May Day and the military boot

1 05 2018

State enterprise unions played significant roles in both sets of yellow-shirt uprisings in 2005-06 and 2013-14, siding with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee. In both instances, the idea of unions of any ilk joining forces with royalists and the military seemed somewhat odd.

But having done so, you would think that the military would cut them some slack for May Day marches. It seems the junta has done just that, picking and choosing which workers get support.

Khaosod reports that “[h]undreds … took part in the state enterprise union’s rally … without any interference from the authorities”

However, at other rallies, soldiers “seized banners from marching workers demanding democracy today in northern Bangkok, while a union leader was detained at a downtown police station for staging a protest in front of the United States embassy.”

Labor rights campaigner Sripai Nonsee said her group in Pathum Thani was held by police and soldiers who “demanded to see the banners they were carrying. Banners that mentioned elections and democracy were confiscated…”. She added: “[t]hey looked for words like election and democracy, especially election…. They told us to give them up.”

The activist said soldiers and police met with her yesterday to discuss today’s rally, and allowed them to carry the banners as long as they didn’t hold them up. Security officers reneged on that promise today, she said.

Meanwhile, union activist Boonyuen Sookmai “led General Motors workers to hold a rally in front of the US embassy on Wireless Road earlier this morning. He said police took him to Lumpini Police Station after he submitted the workers’ complaint to an embassy official.”

The GM workers rallied “to protest the automobile firm’s expulsion of 300 union members in November.”

State enterprise union leader Chalee Loysoong “explained” that his people celebrated “National Labor Day,” a hangover of the despotic past and of the despotic present and “not the international spirit of May Day.” Chalee claimed the workers preferred a fair to anything that highlighted worker rights and grievances.

The picture is clear: the state enterprise unions remain puppets of anti-democrats and the fascist regime.

In fact, though, “scores later joined a demonstration down Ratchadamnoen Avenue organized by the Labour Confederation of Thailand.” This rally saw activists take turns “condemning the military government and calling for an election within this year on a truck as they marched down the historic avenue. Speakers included anti-coup activist leader Sirawith Seritiwat.”

That’s more like it!





Updated: Control everything I

2 05 2016

The military dictatorship’s penchant is for control. Control politics, control people, control media, control the internet, control the country and, now, control the weather. It is the nature of a humorless, erratic, brutal, hierarchical and madly repressive institution to want to control every aspect of life.

This is why all efforts to oppose the junta’s controls are important.

The Bangkok Post reports that some of the May Day unionists and workers did some interesting and subversive things.

The unions have long been dominated by hierarchical state enterprise unions that are in the clutches of the broad yellow shirt movement. These unions have been supportive of and active in anti-democracy movements and two military coups.

This is why it was exciting to see many May Day marchers go to the Democracy Monument “with huge signs and red flags demanding political rights…”, including rights to “freedom of association and the right to assemble for collective bargaining.” They also carried a funeral wreath and there was many in red colored shirts and with red colored banners.

The Resistant Citizen and Neo-Democracy movements, despite recent arrests and jailings, continue to campaign. They are brave and significant. Khaosod has two reports on their most recent efforts, here and here.

Meanwhile, at the Bangkok Post, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called on The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha to be more accepting of criticism. Fat chance, but the point is politically explosive because it carries the Shinawatra moniker.

It is also explosive because Yingluck reveals that Prayuth “used to tell her that enforcing laws to dismiss people who fail to comply with policies or force anyone to work for the administration would worsen the political conflict.”

That was when the traitorous General Prayuth was working with the anti-democrats to bring down Yingluck’s government.

Now, Prayuth wants total control for his army and the royalist elite’s social order.

Dangerous trashUpdate: Desperate and dastardly, the fascist regime is reported by Prachatai to be seeking to use littering laws against protesters who have been seeking to avoid arrest by gathering in groups of less than 5 – the junta’s limit on meeting size.

In the rest of the world, such rubbish will be seen as pathetic and perhaps even humorously demonstrating the ridiculousness of the regime.

