Abhisit The Election Man


Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit has urged voters to exercise their rights and participate in the Bangkok council elections. It’s not without some irony when a man who made the decision not to hold fresh elections, even at the cost of 90 human lives, and thousands that have been injured, and billions of baht in damage – now urges people to vote.

Of course, he also explained why a general election can not take place now or in the near future – unless a not really defined “normalcy” returns to the country. Interestingly, if “normalcy” is a necessary requirement for fresh elections, and the party that is currently in power is the one who decides when “normalcy” has returned, it would require a really saintly character to not use that as an instrument to shift things in one’s own power. The kind of saintly character that politicians all over the world for are so well-known for I suppose.

For people who don’t observe the situation too closely, Abhisit’s reasoning makes perfect sense.

“I had repeatedly said that the government will hold a general election only when the country has peace and order.

“If I dissolves the lower House, holds an election and violent political confrontation reoccurs, there is a risk that the situation will escalate to unrest”, he said.

There were examples in many countries that the election holding had brought about social division and violence instead of democracy. This had led to a failure in holding an election, said Mr Abhisit.

While PM Abhisit obviously likes to make it look as if general elections are not being held in the interest of the country, some observers might believe that general elections are not being held in the interest of those who are in power now – the Democrat Party, who stands to lose the most in a general election.

How the Thai Government Is Dealing With Students Who Criticize Them


Suranand Vejjajiva has written (yet another) interesting article. This one is titled Teaching our kids about democracy and dictatorship. It talks about the case of 5 university students from Chiang Mai.

All the students did was write up cardboard signs which stated: “I saw dead people at Ratchaprasong”, “Prime Minister, don’t revoke the Emergency Decree because the government will collapse”, “The Emergency Decree must be maintained to conceal the truth”.

They were also wearing surgical masks on which were written the words “Reconciliation” and “No love for a dictatorial government”. They walked around the local market and all the way up to the provincial governor’s office before they were arrested.

Police said they were monitoring the students’ Facebook folios which contained messages considered to be of a similar offence. The high school student’s notebook computer was confiscated.

This was obviously enough for the police to serve arrest warrants, because they were accused of breaking the emergency decree:

the students were charged with “gathering in public with more than 5 people, stirring public unrest, presenting and distributing news through print and other messages that could cause fear among the population, or distorting news and information that leads to misunderstanding about the emergency situation which affects national security”.

If five high school students carrying cardboard signs are a threat to national security, then the situation must be really bad.

the mother of the high school student and another local businessman who was seen talking to the protesters were also called in to report to police. The high school student was also asked to join a psychological treatment programme but the mother refused and told reporters there was nothing wrong with her child

Trying to send high-school students with different political opinions into a mental facility is not something that is exactly typical of a democratic regime.

Suranand also touches on the abuse of the emergency decree by the government:

The emergency powers are designed to ensure peace and stability in the face of violent acts from rioting to terrorism. It is designed as a tool to protect democracy and freedom, not to be abused and used to infringe upon citizens’ basic rights and liberties.

In disregard for democratic principles, this government adopted the emergency decree as a rule book in political suppression of the opposition. The hardline attitude is signalled through interviews and press conferences to the bureaucracy and government political sympathisers which in turn implement it as policy and/or start a witch-hunt, online and off.

At the same time, the government has talked a lot about reconciliation, and if you listen to Abhisit speaking, he sounds like a very reasonable man – it’s just the dichotomy between his words and his (and the current governments) actions, that is frustrating.

If people are not allowed to express themselves other than the official version of the truth, there is no use in calling for public participation – it will only enforce the view that the whole process is just a charade played by the government.One of the signs held up at Chulalongkorn University carried JFK’s warning: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Let’s hope that it will not come this far, because nobody wins, and everybody loses when there are violent revolutions. If you look at countries where there have been violent changes of powers – even if the previous powers were obviously “evil” (even more so than the current Thai government) , countries often take a turn for the worse after “good” violent revolutionaries take over. Violence is not an acceptable means of political progress, but it is at least partly the current governments responsibility to also prevent the eruption of violence – not just through strong-handed force, but also by employing (truthfully) reconciliatory strategies.

Specially students, who have been very apolitical in recent years – the harder they try to muffle dissent among students, the higher the likelihood that they are just pouring gasoline into the fire and isolated radicalization may occur.

Reconciliation?


The Abhisit government has talked a lot about reconciliation since the protests ended in May. And that sounds good when you listen to it on the radio, on TV or read about it in the papers.

One can’t fail to wonder every once in a while though which definition of reconciliation they use. The dictionary defines reconciliation as: “the process of making (oneself or another) no longer opposed” or simply the “settling of a quarrel or difference”.

It is not so obvious where exactly this has happened. As Pavin Chachavalpongpun pointed out:

Reconciliation has now become a vocabulary discursively used to legitimize certain policies and behavior of the power holders.

The quote comes from his article Thailand’s Disheartening Aftermath published on Asia Sentinel.

For example, the “Independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission” is headed by former Attorney General Kanit na Nakhon. Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun and social critic Prawes Wasi lead the national reform panels.

Should the current government, also a party in the political conflict, be given the right to set up a reconciliation commission and national reform panels?

