The Abhisit regime has moved to its next step of suppression of free speech by announcing a ‘State of Emergency,’ according to regulations passed by the junta cronies known as the NLA. It has already been established that the Abhisit regime has been at the centre of spreading lies about the pro-democracy movement. Will it now resort to violence in the decades long war of the rich against the poor? Is this the night Abhisit earns his spurs as the latest ‘Butcher of Bangkok.’ It is, after all, what he was born into.
What would Bangkok be like now if Thailand had undergone a successful Communist revolution? Of course, the answer to the question depends to a considerable extent on how the revolution took place, the nature of the ideology of the victorious revolutionaries (i.e. more Marxist-Leninist or Maoist), how much opposition there had been and so forth. These issues would have had a direct effect on the treatment of those who opposed the revolution: for example, if there had been a long and desperate struggle, such as in Vietnam and Cambodia, then the opposition could expect some harsh treatment – at best, thousands (maybe millions) would have fled overseas to establish resistance, government in exile and so forth from other countries (many would have suffered predation in the same way that Thai pirates attacked, raped and robbed so many Vietnamese boat refugees). At worst, large-scale re-education and labour camps would have been established and, no doubt, many would have died in their confines.
As for the city itself, it seems likely that many existing monuments and buildings would have been re-dedicated to other purposes; while new monuments to Communist leaders and victories would be found. Development of the city would have been lower overall, presumably, although public housing projects and public transportation systems might be better or at least more extensive than they are now.
What would have happened to the ethnic Chinese people in the city? Ethnic Chinese suffered under the Cambodian and Vietnamese revolutions, which initially received support from the Soviet Union. If the same pattern were repeated in Bangkok, many thousands of Sino-Thais would have found themselves persecuted and probably driven out of the country, with their capital (since Chinese are regularly accused of becoming rich at the expense of others around Asia). Russian and Russian-trained engineers would have increased the industrial estate systems, although foreign investment and ownership would presumably have been outlawed and factories would be present at the peripheries of the city as they were then. Collectivisation of agriculture would presumably have failed but not before the creation of large, central markets where goods would have been made available. Some wats may have survived but in reduced conditions.
Thailand or Siam as it then was known was never formally colonized, unlike its neighbours Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. If it had been, what would the impact have been on Bangkok?
To answer this question, it is necessary to look at the changes made to other capital cities, such as Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Phnom Penh, Vientiane and Rangoon (Yangon). These cities were all subject to colonizing forces, the first three under French influence and the last under the British. These all became colonial capital cities (Saigon was a regional capital city rather than a national capital city, because Vietnam under the French was for long divided into three parts). What are the characteristics of a colonial capital city? First, it should be located on the coast because it was sea transport that represented the principal means by which goods accumulated in the colony could be relocated for consumption in the imperial centre. So, the capital of Burma under the British was moved from Mandalay in the north to Rangoon on the southern coast.
Second, the city centres were divided into zones depending on residence requirements. Superior land would be reserved for the colonizers and those privileged clerks and servants of the ruling class. The native people would be restricted to particular zones away from the great monuments and symbols of power. Further, according to the French pattern of urban development, the areas in which the poor lived must be properly regulated and easily accessible to the police and other state authorities: so, as in Phnom Penh and Vientiane, a grid system is created and comparatively wide streets or boulevards created to join individual blocks. This made it much more difficult for political dissidents or criminals to hide from the state and its representatives. Riots and demonstrations can be contained or suppressed as required.
Finally, new classes of intermediaries would be created: the clerks, police, civil servants and others through which the imperial power can control a much larger population of local people resentful of foreign control. The British used Indian troops and Sikh and Nepalese Gurkha police; the French used Chinese or semi-Francophone Vietnamese. These people were given special privileges and acted as a buffer between the local people and the Europeans: if there was violent resistance, it was mostly aimed against these intermediaries.