In Thailand, it seems the fascist military are so mad that they will do anything to stop political commentary it finds in any way challenging.

The Dictator and his dull fellow fascists may be despicable, thick and thin-skinned but they have the power to order, threaten, jail, suppress and repress. They are dangerous, remaking Thailand in the interests of those who exploit, murder and steal the life, wealth and voice of the Thai people.





Updated: Organized labor is always suspect

13 01 2016

Despite the fact that some elements of the now very small labor movement in Thailand has tended to be quite supportive of the two most recent military coups and anti-democrat protests, the military dictatorship still doesn’t trust organized  labor.

Most support for the rightists and militarists has come from state enterprise unions, which have been led around by the nose under the influence of Somsak Kosaisuk, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy back when Thaksin Shinawatra was under attack.

Of course, the military goons have long tried to control and weaken organized labor and have often been in the pay of employers keen to repress any organization among workers.

Last week, as reported at Prachatai, leaders of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) complained that military and police officers have intimidated  them. This comes “several days after the committee investigated the detention of labour union leaders of an electrical appliance company.”

Wilaiwan Sae-tia, president of the TLSC, said she was being followed by “4-5 military officers both in uniform and plainclothes” at her workplace and her home.

Yongyut Mentapao, TLSC’s vice president, also says he “had been followed by military and police officers from unidentified units…. He filed a complaint at a police station about the intimidation…”.

This followed “the detention of Chalee Loysoong, [another] TLSC Vice President, and Amorndech Srimuang, leader of the labour union of Sanko Gosei Technology Ltd., an electrical appliance manufacturer in the eastern province of Rayong, on Tuesday, 6 January 2016.”

These two were detained at the Ministry of Labor because “they led about 500 Sanko Gosei workers to the Ministry to ask Gen Sirichai Distakul, the Labour Minister, for assistance in negotiating with Sanko Gosei.” That company had closed and had protesting workers thrown out.

In detaining the union leaders, the police threatened them with charges for unlawful assembly.

As usual, the regime’s thugs work for employers and against any effort by people to organize or mobilize. Untamed union leaders are thus a threat.

Update: Demonstrating their thuggishness and incapacity for much other than repression, the dolts in the military decied to “visit” – i.e., threaten – Wilaiwan “at the office of the Om Noi/Om Yai Labour Union in Samut Sakhon Province.” About five men in uniform were responding to the statement by TLSC “condemning the authorities for using the Public Assembly Act and detaining labour union members” protesting the event outlined above.

The politically daft thugs “cited their authority under Section 44 of the Interim Charter, which gives officers absolute power to maintain security, and informed the TLSC leader that from now on she must inform the military first before making any political moves.”





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 weak 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.





Bringing down the government

23 11 2012

Many in Pitak Siam are gleeful that the Constitutional Court has refused to seriously consider petitions against its rally and that the Yingluck Shinawatra government has been spooked into invoking the Internal Security Act.

But apart from that, little seems to have changed amongst the groups that are coming together to further undermine the elected government.

According to the Bangkok Post, the big rally supporters are from “the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) … [and] several active and retired soldiers will also join the ranks, along with strategic and tactical advisers…”.

Then there is the misnamed “multi-coloured-shirt group led by Tul Sitthisomwong,” which are simply ultra-royalist-fascists; the equally misnamed ultra-nationalist “Peace-Loving Thais group led by Kanchanee Walayasevi.” Of course the shock troops provided by PAD’s Chamlong Srimuang’s Dhamma Army will be there. So will the Democrat Party-aligned “Group of People from 16 Southern Provinces led by Sunthorn Rakrong” and the dinosaur  “group of state enterprise labour union activists led by Somsak Kosaisuk, a former PAD co-leader.”

The Post tries to claim that there will be new groups attending, including “the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-move), which consists of landless farmers, displaced people, and those affected by state projects; the Network of Small-Scale Northeastern Farmers; and the Assembly of the Poor.” All were part of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movements in the past and aligned with the PAD, so there is nothing new here.

