General Prayuth, the Chinese and democracy

11 11 2010

Reasons to fret about Thailand’s political future:

1) Prayuth Chan-ocha is quoted by Suthichai Yoon as saying this: “Let me pose a question. Who wants to stage a coup right now? Thailand has a democratic system under the Monarchy. This is the best system in the world. We are different from other countries. They only have a democratic system. Why do we want to go in search of another system then? That won’t solve our problems….”.

The best system in the world? Perhaps it has been for those in the elite who benefit from the power of hierarchical institutions to repress the subaltern classes. PPT would hope that this system’s days are numbered.

2) Xinhua reports on “China and Thailand [having] … underlined their commitment to deepen parliamentary ties.” Top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), “said the NPC would like to seek closer ties with the Thai Senate in all fields, step up experience sharing on democracy, legal system, legislation and supervision, and keep consultation and cooperation in international parliamentary organizations.” Wu was a guest of the President of the National Assembly of Thailand Chai Chidchob.

There have been some scuttlebutt regarding discussions amongst the business elite in Bangkok about the feasibility of a Chinese system – authoritarian politics with a capitalist economy. Is this what is meant by discussions of “democracy”? Chinese-style democracy meets Thai-style democracy?





Ji Ungpakorn calls for immediate elections, 9 April 2010

9 04 2010

Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s latest is posted below.  As with his prior statements, PPT is concerned that this will not be addressed in the mainstream media, which is why we have reproduced it in full.

****

“Friday 9th April, Thailand, time for immediate fresh elections

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

After the military-backed Democrat Party Government of Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency and issued arrest warrants for pro-democracy Red Shirt leaders, the Government has attempted to close down all internet and satellite media or websites which don’t tow the government line.

Since late March the Red Shirts have been holding peaceful and disciplined protests in Bangkok. They have not destroyed anything or held weapons of any kind. Their demands are for the dissolution of parliament and immediate fresh elections. The military-backed Government is totally opposed to elections, since the Democrat Party has never ever won a majority.

The Red Shirt protests are in stark contrast to the Yellow Shirt PAD demonstrators in 2008. The PAD used violence and carried weapons. They occupied and wrecked Government House and seized and shut down the international airports. No one has been punished for these criminal acts. The PAD demand that the democratic space be reduced because they believe that the majority of the people do not deserve the vote. The Democrat Party has worked hand in hand with the PAD and the army. Yet Hans van Baalen Dutch MEP, President of the Liberal International, supports the military backed government in Thailand and claims that a crackdown on Red Shirts would defend the Rule of Law in Thailand.

Abhisit justifies his state of emergency on the grounds that the Red Shirts are blocking shopping centres! This is a lie, one of many lies told by the Thai Prime Minister. Another lie is that the Red Shirt media is advocating violence. They have done nothing of the kind. Yesterday’s brief invasion of the parliament grounds by Red Shirts was in response to CS gas canisters being thrown at the peaceful crowd outside.

Today the Red Shirts went to their satellite TV station to ask for it back, yet foreign media like the BBC claim wrongly claim that the Red Shirts were trying to “occupy” the satellite station. What they wanted was for the transmissions to be reinstated.

The Red Shirts are a mass movement of workers and peasants. They are demanding a restoration of Democracy. Most support former PM Taksin because his government introduced Thailand’s first ever universal health care scheme and pro-poor policies. Foreign media often incorrectly portray the Red Shirts as rural people. They are poor people from urban and rural areas, including Bangkok. They represent the vast majority of Thai citizens. They proudly call themselves “serfs” in a class war with the authoritarian elites.

