Listening to yellow-shirted opinion

26 03 2010

A meeting was held at the royalist-dominated Chulalongkorn University that claimed to be on the topic “Why Society Must Listen to the Little People,” and is reported in the Bangkok Post (25 March 2010). While the meeting did include two red shirt representatives, PPT wants to look at the yellow-shirted opinion.

The Post summarizes the meeting as saying that red shirt demands for a dissolution of the lower house of parliament will achieve very little for democracy until politicians can be kept in check and made accountable for their actions.

Niran Pithakwatchara from the government’s tame National Human Rights Commission, claimed that “true democracy had never existed in Thailand and people on the lower rungs of society were mere pawns in the politicians’ games.Sonthi Limthongkul used this same line repeatedly.

So don’t get rid of the government says Niran, but exercise the “rights” provided by the military’s 2007 Constitution to “keep tabs on the holders of power.Niran calls for “civic networks” to watch the politicians. But who might watch the military, the privy council and the monarch and family? Are politicians reflective of the structure of their society or are they the only problem? Niran goes on to claim that the red shirts should somehow fight for equal benefits from state policies. In fact, though, he sees them as fighting for Thaksin Shinawatra. His comments show why PPT refers to the NHRC being the government’s tame body. Currently it seems to fight for no one.

Senator Rosana Tositrakul, a staunch promoter and defender of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, decided to explain that “a dissolution of the House or a general election would not dispense with the system of the bureaucratic elite, or amataya, which is a key platform of the UDD movement.” As PAD intellectuals have argued, the problem for the senator is that politicians are a part of the so-called patronage system. The “people elect MPs who then use their popular support to negotiate seats in the cabinet.” She’s right on this.

Bringing back that system was critical for those who drafted the military’s 2007 Constitution that the senator has cheered. Like many others, she asks what the red shirts want after a dissolution. PPT’s understanding is that the red shirts have called for a dissolution and then an election. Presumably each party would promulgate an electoral platform. We suspect that is not what the senator wants.

Surichai Wankaew, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn who worked for years to develop grassroots politics and then jumped into the military junta’s appointed parliament when the chance came, noted that the “highly partisan” political divide allows the “urban population to dictate national priorities.

Maybe the professor has lost his spectacles, for this domination has been in place for a very long time and hardly seems the product of recent “partisanship.” Apparently the professor thinks the House should not be dissolved until after the people have set conditions to improve the political system, which the holders of power must adopt.” This seems to involve some kind of PAD-like notion of politics.

It is as if politicians are the only cause of political problems in Thailand. This is a myopia that seems to prevent these yellow-shirted politicians – each has been or is a politician – from getting beyond slogans about “the people,” and recall that they are the ones saying that it is the red shirts who are all about slogans and lacking substance. Each also has a claim to grassroots activism. It seems, though, that the grassroots has abandoned them.

Royalists complain, offer advice, launch websites

7 02 2010

PPT has kind of thought that the royalists would be pretty happy with the Democrat Party-led coalition they maneuvered into power with the help of the military a year ago. While the government hasn’t dealt a death blow to Thaksin Shinawatra and the red shirts, in terms of being royalist, the Abhisit Vejjajiva government would seem to have done the right things.

The government has jailed critics on lese majeste and Computer Crimes charges, blocked tens of thousands of critical website, had millions brought out to demonstrate “loyalty” and “love” in various ways, and it has spent millions if not billions on royal propaganda and other royal things.

But it seems this may not be sufficient. The Bangkok Post (7 February 2010) reports that Privy councilor Air Chief Marshal Kamthon Sindhavananda has said that the Abhisit government appeared to be “on the defensive” when it came to preventing insults against the monarchy. Kamthon complained that the government was way to slow in responding to attacks and insults aimed at the monarchy.

PPT foolishly imagined that the palace might have been grateful that the government seems to have shifted the bad press regarding lese majeste off the front pages of newspapers. Apparently not. It seems the old guys at the privy council want even more people locked up.

When asked about Kamthon’s comment yesterday, Abhisit looked uncomfortable, but said he would listen to the honorable one’s advice and he “pledged to improve mechanisms to safeguard the royal institution. The premier reaffirmed that “protecting the monarchy is the government’s top priority.

It seems that the privy councilor may not be happy with Abhisit’s new “committee charged with providing advice on lese majeste cases to make sure the monarchy is not embroiled in politics.

In the same report, there is a photo of gleeful banned politician Newin Chidchob displaying his great love for the monarchy by launching the Bhum Jai Thai Party’s king lover’s website. Newin said the website will give Thais another channel to express their love and allegiance to the King.One of hundreds. Expecting challenges, Newin said that his “website staff will continually monitor and filter out messages posted on the website that are deemed inappropriate.

The site is actually a mess, so maybe he should have had someone update the website before “launching” it. But that isn’t really the point as Newin simply wants to be seen as a staunch royalist.

In a related Bangkok Post (7 February 2010) story Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda is reported to have made a speech at Rangsit University (where there are strong royal, yellow shirt and Democrat Party connections) calling for “good” leaders.

Taking a leaf out of Jakrapob Penkair’s 29 August 2007 speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT), Prem claims that “nepotism, cronyism and the patronage system are key factors in making Thai leaders ignore justice and the rule of law.

Jakkrapob said essentially the same thing, and got charged with lese majeste because he linked the system to the current monarch and his flunkies, including Prem.

The Post states: “Without identifying any leader, Gen Prem said that forms of relationships in Thai society – relatives, friends, and those who do someone favours – are key factors in shaping the mindset of Thai leaders.” Of course, a monarchy is a prime example of nepotism and everyone knows that an “in” with the palace is exceptionally powerful, so maybe Prem is living in a very large and well-appointed glass house.

Prem’s solution is to look to the military – what a thing to say when coup rumors are everywhere! The old general disparages politicians when he says: “many people have volunteered to be leaders but they lacked the charisma needed to lead people.” Prem urges a search for “charismatic [barami] leaders to work for the good of the country.

Prem seems to support Abhisit when he states: that “good leaders [must] be able to differentiate between the good and the bad and uphold justice. They must have moral integrity and must make sure their colleagues also maintain those standards.” That’s exactly the image Abhisit tries to portray.

And, of course, leaders “must be loyal to His Majesty the King and act in the best interests of the country.” Good old-fashioned Thai-style democracy, repacked from the late 1950s.

Regular readers may remember that about a week ago PPT said that, as the political heat rose we could expect more noise from the palace. It seems to have begun in earnest.