It is somewhat surprising that the AoP is returning to the fascist-yellow side given that its grassroots supporters have previously rejected PAD. PPT imagines that the old pro-PAD leadership is struggling to regain control of the AoP.

For all of this claim to “variety”, the basic hue remains yellow and the “anti-government rally tomorrow is expected to be mainly Bangkok residents and supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, many of whom are unhappy with the Yingluck administration.”

 





Red shirts and Pitak Siam

17 11 2012

The problem Pitak Siam poses for the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the failed Thaksin-Yingluck strategy means that it has again been red shirts that have had to “save the day,” at least for the moment.

The threat posed by Pitak Siam and military mutiny has seen red shirts mobilizing so that untoward actions can see a red shirt response. Red shirt leaders have stated that a coup will see a massive response. At the Bangkok Post we note that Pitak Siam’s dinosaur leader General Boonlert Kaewprasit and the other military-associated leaders of the “movement” are taking little steps to douse fires of potential violence. While they have been provocative towards them, they seem to recognize the determination of red shirts.

Old soldier Boonlert “insisted the rally would not be prolonged and said there would be no seizure of any government offices as some have feared. The protesters will stay at the rally site and about 1,000 security guards will be on duty to prevent any ‘third hand’ from taking the opportunity to incite violence…”. The usual “third hand” is his buddies in the military. He added: “If the anti-government protest turns violent, it would be immediately called off,” said Gen Boonlert.

Another of his old military men organizing Pitak Siam claimed that “various state enterprise labour unions have confirmed that they would also join the Nov 24 anti-government rally. In addition, representatives of students at Ramkhamhaeng and Phra Nakhon Rajabhat universities had told Pitak Siam that they would also turn out…”. Some of these groups have long-standing ties to the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Red shirts say “members would stay away from the Royal Plaza area. Instead, they will gather in Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Pathum Thani” on the day Pitak Siam rallies. Some may rally in Thonburi. Meanwhile, provincially-based red shirts are preparing to mobilize “if any untoward incidents take place.” This includes much of the north and northeast, with rallies planned in Chiang Mai, Udorn and other provinces.

The red shirt capacity to mobilize is an important deterrent for the old heads trying to destabilize and oust the government.





Unions, PAD and the “democratic” royalist elite

1 05 2011

When Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party government was first elected, it was on the back of a nationalist rejection of the Democrat Party’s lack of independence from the International Monetary Fund’s demands for the further liberalization of the economy following the 1997-98 economic crisis. At the time, organized labor was pretty much on board with TRT.

However, there was soon grumbling about the government breaking promises. Then, in 2004, when Thaksin’s boisterous threats and popularity had cowed the whining of many middle class NGOs and intellectuals, it was the state enterprise unions that first gave anti-Thaksin opposition some backbone.

These unions waged a protest campaign that demonstrated that that the TRT government could be challenged. The state enterprise unions opposed the privatization of EGAT, and the government backed down. While others got most of the credit in the mainstream media for rolling back privatization, it should not be forgotten that rallies of up to 50,000 opposed TRT policy. In fact, this was not forgotten when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was brought together, with state enterprise unions playing a significant role.

With their one time leader Somsak Kosaisuk installed as one of the PAD leadership, the state enterprise unions signed up for the anti-Thaksin campaign and stayed with it through its domination by the royalists and Sondhi Limthongkul and the Dharma Army-Santi Asoke alliance around Chamlong Srimuang. This curious alliance led to the unions being seen to support the 2006 military coup and the Fascist-like claims that wanted to prevent the lower classes having much participation in politics.

All this seemed a clear betrayal of the years of economic and political struggle by unions which had earlier included anti-monarchy actions associated with the 1932 Revolution.

It seems appropriate the, that this Labor Day, there has been an interesting development. The Bangkok Post reports that the State Enterprise Labour Relations Confederation “is defecting from the movement led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy because PAD leaders have said they support undemocratic political change…”.

SELRC leader Sawit Kaewwan is quoted as saying that “PAD bosses had often suggested the country be ‘shut down’ for national reform despite the fact that a new election was near. They had also expressed a desire to change the political structure to an undemocratic system. Sawit claims that such ideas “were in opposition to the political beliefs of the confederation…”.