Record of the Abhisit Government

The Democrat Party took over the Government after:

  • Continuously criticising the Taksin Government for using state funds for the poor
  • Refusing to take part in the elections of 2006 because they knew they would lose
  • A military coup in September 2006
  • A military Constitution was introduced in 2007 which decreased the democratic space
  • They lost the December 2007 election
  • They supported the PAD violent demonstrations which seized Government House and closed down the international airports
  • The Royalist Courts were used twice to dissolve Red Shirt parties which won majorities
  • Corrupt politicians were bullied and bribed by the army to change sides and support the Democrat Party




Updated: More on parliament surrounded

26 03 2010

Update: After some limited media criticism, a fierce response from Peua Thai Party MPs, including a 2-day boycott of parliament, the government begun to reduce the huge military presence at parliament. Television news showed the troops withdrawing and razor wire and barricades being removed.

Part of the criticism today came in an extremely emotional statement in parliament by the one Peua Thai MP who showed up, spoke, and then left.As we mentioned below, the senate speaker also made a plea.

The government, which had earlier seen that images of the prime minister surrounded by military personnel was poor public relations, appears to have woken up to that fact that making parliament look like a military base in a war zone is probably not the best message. That said, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems not to care all that much, and in parliament was grim-faced in making statements defending his government and the military.

*

While much of the media has jumped to Abhisit Vejjajiva’s support, seemingly seeing nothing wrong with the huge “security” measures taken to “protect” parliament, Senate speaker Prasopsuk Boondej is reported in the Bangkok Post as saying that the government should review its security measures as the deployment of troops at the parliament affects the image of the country…”.

He says: “The deployment of soldiers and the setting up of cement barricades and barbed wire inside and around the parliament building compound without giving advance notice has inconvenienced senators trying to get to work…” (PPT added the emphasis). He argues that it was unnecessary “to station a large number of soldiers at the parliament.

He added: “In addition, there will be a meeting of senators on Monday and foreign delegates to the 122nd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting will visit the parliament the same day. If they see a large number of soldiers, it could erode the country’s image”.

With Peau Thai Party members still boycotting and now heavily involved at the red shirt rally, the government sat in parliament virtually alone. PPT watched some of the session and it was handed over to a series of attacks on the red shirts and support for the “security” measures. Apart from allowing the Democrat Party to let off a bit of steam, it was a bit like watching one hand clapping.





A parliament “protected”?

25 03 2010

Update: After some limited media criticism, a fierce response from Peua Thai Party MPs, including a 2-day boycott of parliament, the government begun to reduce the huge military presence at parliament. Television news showed the troops withdrawing and razor wire and barricades being removed.

Part of the criticism today came in an extremely emotional statement in parliament by the one Peua Thai MP who showed up, spoke, and then left.As we mentioned below, the senate speaker also made a plea.

The government, which had earlier seen that images of the prime minister surrounded by military personnel was poor public relations, appears to have woken up to that fact that making parliament look like a military base in a war zone is probably not the best message. That said, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seems not to care all that much, and in parliament was grim-faced in making statements defending his government and the military.

**

How many military personnel does it take to make parliament feel safe for the Democrat Party? Quite a few it seems, and not a few barricades and lots of barbed wire. The Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) reports that “Soldiers yesterday blocked all roads but for the intersection of Rajavithi and Rama V roads adjacent to Dusit Zoo. They erected concrete barriers, barbed wire and parked heavy trucks across other access routes. Only one lane was open for MPs and ministers to pass through to parliament.”

None of these are the traits normally associated with an elected parliament. However, several senior Democrat Party members have stated that they fear a repeat of events in October 2008. Those events involved the Democrat Party’s allies in the People’s Alliance for Democracy trying to prevent parliament from meeting. To date, the red shirt rally has shown no such inclination, despite a Democrat Party claim that “without the presence of police and soldiers at access points to parliament, red shirt protesters would have rallied there.”

The Bangkok Post (24 March 2010) reports that “Puea Thai MPs did not attend the House meeting today because they viewed the deployment of troops and placing of barricades inside and around the parliament building compound as a threat to legislators…”. Puea Thai demanded the removal of the barricades. The party also proposed to “file complaints with the Crime Suppression Police, seeking legal action against Mr Abhisit and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban for ordering the deployment of soldiers at parliament, and against Mr Chai for allowing the military to station troops at the parliament.” The Peua Thai Party whip made the claim that the “parliament has now been seized by the army in a silent coup…”.