So, in the case of Bangkok, there would have been no need to move the location, since it is located next to a port. However, the main commercial and government centres would have been moved nearer the port; possibly the royal institutions would have been relocated to a peripheral area where they would have appeared less important. The higgledy-piggledy sois and sub-sois that now characterise Bangkok would all have been eradicated and a grid system superimposed upon the ‘native’ Thai areas. Between these two parts of the city would have been an intermediate zone dominated by the Indian, Vietnamese or Chinese (probably Indian) people imported to administer the colony and which would now be running the country rather than the Thai aristocracy. These people would have been the recipients of violent protest, almost certainly, in the post-colonial period. Depending on how the independence process was handled, which is an imponderable question, a successful Communist revolution would have been more or less likely.
Interesting details at the bottom of this story – an agreement has been signed with Laos (I’m sure it has been properly scrutinized by parliament, hasn’t it?) about extending the rail link from Thailand via Laos and up to Yunnan Province. As part of the agreement:
“It [Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency] is lending the money at 1.5% a year over five years. Funding of 405 million baht will go into a railway from Houay Xay to Ban Sod, as part of the link between Thailand’s Chiang Rai and China’s Kunming, and the rest will go on a road and drainage system in Vientiane to solve its traffic and flooding problems.
In return for the help, Laos must buy half the construction materials from Thailand, while consultant and contractor companies must also be Thai.”
Can we expect proper transparency concerning the awarding of such contracts so that there will be no ‘policy corruption’ or will it all be kept hidden and under the table as is usual for this corrupt and incompetent Democrat-led regime?
As it happened, we were at Viphawadi-Rangsit Road on Saturday, since our daughter was visiting her dentist on one of the sois off the road in the afternoon. Red-shirted pro-democracy demonstrators were up and down the road all the time we were there, while many of those people who were still working were wearing red in solidarity with the struggle against aristocracy-rule. People visited the shops along the soi handing out ‘dissolve parliament’ stickers. The atmosphere was again one of celebration and anticipation – this time, there really can be the change that people want.
I haven’t been to the centre of the city to see the occupation of the retail centre areas but, on the way to work this morning I travelled along Ratchada Road and there were some thousands (I find it very difficult to estimate numbers) protesting in and outside the grounds of the court there.
The opposition is plain to see: a motley crew of ageing fascist sympathizers and PAD thugs, as well as the usual useful idiots who have sucked too long on the teat of state-mandated ideological state apparatuses, gathered in a masquerade for ‘peace’ in their pink shirts (wonder whether they were paid for by the same person who cannot be named otherwise … well, for obvious reasons – the same person who is believed to have paid for the occupation of government house and the international airports). While there, they sang the song ‘Scum of the earth’ (nak phaendin), which was used in the massacre of dozens of students by military butchers in the 1970s.
It is again up to the Database section of the once honest Bangkok Post to speak at least something of the truth. In its Home Review column this week, which also includes some sharp observations about the integrity-challenged one’s attempt to ‘create a level playing field as we would have had in 1931,’ appears this paragraph:
“Blase and calm to a fault, the Tourism Development Office director Seksan Nakwong said there is nothing to worry about, not a single film maker is cancelling production because of all those red-shirt protests going on; on the contrary, the 12 advertisements, six documentaries, two music videos and two feature films should come in on time and under budget, why worry? Thai Nondestructive Testing explained to Mr Seksan (and the country) why it was very worried; managing director Chomduen Satavuthi said the protests were slowly eating up the government’s time, which has slowly caused delays or cancellations in state projects, which has slowly ended projects one by one, which has solely caused political uncertainty and damaged the company’s business; for that reason, Thai Nondestructive Testing intends to look overseas for new markets and work, expanding first into Sudan to establish an acoustic emission testing project, and to Vietnam, where it will set up a joint venture; and that is the state of the nation in the view of one company anyhow – that a country which requires Thai peacekeeping forces and a country dedicated to beating out Thailand in economic terms are more attractive than Thailand itself to a Thai company.”
Yes, a Thai company finds it easier to work in Sudan and Vietnam than the Thailand of the corrupt and incompetent Abhisit regime.
Incidentally, while the junta cronies have to make up ‘evidence’ according to the PAD’s ‘policy corruption’ laws, word is that there is at least one Minister who is demanding kickbacks on every deal that goes through in the Ministry that this non-gender specific person has responsibility for – I have heard this not just from civil servants there but directly from a person who was told to provide the bribe to get the deal done.
The Abhisit Regime: corrupt, incompetent and thoroughly unfit for public office.
The Malaysian government has announced its New Economic Mechanism – its response to the country getting stuck in the Middle Income Trap (find the document here), in which as I have written more than once is also the situation in which Thailand has found itself.
As the report observes:
“The old growth model provided three decades of outstanding performance, permitting Malaysia to provide for the health and education of its people, largely eradicate poverty, build a world-class infrastructure and become a major exporter globally. Our people are wealthier and better educated. They live longer, travel more and have greater access to modern technologies than any previous generation.
But the progress we have made over the past half-century has slowed and economic growth prospects have weakened considerably. We are caught in a middle income trap – we are not amongst the top performing global economies. Amid changes in the external environment, many of the policies and strategies we used to achieve the current state of development are now inadequate to take us to the next stage. Our economic growth has come at considerable environmental cost and has not benefited all segments of the population. The government must confront these realities and make tough decisions.
We urgently need a radical change in our approach to economic development which will be sustainable over the long-term, will reach everyone in the country and will enable Malaysia to reach high income status.”
Nearly all of this could be said of Thailand, although of course Malaysia has outperformed Thailand in terms of infrastructure development, poverty eradication and equitable income distribution. So what is the nature of the changes that are being recommended (this is from the World Bank):
- Refocusing from quantity to quality-driven growth. Mere accumulation of capital and labor quantities is insufficient for sustained long-term growth. To boost productivity, Malaysia needs to refocus on quality investment in physical and human capital.
- Relying more on private sector initiative. This involves rolling back the government’s presence in some areas, promoting competition and exposing all commercial activities (including that of GLCs) to the same rules of the game.
- Making decisions bottom-up rather than top-down. Bottom-up approaches involve decentralized and participative processes that rest on local autonomy and accountability — often a source of healthy competition at the subnational level, as China’s case illustrates.
- Allowing for unbalanced regional growth. Growth accelerates if economic activity is geographically concentrated rather than spread out. Malaysia needs to promote clustered growth, but also ensure good connectivity between where people live and work.
- Providing selective, smart incentives. Transformation of industrial policies into smart innovation and technology policies will enable Malaysia to concentrate scarce public resources on activities that are most likely to catalyze value.
- Reorienting horizons towards emerging markets. Malaysia can take advantage of emerging market growth by leveraging on its diverse workforce and by strengthening linkages with Asia and the Middle East.
- Welcoming foreign talent including the diaspora. As Malaysia improves the pool of talent domestically, foreign skilled labor can fill the gap in the meantime. Foreign talent does not substract from local opportunities–on the contrary, it generates positive spill-over effects to the benefit of everyone.
To what extent would these prescriptions also apply to Thailand? To a limited extent, is the answer. Malaysia has for various reasons relied more on spatially dispersed economic growth and on links with the Middle East and its diaspora in ways which have not been the same in Thailand. Here the economic development is already clustered in particular areas, although not always in an optimal fashion. Also, Malaysia has more of a reliance on the GLCs (government-linked companies), in a similar way to Taiwan and to some extent South Korea. These do not exist in the same manner in Thailand, where there has been much more reliance on foreign investment over the last century.
Areas which do appear to be directly transferable include the focus on quality rather than quantity and the provision of smart incentives. Of course, attempts were made to establish this strategy under the 2001-6 administration but almost nothing has happened since 9/19. The sooner a democratically-elected government can get to terms with re-creating such a strategy, the better.
I was busy all day last Friday and could not post but on my way to the office I saw a procession of maybe a dozen vehicles along Ladprao Road carrying the steamed Chinese cream custard buns – you may have seen them, they are white on the outside but yellow on the inside. Frankly, most of them sat in the back of the pickup trucks looked like people who had never been to Bangkok (or any big city) ever before and were wondering whether taking money to pretend to be part of a ‘peacekeeping’ movement was such a good idea, after all. Of course, this is nothing new for the PAD, since it violent demonstrations are known to have included many hired women and children (they would not risk their own when poor people could be put in the front line instead).
Now the cream buns are supposed to be acting as the conscience and economic monitor of the country. Curious how the pro-democracy demonstration is routinely written off as ‘declining,’ ‘dragging on’ and the numbers falling and yet still there is an urgent need to mobilise more and more soldiers to keep order – it’s almost as if the army is staging the faked grenade attacks itself to justify paying itself more money. Eh? Oh.
Is it really possible that Cambodian troops have killed 88 of their Thai counterparts over the past couple of years? The alleged deaths have taken place near to the Preah Vihear temple complex in Cambodia, whose ownership is contested by the fascist PAD movement and some other extremists.
According to General Chea Tara, 38 Thai soldiers were killed in October 2008 and another 50 in April 2009. At the same time, only two Cambodian troops were killed.
Can this be true? Well, first of all I would not want to argue with any Cambodian troops – they may not always be highly educated and equipped and so forth but they come from a modern history of incredible violence and death.
Secondly, the Thai military and aristocracy-establishment certainly seems capable of hiding deaths for which it is responsible – consider the mysteriously disappearing containers of human remains found off the coast a few months ago.
What does seem unlikely is that 88 Thais could have died while only two Cambodians were killed. If the general had said there were these large numbers of casualties on both sides, it would appear more likely to me. Then again, what do I know about anything?
Who is in charge now? Earlier today, repulsive liar Deputy Prime Minister and disgraced former Interior Minister Suthep Thaugsuban claimed that the hugely redundant barricades would remain around the parliament at considerable expense because there was some possibility that pro-democracy supporters would invade the place (there isn’t any such possibility, obviously) but now the barricades are going down – no one is even arguing, so far as I can see, that the ‘grenade attacks’ represent a reason for the fences and all the money. Perhaps they just realised how ridiculous they looked, with thousands of jackboots ‘marking space,’ to borrow a Rafa Benitez-esque footballing phrase. Does dirty Abhisit get consulted about this kind of thing or do the puppet-masters just issue orders directly? Does he think he is in charge and issuing orders himself (ah, bless)? Meanwhile, hundreds or perhaps thousands of monks are joining the pro-democracy movement with a view to making this weekend’s demonstration the biggest since – well, last weekend’s protest were the biggest for 30 years, according to the BBC, despite all of the taxpayer money spent across the country setting up police roadblocks and attempting to intimidate people to stop them showing their feelings. Today, leading red-shirt pro-democracy leaders have been having their heads shaved to show their feelings – like the blood protest, this seems like a good way to put the demonstration on the front page of newspapers around the world and to demonstrate both a certain exoticism (inevitable when we are dealing with the Land of Smiles) and also the peacefulness of the demonstrations. There is certainly a stark contrast in the atmosphere in the city now, which is one of joyous anticipation, with the hate-filled lies and fear of violence when the fascist PAD mob was given licence to destroy the country’s reputation by certain people who it is not starting to become possible to name (although you can be sure I will not be leading the way).
Has there been yet another coup? We had the disgrace of 9/19 and then the judicial coup when Jackboots Sonthi stuffed the judiciary full of cronies with the support of certain charismatic people and a … [author steadies himself from revealing too much]. Yesterday, as I reported, troops were visible along Lad Prao road (Lad Prao is my life – anyone remember that play about Liverpool which had the downtrodden housewife person proclaiming ‘My window’s my world’? Tonight I did not see any – although there was exactly one jeep full of squaddies that I saw sneaking around the back-sois of Ladprao this morning (the traffic was so bad that the taxi driver suddenly veered off down a route I had never seen before and we were held up by them). Then there was the inexplicable barricading of most of central Bangkok this morning – even the bigot morning DJ on Wave FM professed to be surprised. Then there is the real evidence: repulsive liar quisling Abhisit has denied it. All it needs for confirmation now is denial by flap-mouthed buffoon Kasit Piromya, criminal Suthep Thaugsuban or the Nosferatu itself. By the way, if all the formatting on this thing is screwed up again I’ve a good mind to give the whole thing up.
There are more troops on the streets of Bangkok tonight – not hordes (although they have to justify their triple pay somehow) but more than there were before 9/19. I saw jackboots at all entrances of Mo Chit station tonight (my rock and roll lifestyle – I popped to Villa Supermarket on the way home) and more along Ladprao Road. Are those more doves calling ‘coup, coup’?
Well, the quisling Abhisit regime is continuing with its blatantly staged ‘grenade attacks’ policy and is reported to be planning (it is in The Nation but maybe it is true anyway) more malicious political persecutions. More reports indicate that the quisling is looting money from the public purse to offer to the military to keep hold of his own position as unelected, illegitimate prime minister.
* At least humanity has worked out a way to destroy the Nosferatu [must resist linking to picture of most evil 89 year old man in Asia].
* How the right want to outdo what honest people do! Thaksin is the only genuinely elected prime minister to serve a full term and to be reelected (with a massive majority and a mandate from the Thai people) and dirty Abhisit is tasked with doing the same thing, no matter how much blood is spilt. In the USA, the despicable attempt to destroy the Clinton and now the Obama administration results from the right’s shame over the criminals Nixon and Reagan. Meanwhile, in the UK, to match the fertility of the Blair family, the Cameron woman has been forced to become a brood mare. Do they think we are all Palin-stupid? Really?
One of the reasons why the Abhisit regime is so keen to apply the repressive ISA measures as long as possible (perhaps paving the way for the declaration of a permanent state of emergency and the suspension of what little remains of free speech and parliamentary democracy) is because it is a good pretext to buy the loyalty of the army – the military are on triple pay while it lasts.
Just to make sure everyone knows what is going on, it was announced today that the Abhisit regime is openly giving the military yet more money to buy more ‘necessary’ equipment in the wake of the scandals following the procurement policies involving the GT200 metal stick ‘bomb detectors’ and the non-flying airship thing which is supposed to be keeping watch over the southern border region and certainly would not present a very tempting and easy to hit target if it ever did start to fly.
The ‘necessary’ equipment, apparently, includes:
“The source said the weapons procurement plans proposed by the armed forces would be worth an estimated 400 billion baht.
The source said the navy would try again to seek authorisation to buy two second-hand submarines at a cost of more than 20 billion baht.
The navy has set up a committee to conduct a feasibility study on the submarine purchase project. It also wants to buy a new fleet of frigates to replace old ones which have been in use for 15 to 20 years.
The source said the army would seek cabinet approval to procure a new fleet of tanks which would be part of a plan to establish the new 3rd Cavalry Division in Khon Kaen.
About 70 billion baht would be required to buy the tanks.”
Readers may recall that the plan to put tanks on the streets of Isan represents Privy Councillor Prem Tinsulanonda’s desire to stamp on the face of the poor forever. Alas, our time to enjoy the presence of this person may be limited – how will we suppress our grief?
OK, I’ve rewritten this to take out some of the better jokes, just in case.
When they were used by the police to disperse the violent PAD mob, grenades were ‘war weapons’ with apparently enormous destructive power. Now they appear to be a bit of a joke – the so-called attacks on government offices last night (which were almost certainly faked by these members of the military) seem to have caused no damage at all (perhaps they just threw them at the wall instead of exploding them?). This is of course not the first time that the Abhisit regime has used ‘violence’ to justify its intensely repressive approach to free speech and the pro-democracy demonstrations. This particular incident seems to have been designed to create a pretext for extending the sinister ISA for another week and to keep the jackboots on the streets.
How are these things organised? If the ammat want something to happen, an obviously false judicial verdict, for example, or in this case a faked grenade attack, are phone calls made directly? Do the underlings simply understand what is wanted from them when they are hired? Is there some kind of ammat-facebook social space where they speak freely? Does P*** have his car driven to their houses with a bag of gold? Perhaps it is handled on a case-by-case basis: dodgy judges can probably work out for themselves what they have been paid to do; squaddies may need some direct guidance.
The football season has kicked off with two games played this weekend: Samut Songkhram beat Thai Port 1-0 and Chonburi beat the Army 3-0.
This version of the league has more of a national feel to it, which is good and indeed important and there should be some excitement given that this is a World Cup year and that tends to add lustre to footy wherever it is being played.
It is presumed that the Muang Thong Impact Centres will be the team to beat again, this season. They try to call themselves the Kirins (it is a kind of mythical flying horse thing) but they will always be the Impac’ers to us. I do recall a few years ago the Bangkok Post ran a short weekly column about the Expats League and one phrase stuck in my mind, about a team based in Pattaya and supported by ‘shrill, slim-hipped pole-huggers’ and so that is why Chonburi have their nickname. The Navy, of course, are the Disappearing Containers of Human Bones and Buriram, sponsored by Newin Chidchob, will start the season as the Chameleons. I do not have any particular ideas for either Samut Songkhram or Pichit but no doubt something will occur.
Despite all the lies willingly spread by the Thai media about ‘red hordes’ and ‘red rage’ and all the other nonsense, today marks a new low: a man is accused of throwing a bottle at a tank – a tank outside one of the numerous army bases that befoul Bangkok. There is no evidence and no witnesses have come forward – nevertheless, people are hunting a taxi driver who threw a ‘molotov cocktail,’ after a Red Bull bottle was found near a fake tank.
And let’s not start about the malicious Thaksin banned from lies.
Worrying news from the nation’s capital as it appears that a wild and vicious mob – we might call them rage-filled hordes or at least hounds – are massing by a vacant lot near Victory Monument. Local residents are terrified of traffic chaos and mounting violence, according to a reporter who did not feel it necessary actually to speak to anyone about it.
The ‘furry shirts,’ for it is they, are clearly a dangerous force and must be suppressed. “The military has responded to this latest movement of Furry Shirts by ordering Chinese-manufactured dog whistles worth 5 billion baht.”
It is stubble burning season again (it seems like it always is but presumably it follows some kind of seasonal pattern) and so air quality is even lower than usual – there is smog affecting Din Daeng and Phahonyothin areas, for example (no wonder I start coughing when I go for my constitutional) – but it is much worse in the north. Mae Hong Son has reached critical level, for example and been declared a disaster zone. People are going to be staying indoors or wearing masks as the particle level in the air is excessive. Surely there must be a better way of organizing all this.
It is important to be pessimistic politically because the situation is not good and is not going to get better without meaningful change and action: power does not yield its power, status and money without a fight. In the history of mankind, the examples of undemocratic leaderships voluntarily giving way to the demands for democracy without a struggle are very limited.
Optimism in the political sphere is deliberately fostered by the right as a means of deflecting attention from important matters – consider, for example, the bigot Ronald Reagan and the tax cuts for the rich funded by the war on the poor in America. As Adorno observed, “The optimism of the left repeats the insidious bourgeois superstition that one should not talk of the devil but look on the bright side.”
Writing as long ago as 1908, Prince Dilok Nabarath* wrote:
“The Buddhist religion in Siam has an extraordinary influence on the entire economic life but not a favourable one. The philosophical attitude of this religion has completely dazed the people. It brings resistance to progress and to every development towards a higher culture, to the increase in desires and satisfaction of needs, to any effort to earn a higher enjoyment of life, to create a better life and to acquire possessions by higher education, by an energetic and intensive occupation, by greater diligence in work; to every economic competition, etc (p.94).”
Who is it in Thailand today who most clearly adheres to and indeed represents such a position as this? It is a common assumption that it is the poor and uneducated who are more religious or superstitious by virtue of their lack of education but, as the prince goes on to observe (on p.95):
“Only recently, since more intercourse with European states has taken place in Siam, have these conditions improved. Since the rice export prohibition has been lifted and prices have steadily increased in the interior, people are forced to engage in all kinds of work because otherwise they cannot survive.”
In other words, this early symptom of globalization caused many people (the poor, of course), to change their lifestyles and take on un-Buddhist kinds of work (he mentions animal husbandry and masonry, for example) because they are more vulnerable to changes in market conditions. The wealthy, cushioned by their accumulated resources, can maintain their religious purity, while also blaming the poor for becoming irreligious, un-Thai and so forth.
* This is from: Prince Dilok Nabarath, Siam’s Rural Economy under King Chulalongkorn (White Lotus Press: Bangkok, 2000), translated with an introduction by Walter E.J. Tips. Of course, the title of this post is a direct quote from the prince himself.