PAD Almost Finished


Well, we were promised the final battle, when the people of Thailand would rise up in their multitudes to tear down an unjust, nay a tyrannical government. What was the reality? The few thousand remaining ultra-rightist anti-democracy PAD goons launched another pointless wave of violence across Bangkok for absolutely no purpose. Buses were highjacked, police officers beaten and spat upon, innocent people terrorized once again by the PAD goons, under the protection of their celebrity sponsors – but government decided simply to cancel the session scheduled and, hey presto, the end of the world will come on Wednesday instead. The ‘national strike’ promised by the few class traitors among trades union leadership who have disgracefully sided with the PAD thugs has also failed to materialize. Of course, the last time the class traitors threatened a general strike the more sensible union membership refused to support ultra rightist policies. Perhaps they remembered rather more clearly how many labour activists were murdered by just the kind of military junta that the PAD ringleaders and their celebrity sponsors seem so enthusiastic in restoring to unearned power.

Some PAD goons and their useful idiots went out to Don Mueang, where the government has decamped while the illegal occupation of government continues but that is unlikely to last long since it is quite a long way away from their comfort zone.

Pro-democracy supporters have, as usual, remained level-headed and avoided PAD provocations and violence.

Expect more overnight ‘grenade attacks by unknown assailants’ which are, of course, PAD ringleaders blowing their human shields up with the utmost callousness.

Allegedly.

Right.

Meanwhile, in the grown-up world, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has claimed that the number of unemployed in Thailand might rise to 1.1 million as a result of the current financial crisis. Union leaders have previously claimed that employers are deliberately exaggerating the problems as a pretext for laying people off. Pretext or not, people will be laid off – I expect job losses to start really hurting by the end of the year, although paternalistic employers may try to keep employees on until after Chinese New Year.

Fighters Not Lovers


Seh Daeng, the renowned army specialist Maj-Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, is described as ‘hopping mad’ that the supreme leader General Anupong Paojinda has given him a new assignment – Seh Daeng (I’m a fighter not a lover) is to lead the nation in aerobics dancing. He will be posted to various shopping centres and supermarket car parks to help middle-aged women shape up by prancing about to 80s power ballads. “I have invented one dance,’ he is reported to have said, ‘which is the throwing a hand grenade dance.”

The Major-General, an opponent of the right-wing anti-democracy PAD (his nickname means ‘red’), was believed to be referring to incidents such as the October 7th confrontation, in which smoke grenades were used when PAD thugs refused police orders to disperse from an illegal occupation of Government House and two PAD thugs blew themselves up with their own bombs/were uniquely unlucky in being killed by smoke grenades, one of which must have been thrown several kilometres and magically entered the car in which one thug expired in a blast outside a police station.

The PAD mob has been quite quiet recently – research shows the Thai people decisively reject them and their goals (I may have included the links previously, if not I will look them up again some time). Now they are talking up new threats of chaotic disorder and violence. There is talk (largely fanciful I would have thought but then what do I know) of bringing in 100,000 people from the South – the South has long been a bedrock of support for the Democrat Party and, under the disgraceful leadership of workshy quisling Abhisit Vejjajiva it is almost impossible to tell where the PAD stops and Democrats begin. This could lead to confrontations with pro-democracy supporters, who a few weeks ago held an entirely peaceful demonstration featuring up to ten times the amount of useful idiots that PAD thugs can these days put in the streets.  

Job losses are starting to mount – I fear that that the unemployed (the crisis will start to bite by the end of the year, I would have thought) will be dragged into street protests.

Red, Yellow and Brown Frauds


Some 70,000 people dressed in red and descended on the Rajamangala Stadium to demonstrate their support for democracy. The good-natured and wholly peaceful crowd also had the opportunity to listen to a phoned in speech by exiled and ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was said to be in Hong Kong for the purpose. Khun Thaksin spoke of the global financial crisis and Thailand’s part in it and also said he would not be able to return home for ten years unless there was mercy from the royal institution or ‘people’s power.’

It was all quite a contrast to the PAD mob’s illegal occupation of government house – PAD thugs shot another innocent unarmed individual overnight. The PAD mob and its celebrity sponsors can scarcely muster 10,000 useful idiots to parade in the streets these days – there is no doubt that the will of the people calls for democracy in Thailand.

PM Somchai Wongsawat has confirmed that the government is willing to hold talks with the PAD mob, with a view to ending the ongoing protests. PAD ringleaders appear to be divided over this – some will talk and some will not. One interesting story in the Bangkok Post yesterday described the Santi Asoke Buddhist sect – there are more than 10,000 of these brown-clad frauds, apparently. They have been expelled from the Sangha – the world body of Buddhist monks, which is the oldest social organization there is. Although they masquerade as Buddhist monks, they are not recognized as such in law and could be arrested and defrocked by police, although this is sadly unlikely to happen in the near future. The movement supports the PAD mob and a spokesperson has said: ”Thailand needs going back to that period of political upheaval in 1932 and starting its new democracy … It is not a backward move if we go back to the old system, living in the same way as the followers of the Buddha walking barefoot with no air-conditioning.” That’s exactly the kind of clear thinking we need to ward off the global financial crisis.

The Financial Crisis and Thailand


The DG of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, has observed that the emerging international financial crisis could lead to an additional 20 million people becoming unemployed – the figure around the world will rise from 190 to 210 million. Further, the number of people living in absolute poverty (less than US$1 per day) will rise by 40 million and those living in poverty (less than US$2 per day) by 100 million.

The sectors expected to be hardest hit in terms of employment include ‘construction, automotive, tourism, finance, services and real estate.’ These are all sectors which are important to Thailand – mostly it will be low-skilled, low-paid and low-value added jobs that will be lost. The tourism and related industries have recently been suffering significantly because of the PAD mob’s illegal occupation of government and the conflict on the Cambodian border. Since many jobs are informal or semi-formal in nature (e.g. family members no longer needed) it is difficult to know what effect has already been felt.

Thailand is a country suffering from what the World Bank calls the ‘middle income trap’ – that is, it emerged from non-developed into developing status through emphasizing exports and manufacturing based on low labour costs. This is successful up to a point (which has now been reached) but is not sustainable any further as rises in standard of living make low labour costs more difficult to obtain (especially because of the increased competition from China, Vietnam and India). It is also dangerous in that it renders the country very sensitive to what is happening in the rest of the world – the first thing that people do around the world when facing economic difficulties is to stop buying things and, in general, they stop buying imported goods first.

The Thai Rak Thai administration of 2001-6 attempted to deal with these issues when the painful memories of the 1997 crisis were still fresh. PM Thaksin aimed to reduce reliance on the outside world by developing domestic capitalists and empowering the poor through regional development at the village level, which also had the aim of reducing the incentives for labour migration and the social costs that entailed. Had those policies still been in force, Thailand could look at the current crisis with much more confidence. Alas, most policies were abandoned after the disastrous 2006 military coup and the current PPP government has been largely unable to implement similar policies because of the ongoing PAD protests. Indeed, courts have recently begun to decide that policies of redistribution as practiced by TRT with huge electoral mandates to do so are ‘unconstitutional.’   

Gambling Prisoners Leads to Inactive Post; Crimes and Coups


Prison officer Withoon Promdee has been re-assigned to one of the notorious ‘inactive posts’ following the broadcasting of mobile phone camera footage of prisoners in the high security zone for which he was responsible playing cards. Gambling is suspected. Debate continues as to who took the footage and how it came to be broadcast in the way it was. An inactive post is exactly what it sounds like: the affected individual is given a desk and expected to obey office hours but must not actually do anything – no work, yes but also no reading the newspaper, chatting with friends. Just sit there being ‘inactive,’ at least so it has been explained to me. No doubt conditions vary.

Avoid, my friends, at the risk of sounding like repulsive hypocrite John McCain, avoid being sent to a Thai prison. No doubt, conditions vary.

Speaking of which, a raft of court activity is expected today and over the next few days. The Ratchadapisek land case verdict is expected for 2 o’clock today, while the Department of Special Investigations has recommended reopening the case against TPI PLC founder Prachai Leophairatana and relatives for embezzlement and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyers will bring proceedings against convicted criminal and ringleader of the violent PAD mob Sondhi Limthongkul for repeated violations of a court order not to slander Khun Thaksin. Demonstrations are expected today by both pro- and anti-democracy protestors and probably will intensify after the ceremonies for the royal funeral are completed. It is more likely than not that violence will break out sooner or later, although the PAD mob did not attack the police again yesterday.

Army chief General Anupong Paojinda has moved to consolidate his power by having chosen protégés take over key military positions in Bangkok. Presumably this means that he has much more ability to control whether or not a military coup takes place in the capital and, hence, the whole country. It is generally believed that the other leading military officials have been trying to persuade General Anupong to launch a coup which he has so far declined to do.

Watch Out, Beware, Trust No 1 etc


It would probably be wise for foreign tourists to stay away from central Bangkok over the next few days and instead visit sunny Koh Somewhere. First there will be numerous traffic problems as a result of the funeral ceremonies for HRH Princess Galyani Wadhana, which will continue through the week. Then there is projected to be a meeting of various factions tomorrow, when the right wing PAD mob will (perhaps) be confronted with pro-democracy demonstrators from outside of Bangkok. There is due to be a verdict tomorrow concerning the Ratchadapisek land deal, which was brought on evidence-light terms (unless there is evidence that has not been brought into the public domain) against the wife of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and the man himself. Junta cronies spent so much time and money trying to scare up some evidence (any evidence for anything) against Khun Thaksin that there is a need to justify all of that work (not to mention the 2006 coup) by bringing in some guilty verdicts. Some dissent about the courts is beginning to emerge.

The anti-democracy movement is currently reported to be blocking traffic around Central World and handing out anti-police propaganda to passers-by – wonder who paid for all that? Convicted criminal Sondhi Limthongkul? Why have his assets not been frozen? Eh? Oh. There was some talk over the weekend by a senior police officer of seizing government house on Wednesday, after the funeral, and scattering the PAD mob which has illegally occupied it for some months. That might prove not to be such a good idea, we shall see how it turns out.

Meanwhile, in an in-no-way xenophobic scaremongering story, the Bangkok Post has identified a new threat: Latin American burglars. So, watch out for anyone wearing a sombrero, Zapatistas, Sven Goran Eriksson impersonators and other ethnic stereotypes.

Police Act against PAD Mob


The anti-democracy mob PAD blockaded parliament last night with a view to preventing the democratically-elected government from opening the new session and the convicted criminal Sondhi Limthongkul made another load of demands on behalf of the few thousand thugs who support his disgraceful attempt to bring an end to democracy in Thailand (reports that the demands concluded with ‘moon on a stick’ cannot be confirmed).

This morning, at 6:20, police moved in and used tear gas to disperse the mob and dismantle the illegally-erected barricades. This was to enable a path into and out of parliament for the democratically elected government (and junta cronies in the Senate). As would be expected, the police had to be careful because the PAD mob is known to be heavily armed and has murdered two people already, in addition to numerous beatings and acts of savagery.

A few dozen members of the mob suffered from the usual effects of tear gas – there were reports also that some people were suffering from ‘wounds’ caused by ‘shrapnel’ or ‘powerful explosives.’ The PAD has lied about this kind of issue before so it remains to be seen what truth there is in it or whether it was PAD mobsters who caused the injuries – mobsters are known to have attacked the police headquarters with tear gas of their own. Army chief Anupong Paojinda is said to be releasing a statement on behalf of the army this afternoon – so it’s back to turning on the radio in trepidation of the martial music that denotes yet another coup.

The government, led by PM Somchai Wongsawat, has now completed its duties in the house and made its exit – the PM had to climb over the wall to Vimanmek Mansion. The PAD again besieged parliament and turned off water and electricity, apparently.

Quisling Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva (how long can he keep his job?) has led an unsuccessful boycott of proceedings, bleating about police actions and by no means supporting the rule of law. The Nation, meanwhile, has plumbed new depths of cynical lies – its website proclaims ‘Black October, 2008,’ disgracefully demeaning the memories of hundreds who were killed by the military in 1976 while protesting for democracy, the very same democracy that the PAD mob is trying to end. The Nation is a disgrace. Its editors, if they support this, should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves.

Crisis of Culture


Culture Minister Worawat Ua-apinyakul recommended that various well-known charms should be made into good luck items and put up for sale. Harmless enough, surely? It sounds like a reasonable thing for people to do around the country, in the same way that OTOP helps to promote local products and boost local incomes while discouraging migration.

Well, it rather shows what kind of a situation we are in here in terms of the media’s (at least the English language newspapers) and the elite (as represented by various ‘academics’) continual attacks on the democratically-elected government. In the Bangkok Post today, a piece describes the minister as being ‘on the defensive’ after various critics had attacked the plan. He is reported as pointing out:

“…the folklore must be explained in detail and buyers be educated, so they do not become superstitious or be misled by false beliefs, he said. Each locality had its own story to tell and visitors would be interested to know about it. Given the problems with the tourism industry caused by the PAD mob and the global economy, any kind of promotion must be sensible. Yet the story goes on with this:

Academic Srisak Wallipodom said the idea of marketing the charms and selling them as souvenirs was a joke and Mr Worawat had humiliated himself for floating it.

The minister had shown that he has no understanding of culture. If the idea came to fruition, it would lead to a crisis of culture, Mr Srisak said.”

This is extraordinary – I have no idea who Khun Srisak is or what claim to being an academic he might have (and neither does the Bangkok Post let me know). But what can this crisis of culture be? Why the talk of ‘humiliation’? Nonsense, of course and not the usual way that academics talk in public – we follow Plato in understanding that wise people are wise because they realize how little they know and hence hedge our words. Most foreigners who come here like to buy souvenirs and many buy religious and cultural icons as souvenirs already. So what motivates Khun Srisak to speak so intemperately (assuming he is accurately reported)?

Policies Not Personalities – with Thai Characteristics


Former PM, as we must now refer to him, Samak Sundaravej has apparently withdrawn his name for re-nomination and hopes to stand down from leadership of the PPP. This is unfortunate, not for the sake of Khun Samak himself who can be replaced (and whose personal politics are not edifying) but because it represents another blow against the people’s clearly expressed will and gives more heart to the right wing PAD thugs, who will accept nothing less than the disenfranchisement of the rural poor and working classes.

The broad coalition established by Thaksin Shinawatra to enable electoral victory for the Thai Rak Thai party was always going to fray over the course of time – seven years of electoral success is unprecedented in Thailand and unusual for many countries. Initially, it contained policy-makers who had previously supported the Communist movement in the 1970s alongside the domestic capitalist class and representatives of the labour movement. It was inevitable that there would be internal conflict between some of these sectors over the issues of globalization, free trade agreements and privatization, among other issues. That is the very stuff of politics and (thinking optimistically) it represented opportunities for representatives of different sectors to frame their positions logically and clearly and establish new settlements for the mutual benefit of each – this is easily and often unfairly characterised as politicians just being in it for themselves and out for what they can get.

However, it is that coalition which enabled the establishment for the first time ever of a policy platform that was pro-poor and pro-redistribution in nature. It was not perfect but it was better than before and has now become a central part of Thai politics. The central political issue of the day is whether this pro-poor policy position remains in force or will be allowed to dissipate – which is what would happen with a so-called ‘government of national unity’ – or disappear forever, which is what the right-wing PAD mob is committed to achieving.

People come and go – policies are what really matter.  

Damage Caused by Right-Wing PAD Mob Will Take Years Just to Measure


The damage done to Thailand by the actions of the anti-democracy mob will probably take many years to measure and years more from which to recover – and that is not to mention the deaths and injuries the mob has directly caused already (and the many more likely to come, alas).

There is also the economic cost: more than 1.5 trillion baht has been wiped off the share prices on the index of Stock Exchange of Thailand alone. Foreign investors have been postponing decisions and actively moving away from Thailand. The tourism industry is suffering considerably with foreign arrivals down 30% on normal, attributed to the actions of the armed, right-wing PAD mob holding the country to ransom.

The normal business of government has been delayed and disrupted – running a modern, complex country is a difficult and time-consuming business and requires the best minds in government devoted to it – this was the reason the junta gave up military rule in 2007, not because of any desire for a return to democracy or any pretence at ‘reform’ but because even the jackboots realized they were simply not up to the job any more. Military juntas could get away with years of kleptocratic misrule in the 50s, 60s and even the 70s and beyond – but not today.

Perhaps the worst damage has been to the reputation of Thailand and the Thai people. Few people outside the country can imagine why the Thai people, so many of whom were killed in the desperate fight for democracy and freedom, seem to be happy to see democracy sacrificed for the sake of the vanity of criminals like super-rich media magnate Sondhi Limthongkul, a coterie of dangerous military types and a few thousand ‘useful idiots.’

Looking on the Bright Side


Is there anything positive to come out of recent events, when armed right wing PAD thugs have illegally occupied Government House, seized and damaged Phuket Airport, causing thousands of tourists to be stranded, attacked police and journalists and allegedly threw some kind of tear gas before claiming police had done it?

Well, trying to be optimistic: first, it has become increasingly clear to the world at large who it is that is causing the trouble in Thailand and the tactics to which they are willing to stoop. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that there is a nexus of control maintained by the ‘iron triangle’ (military, religion and let’s say bureaucracy) which controls the judicial system, among other things.

Second, it is very noticeable that very, very few young people are interested in joining the right-wing thugs in their attempt to bring down democracy. It was the students who were so brave and so influential in the demonstrations for democracy, notably in the 1976 revolution, when scores of young people were murdered, tortured and beaten by the rampant military. Most students today, of course, have only a very hazy at best understanding of history (of course, the education system is not deliberately poor in this respect, is it?) but they know enough not to get involved with the disgraced PAD losers.

Third, well, I’m struggling a bit now – at least opinion polls show that the majority of Thai people, even those in Bangkok, reject the PAD thugs and would prefer to keep democracy. Alas, in a stunning act of class betrayal, some labour unions are apparently thinking of striking to show support for the thugs who, when they were in power, assassinated numerous labour activists and union leaders. Extraordinary.

Here is an interesting story on the ‘useful idiots’ acting as human shields for core PAD ringleaders, who are skulking in the crowd since they are now fugitives wanted by the police for treason.

The fourth thing, then, is the resolute nature of PM Samak Sundaravej – the old bruiser seems determined to stay the course and let us all hope that he does. It would be wrong to say that I approve of everything he has done (quite the opposite) but that he should some independence of mind now is of considerable importance.

Armed Right Wing Thugs, Traitors and Tank Liberals Aim to Bring Down Democratic System


Armed right wing thugs continue to occupy the seat of government. One court issued arrest warrants against the leaders of the thugs for treason (they call themselves PAD and are an anti-democracy movement). The leaders, who were very vocal about their loyalty to the law, how other people escaped punishment etc, suddenly changed their tune and began skulking like the shameless cowards they are behind human shields – the ‘useful idiots’ who are happy to eat someone else’s food to be part of a protest.

The police moved in to disperse the illegal mob action and then the action becomes confused – well, perhaps it is just the inadequate Thai press who cannot or will not tell the real story. There were reports issued by the armed right wing thugs, brandishing expensive golf clubs, of ‘police brutality’ which seem underwhelming – but sufficient for another court (and we have seen what has happened in the courts recently) to rescind the arrest warrants and allow the mob to continue its illegal and dangerous occupation of the government.

Then there was the use of tear gas – the right wing thugs blamed the police for using tear gas and the police have strongly denied using it. There is talk of a ‘third hand’ which may or may not have used the gas. It is not clear. We can have a pretty good guess of what is going on but you would never know that from the rabidly anti-government press.

What is perhaps most depressing about the whole thing is the betrayal of democratic principles by people who should know better. It is not surprising that criminal mob leaders can shark up a group of armed thugs – such things could happen everywhere. It is not surprising that the disgraced quisling leader of the opposition should support the mob – we all know what kind of a person Abhisit Vejjajiva is and how totally unfit he would be for any kind of public office. It is not surprising that the group of junta cronies stuffed into the senate come out to support the mob – that is what the junta told them to do and why they receive their many allowances.