In response, government whips decided to “seek the impeachment of Puea Thai MPs for violating the law.” What law was that? “The opposition MPs gathered at the parliament’s entrance gate, obstructing House Speaker Chai Chidchob and government MPs from performing their duty at the parliament this morning…”. Recall that the people making this claim themselves stayed away from parliament just a few days ago. The government’s whips confirmed that the troops would stay at parliament.

The man who boycotted an election in 2006, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “opposition MPs, who boycotted today’s House meeting, had attempted to obstruct other MPs trying to enter the parliament to do their duty. That was undemocratic…”. The Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) claims that the so-called blockade had little impact apart from a short delay, so the prime minister is exaggerating things considerably. He also denied a “quiet coup,” saying, “Who took power from who? Everybody is performing their duty.”

In another report in the Bangkok Post (24 March 2010), Abhisit expressed concern that “Col Apiwan Wiriyachai, the first deputy House speaker, went on the UDD stage and made careless remarks about Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.”

Interestingly, the military “protection” of parliament comes just prior to the meeting of the International Parliamentary Union in Bangkok, which may also see the Internal Security Act in place. Some ironies there.

The military apparently agreed to open other access roads and this saw the parliament convene and the Puea Thai MPs end their protest and most then left for their party headquarters, boycotting the session. The parliament of mainly government members then passed key pieces of legislation without debate.

The bias in reporting this event is noticeable. While the Bangkok Post (25 March 2010) does point out that “many MPs of both the government and opposition camps appear to have neglected this obligation [ to attend parliamentary meetings].” That said, the editorial is convinced that the military blockade was “because of the barricade [was] set up by the government to prevent red-shirt protesters from storming Parliament.”

The post adds “Anyone with a modicum of common sense would see that the roadblock and the heavy presence of troops in no way constitute an insult to the honour of the legislators.” PPT wonders which common sense permits government members and ministers, including the premier to boycott meetings but causes the Post to consider a huge barricade around parliament with hundreds of soldiers a necessary and democratic move.

Here’s the real kicker, as the Post states: “The government may have overreacted for fear that the red-shirt protesters might storm or lay siege to Parliament and hold all the attending MPs hostage inside the premises, despite promises by the protest leaders that they would not resort to such outrageous action.” In other words, it is only anti-red shirt bias allows the Post to agree with the government.

As a footnote to this post, there are now various reports of how many troops are now in Bangkok “maintaining security.” Last week it was widely reported that there were 48,000. Now it is reported that 13,000 to 17,000 have been added, with a similar number on standby. At a maximum that means 65,000 troops deployed in Bangkok. The minimum figure PPT saw was 49,000. If any of these figures are correct, that’s a heck of a lot. The U.S. had some 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at the end of 2009. Thailand is said to have some 300,000 active military personnel, meaning about a fifth of them might be “peace-keeping” in Bangkok, and thousands more in the provinces, with about another fifth in the south.





Demanding respect

24 09 2009

For an update, see The Nation.

Monsters & Critics has a story from DPA (24 September 2009: “Thailand’s parliamentarians demand some respect”) that says that the Secretariat of the House of Representatives has issued an order that “all civil servants to show some respect to house representatives by wai-ing them – the traditional Thai palms-together greeting – and helping them more with their workload.”

Apparently the order  was issued because of “complaints from members of parliament that appointed officials showed little respect to their elected counterparts and were generally unhelpful…”.

PPT is not sure how to use this item. We could use it as the “joke of the week” posting or we could suggest that it is reflective of the declining status of the elected institution that results from not just coups and the neglect of election results, but the fact that real power is located elsewhere. Indeed, the bureaucracy itself has made something of a political comeback in recent years as electoral politics has been denigrated.








%d bloggers like this: