive and systematic violations of human and civil rights, impunity for law enforcement personnel, ruinous populist programmes and ill-conceived government projects. All of these lead to a profile of anger, frustration, bitterness, emotional pain and political divide on the streets of Bangkok,” Mr Surin said.

It is a bit difficult to know where to begin with Surin’s position. We do agree on the political awakening of a decade or so ago. However, as we have shown above, the claim that “the other end of the political spectrum including people who were politically passive” is false. It would only be true if there hadn’t been a 1992, a PAD or a coup. The POst adds to this:

There are those who attend rallies because they want “good people” to govern the country, university students who want to rid the country of conflicts of interest, and those critical of the government’s environmental policies.

A common theme of the protests is the crowd’s opposition to corruption.

“It’s the corruption, stupid!” former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala wrote on Facebook.

He was referring to former United States president Bill Clinton’s phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid!” which alerted American voters that the key issue during the 1992 US election was not the war against Iraq but the poor economy.

To be factual, the phrase was not Clinton’s but of one of his campaign strategists. That aside, it is fair to observe that none of these desires are absent from the majority who support pro-Thaksin parties. At the same time, each of these claims has been made since PAD came into existence and the double standards are breathtaking: Suthep has a long history of nepotism and cronyism, not to mention corruption claims; Sondhi Limthongkul has an equally long history of corrupt practices; the Democrat Party had to leave office in 1995 over corruption claims; and when Abhisit was in power, the claims of corruption were from red shirt opponents.

Political commentator Anek Laothamatas is also cited:

The Pheu Thai Party, which has focused on winning votes from the rural base and believed _ falsely _ that electoral victory would silence the minority middle class, must rethink their strategy to regain its support….

He’s right on that. The majority has been repeatedly told by the minority – the middle classes and elite – that electoral victories mean nothing. In democracies that take hold, these classes usually make compromises that allow the poorer majority a say in politics. It seems Thailand’s minority wants another path.

Backgrounder on Thailand’s conflicts

28 12 2013

Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker have a useful backgrounder at India’s Economic and Political Weekly. PPT summarizes by emphasizing some points that seemed useful, if well-known. The deep divide they note takes some of the emphasis away from the current focus on succession politics. While succession is an issue in the mix, the deep and long-established divisions within society cannot be ignored:

[T]he demonstrations reflect a deep divide in Thai society according to class, region and ideology, a divide which has developed over the past half century as growth has centred on Bangkok while the rural north and east have been left behind.

The government that has just resigned was installed after elections in July 2011 delivered a strong majority to the Pheu Thai party headed by Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of the former prime minister Thaksin who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008. In its election platform, the Pheu Thai party promised to provide amnesty for offences during the Red Shirt demonstrations in 2009 and 2010, and to amend the constitution drafted after an army coup in 2007. More informally, the party also promised to bring Thaksin home, which would require cancellation of a two-year sentence for abuse of power.

In mid-2013, the government began to deliver on these promises….

The reaction to this clumsy piece of parliamentary chicanery was immediate.

The government backed down almost immediately…

But the protests had very rapidly gathered considerable emotional momentum… Their leader is Suthep Thaugsuban, a long-standing politician from Thailand’s south, a typical local machine politician trailing a string of scandals, mostly over dubious acquisition of land. In the Democrat Party-led government of 2009-11, he was the tough-guy enforcer working behind the scenes for the inexperienced prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. Suthep is an unlikely character to become a hero of street politics. He was turned into a protest leader by the collective emotion of the crowd rather than his personal attributes.

The combined protest vowed to “overthrow the Thaksin regime”, meaning the removal of the current government but also (and more vaguely) reforms to prevent its return. While the movement had momentum, it lacked a mechanism. Traditionally, the military had provided the mechanism by enacting a coup, and more recently the courts have played the role by annulling an election or dissolving the ruling party. On this occasion, neither mechanism worked.

The core of the yellow movement is the Bangkok middle class…. Its members appreciate the upcountry peasantry as a source of cheap labour, but look down on them as backward.

The core of the red movement comes from the rice-growing regions of the upper north and north-east…. Many developed rising aspirations for themselves and their children, and growing resentment at the great inequalities in income, in the distribution of public goods, and in access to power.

From 1998, the spread of elective local government gave people a rapid education in the power of the vote.

The Thaksinite party has now won all five national elections since 2001 by convincing margins. In face of this record, his opponents have gradually lost faith in electoral democracy…. In 2009, the yellows proposed “new politics”, meaning a retreat from the principal of one person/one vote through some graded form of franchise. Yellow advocates talk of a need for more “morality” in politics, and a greater role for “good people”. They repeatedly aim to delegitimise elected politicians by claiming that they buy their votes. Now they are pressing for a complete suspension of constitutional democracy.

On the other side, the reds have consistently backed the electoral principle.

The yellows have more money and more social power. They own the capital…. They have the support of the media. But they lack the numbers to win in national elections.

The reds have the numbers but they lack the social power and get very little support in public media….

CFR on Thailand’s democratic failure

31 03 2011

Some choice quotes from Joshua Kurlantzick, a Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. The article is worth a read in full:

Thailand boasted a large, educated middle class, one of the best-performing economies in the world, and a relatively robust civil society. By the late 1990s, Thailand had held several free elections and passed a reformist constitution that enshrined greater protections for civil liberties and created a wealth of new institutions designed to root out graft and ensure civil rights. In its 1999 report on freedom in the world, monitoring organization Freedom House ranked Thailand a “free” nation.

Today, however, Thailand looks less like a success story and more like an example of how democracy can fail. Since a 2006 military coup, Thailand has reverted to a kind of soft authoritarianism: the military plays an enormous role in determining politics; the Thai middle class has become increasingly anti-democratic; and security forces have used threats, online filtering, arrests, and killings to intimidate opponents of a government sanctioned by the armed forces and Thailand’s monarchy. Freedom House recently ranked Thailand as only “partly free,” and the country has sunk near the bottom of all developing nations in rankings of press freedom.

Critical of Thaksin Shinawatra’s period in power and his authoritarian tendencies, the author adds:

By 2005, when Thaksin was re-elected, again with massive support from the poor, he dominated the country’s political landscape. And yet Thailand had not become Equatorial Guinea or Libya; the Thai middle classes, who had led the democratic revolution before, could have fought back against Thaksin at the ballot box, through the remaining independent news outlets or in the courts. But instead, like middle classes in many emerging democracies today, they had grown disillusioned with democracy, believing that it had delivered only elected autocracy and that it would empower the poor at their expense.

They supported the 2006 coup. Kurlantzick says: “The Thai coup, unfortunately, only triggered a total meltdown. Thaksin might have damaged the country’s weak democracy, but the military ruined it.” Indeed.


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