Where was Sawit in 2006? The answer seems to be in this statement: “We believe in democracy and we do not agree with the enforcement of any power or any individuals’ power for political changes [coup]. We also oppose all forms of dictatorship…”. We imagine that Sawit would associate Thaksin and TRT with some kind of “dictatorship.” However, as we noted above, it was state enterprise unions that showed that TRT could be successfully opposed.

The significant point now is that Sawit says “the board of directors of the labour confederation had resolved that its leaders should withdraw from the PAD and refrain from joining the PAD on rally stages as well as at other activities. The confederation told the PAD of its intention on Tuesday.”

It is also reported that Somsak Kosaisuk, who remains an adviser to the confederation, has “quit as a PAD core leader, and Mr Sawit himself has resigned from the PAD’s group of second-tier leaders.” In another Bangkok Post story it is noted this move “followed an SELRC resolution on Tuesday demanding Mr Somsak and Mr Sawit quit the PAD because the yellow shirt movement’s campaign was undemocratic.”

Meanwhile, Somsak remains leader of the PAD-aligned New Politics Party while rejecting the PAD leadership’s demand for the party to boycott the general election. He appears to be trying to drag the NPP away from PAD. This would appear futile given the domination of Sondhi and Chamlong. However, the damage to NPP and PAD is potentially very considerable.

Somsak appears to have left a way open for PAD to reconcile with the unions, saying “he and Mr Sawit might join PAD rallies in a personal capacity later if they agreed with the group’s activities and approaches,” and noting that he was not in conflict with Chamlong, Sondhi or other key PAD leaders. Even so, he lambasted PAD leaders for “campaigning for something which is ‘close to a coup d’etat’…”.

Pundits seems ready to write PAD off. In a further report in the Bangkok Post the now “embattled People’s Alliance for Democracy” is said to have “lost another ally, with a former fund-raising group demanding an immediate end to its ‘divisive’ rally.” The group mentioned is the ironically monikered “Thais Love Peace group” that has called on PAD to “end its protest and stop verbally attacking its critics.”

Group leader Kanchanee Wallayasewee said “her group raised money for the PAD during its 193-day protest two years ago against the Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat governments.” She claimed that the group included “businessmen, self-styled defenders of the monarchy and online social network activists.” But because PAD speakers were now attacking her members and “distorting” information, her group was jumping ship.

Kanchanee also accused “some alliance co-leaders” of “exploiting the higher institution [monarchy] and trying to foment a pretext for a military coup.” She indicated that many of her wealthy and well-placed supporters were upset when “smeared” by PAD.

She added that her group was ready to support the upcoming election. PPT guesses that this group is already shovelling money into the coffers of the government coalition parties.

This potential loss of support for PAD is seen by several pundits as the beginning of the end for the ultra-nationalist royalists. PAD and Sondhi have been able to mobilize people and this is threatening to the elite and this means that PAD has been tolerated but never fully trusted.

When PAD was necessary for the resurgent royalist elite was in beginning activities that allowed for Thaksin’s huge electoral mandate to be challenged and then to oppose other elected pro-Thaksin governments. In each instance, once the elite had its political path cleared, the result was a military coup and judicial coup. Following that, PAD usually hibernated. Think of how PAD demonstrations ceased in 2006 as Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda took the lead in marshalling forces for the coup.

PAD has been unsuccessful in its current round of rallies, drawing small crowds and becoming desperate and uncontrollable – as witnessed by its attacks on former supporters. That said, it should not be forgotten that PAD did begin this round of bloody border disputes with Cambodia, giving the military further fillip. And yet it now seems clear that the elite strategy is finally coalescing around the idea of an election that it believes the royalist Democrat Party can win. The military has been least convinced of this approach, but the border war and the frantic use of repressive powers to stifle opposition seem to be the approach that has been agreed.

And, quite suddenly, all of the anti-democratic, coup-supporting, royalists and military brass are democrats….