Fixing the rules

29 10 2014

The Nation reports on the response to the selection by the puppet National Reform Council’s selection of 20 of its own to be members of the puppet Constitution Drafting Committee that will fix the rules of politics for Thailand. By “fix,” we mean in the sense of the sporting use of the term, where a game or match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result.

One comment is from retired “academic” and yellow shirt activist Surichai Wankaew, said the 20 NRC members chosen “would help improve the political situation as they had been selected for their neutral stance towards the ongoing political conflict.”

Compare that bit of propaganda with Sirote Klampaiboon, who has previously been identified as “independent” or “red shirt,” who says that the newly chosen members of the CDC “can be categorised in four groups: former military generals, former members of the Group of 40 [the mainly unelected former senators], academics from King Prajadhipok’s Institute and NGOs who have close ties with the 2006 coup-makers.”

Given that preponderance of yellow-shirted, royalist puppets, Sirote is correct to question the “credibility of the newly selected CDC members…”.

The compensation question

16 08 2011

Achara Ashayagachat at the Bangkok Post has a very thoughtful story regarding red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan’s call for the new government to consider compensation of 10 million baht to each family of the 92 people killed during the clashes in April and May last year. Not surprisingly, the proposal has created considerable controversy.

PPT doesn’t intend to summarize the article. There’s plenty of room for debate on this topic and the comments made by still-grieving families seeking truth, justice and answers deserve attention and for the injured seeking proper and affordable care. However, we were somewhat taken aback by what some of the critics have said.

For example, retired Chulalongkorn University sociologist and director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the university, Surichai Wankaew, goes on what seems like a rant, saying “it is only appropriate for the legislative branch to be responsible for discussing reparations to victims. But it should not be left to only certain politicians, who might try to exploit the issue…”. He added that: “If we allow politicians to abuse the deaths issue [for their political gains], all of society will not feel that it shares the loss and concern [of the victims]…. The result is that the tragedies will become the issues of one group only, not a collective social pain. It might worsen the conflict between groups.”

Then he continued: “Baiting the [families of] red shirt victims with financial packages is a dangerous, misplaced and misled move…“. That might be true if it wasn’t for the fact that the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration has already had the Ministry of Social Development paying compensation.

The article states:

According to the Social Development Ministry, it has paid out 400,000 baht in reparations to each family of the 92 people killed during the April-May 2010 violence, for a total of 36.8 million baht. Each of four people who were physically disabled received 320,000 baht, while each of the 86 people seriously injured (requiring more than 20 days of hospitalisation) received 100,000 baht apiece. Each of the 599 people who were injured, but not seriously, received 60,000 baht compensation. The government also paid 984 people who sustained minor injuries 20,000 baht each. One special case requiring ongoing medication received cash assistance of 423,209 baht.

Fair-minded observers would look at this and see it as wholly unsatisfactory. It was a pittance compared with the compensation the Abhisit government handed out to businesses in the Rajaprasong area, which had reached 14 billion baht in May this year.

Where was Surichai when the previous government “baited” red shirts – in fact, the 92 dead figure includes officials killed in the period – with a pittance and left the families to carry huge bills for the deceased and injured? Did he complain then? Are far as we can tell he was silent. Is the suggestion that compensation to the families of the dead be increased by 25 times really as bad as Surichai suggests?

It seems that it is Surichai who is playing politics. After all, PPT has posted on the support Surichai gave to the Abhisit regime and his earlier support for the 2006 coup and his role as a military junta-appointed legislator. Surichai’s politics are again to the fore as he simply opposes any initiative that he considers “political.” That seems to mean anything from red shirts or pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties.

In another Post report, the new Defense Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa shows his age by immediately getting Jatuporn’s proposal wrong. The rport states:

In response to the demands of red shirt leader and Pheu Thai list MP Jatuporn Prompan that each family of red shirt demonstrators and security officers who were killed during political protests receive 10 million baht compensation from the government, Gen Yutthasak said if the government wanted to put in place a reconciliation process, it should award compensation to victims in all political camps, not only the red shirt movement.

As far as PPT can recall, Jatuporn was speaking about April and May 2010 and, as the quote makes crystal clear, he included security officers. So the only addition proposed by Yutthasak is for compensation for yellow shirts killed in political violence. This may have some merit. However, it means he’s talking about two (?) further deaths, one in Bangkok and the other in Chiang Mai (we exclude the car bomber who blew himself up). Correct us if we are wrong. There were many more injured in PAD events, including many police.

We have no idea what to do with the comment by a Democrat Party MP that the “red shirt movement should instead demand compensation from Thaksin Shinawatra, not the Yingluck administration.”

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.

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