But when academics support armed thugs trying to bring down the government, that is a betrayal. And worst of all, when labour leaders order strikes to support right wing thugs, that is the most horrible betrayal of all. So many labour and union leaders have been murdered by the right wing thugs over the years, so many have been tortured and beaten, so many have lost their lives in wholly avoidable industrial ‘accidents’ covered up by the right wing mob that it beggars belief that today’s leaders would support the thugs. Few people come out of this well.

What Motivates the Anti-Democracy Mob?


What is it that motivates the anti-democracy mob? Most people from western countries and indeed most Thais too take it more or less for granted that democracy is probably the least worst means of governing a country. There are many important debates to be had about the extent to which genuine choice is possible, the influence of the media in influencing the political agenda, the degree to which politicians can really be held accountable for their actions and so forth but overall few people would genuinely welcome tanks rolling in the streets and generals and their stooges making the decisions. Indeed, during the recent disastrous junta period here, junta cronies such as General Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed prime minister (while looking like he was wearing his older brother’s uniform for the first day at senior school) were revealed to be completely out of their depth in trying to manage a complex, modern economy.

And yet the anti-democracy mob PAD can still draw thousands of supporters, including the majority of the media (which may have changed since last night when armed mobsters began storming government buildings, assaulting journalists and fighting the police). What motivates them?

Clearly, different people are motivated by different things. There will be plenty of ‘useful idiots’ who genuinely believe the right-wing rabble rousers who would have it that the democratically elected government is damaging the country, the monarchy and religious institutions. There are many others who simply enjoy not working and living off the handouts from Sondhi Limthongkul and certain other behind the scenes individuals who have hired and paid for the mob. The chief mobsters, Sondhi prominent among them, are motivated it would appear by a combination of personal spite, hatred and fear of the poor and the instruments of what Michael Kelly Connors calls ‘democrasubjection:’ that is, ‘a neologism designating the way in which people are subjected to imaginary forms of self-rule.’

As he explains it in Democracy and National Identity in Thailand (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2007):

” … the Thai state … ideology, one that it constantly attempted to propagate and one unified by the problematic of the people-problem – the construction of the Thai citizen [is] … the discursive resource of a more thoroughgoing hegemony. Through its deployment the state could aspire to subject the citizen to imaginary forms of their own rule. Such a subject-citizen would, by habit, protect the triad.”   

Of course, that’s just one opinion and I could not possibly comment on whether it had any truth in it or not.

No Coup This Weekend At Least


Well, we survived the weekend without another military coup but it was touch and go for a while. The problem continues to be the anti-democracy mob which wrongly calls itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). This group, which receives enormous support from the media, is holding the country to ransom. The group is led by convicted criminal Sondhi Limthongkul, who openly advocates removing the vote from the poor.

Bangkok witnesses plenty of protests and demonstrations throughout the year and life continues but this one is different – not because the mob is baying for democratically elected Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign but because certain people behind the scenes are using the mob to create tension and perhaps violence to provide a pretext for the military to step in again. The PM was (as is often the case) a little intemperate over the weekend and these remarks are being taken as a reason for intensifying demonstrations. So far, cool heads are prevailing and the mob is being left to sit in the rain for a while.

If ABACpoll is to be believed (and based on its track record that is a big ‘if’), the majority of residents believe not just that the situation will get worse. Also, 94% of people want peace to prevail in the country – who are these 6% people who do not want peace? What kind of a question is that anyway? Do you want peace to prevail in the country? No thanks, I’d rather there were violence and misery on a daily basis.

 

Khun Somchai Madeupname writes: Well, John, you work for Shinawatra University and Khun Thaksin pays your wages. Why should we believe anything you say?

Reply: well, Khun Somchai, I certainly do work for Shinawatra University but I have never had any interference with anything I want to say or to write – on the other hand, this is Thailand and everyone who works here has to practice a fair amount of self-censorship. I will certainly write what I think as much as I can but, from time to time, topics arise which it would be potentially dangerous to write about honestly and, in those cases, I will remain silent.