Setting up an “independent truth and reconciliation commission” is of not so much use when one party is unilaterally in charge.

Moreover, none of these handpicked personalities have ever been elected into office. Anand was an appointed prime minister twice without having to go through the democratic process. Clearly, the discourse of “relying on good people [khon dee] in time of crisis” is still a powerful self-legitimization tool. But the so-called khon dee happen to be on the side of the Thai traditional elite.

The fact that they have not been elected into the positions they hold is of course a situation that current prime minister Abhisit is very familiar with.

Some red-shirt members are convinced that the reconciliation roadmap is nothing more than Abhisit’s delaying tactic to postpone the push for real political reform or fresh elections.

It would of course be quite a smart tactic.

Third, the Abhisit government, during the past three months, has been busy indeed, not so much in making peace with its opponents as entrenching itself in political power through a variety of channels. The ruling Democrat Party managed to win a by-election in July, boasting that it had regained the trust of Thai voters and therefore approval of its policy toward the red-shirts. Yet its candidate, Panich Vikitseth, defeated his Puea Thai rival Korkaew Pikulthong, also a core leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), by just 14,000 votes.

It should also mentioned that Korkaew was imprisoned on terrorism charges during the whole election period, and that some of the messages he wanted to share with prospective voters were not allowed to be publicized.

After all, this was a fight within a Bangkok constituency, the Democrat’s stronghold. Only about 50 percent of the voters were enthusiastic enough to turn out.

Disillusioned disinterest was the most common feeling towards the election process among many people here in Bangkok, which I personally noticed.

Prime Minister Abhisit also had his hand firmly on recent reshuffles within the army and the police. He has picked two royalists and pro-government figures, General Prayuth Chan-ocha as a new army chief and Police General Wichean Potephosree as a new police chief. The opposition considered such appointments a part of the establishment’s plot to strengthen its power position, especially in a possible post-election period in which those associated with the red shirts might form a new government.

Along the way, the Abhisit regime has solidified its rule in other ways, such as through the curbing of freedom of expression. More anti-government websites are blocked every day. More have been arrested for insulting certain institutions in Thailand.

It should also be noted that “anti-government websites” is a term that is used quite loosely, and the ministry in charge of censorship really doesn’t need to justify any of it’s decisions.

State of Emergency in Bangkok Extended & PAD On The Streets Again


Today, two major things happened in Bangkok.

One was that Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit announced that the emergency decree is going to stay in place, because of the bombing on the weekend that killed one and injured ten. (According to a Suan Dusit poll, this decision is backed by large parts of the Bangkok population – but keep in mind polls not always are an accurate reflection of reality).

Second, the (yellow-shirt) PAD protesters went out on the street again, even though this time many did not wear yellow shirts. This time not to fight Thaksin or the red-shirts, but to protest against “losing a part of Thailand”. It’s an old conflict between Cambodia and Thailand about a small piece of land on which an old temple called Preah Vihear stands

Thai government said to be banning reporters from the conflict zone


A protest leader reported that the Thai government is restricting  reporters from being near the conflict zone. The government claims that it’s for their own safety. This has yet to be confirmed on foreign media.

The more likely reason is to hide the brutality of the military’s actions. In my earlier post, I suspected that the shooting of the reporters seemed intentional. I suspected that the intentional targeting of reporters were to prevent them from filming the carnage. I now feel more confident that I am right.

Update: This has been confirmed in the Bangkok Post.

Who’s really to blame for ‘inaction’: Thai military is growingly frustrated


In a recent article in Bangkok Post, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon defended himself against accusations of inaction. According to the article, when one of the generals complained about the military’s inaction against the protesters, Prawit shot back:

“What can we do in a situation like this?…We do what the government orders, but it is not always easy, especially when it comes to  [dispersing] the Ratchaprasong [red shirt rally]”

It seems that the top brass in the military feel that the current problem can only be solved politically. Their view parallels that of several foreign countries. A harsh military crackdown could very well push the country into a civil war in which all sides stand to lose a lot. So the question is, why has Abhisit done nothing in the political front? In an interview with BBC on April 28, Abhisit stated that he intends to bring all sides to negotiations to help  find a political solution to the problem. However  his actions speak differently from his words. There have been no further attempts by the government to open any dialogue with the Red Shirt protesters since turning down their last offer to extend the deadline for house dissolution to 30 days. Instead, the government has been putting enormous pressure on the police and military to crack down on the protesters. In the art of war, it states that a war cannot be won without the support of the people. Right now, Abhisit doesn’t seem to have many places to turn to for genuine support. If people had to choose between elections or civil war, most would choose elections.

The Stain of Blood


Blood may be washed away but the stain of the blood can last for a long time – consider Lady Macbeth, her crimes years in the past, still waking every night into the nightmare of the guilt and shame of what she has done. Does the same destiny await the Butchers Abhisit and Suthep? On the face of it, Suthep seems to be a wholly self-satisfied knave largely untroubled by the thought process but is Abhisit the same? Is that what he learned from his privileged Etonian education and his gentleman’s PPE degree at Oxford?

Reminders of his ordering the killings of pro-democracy demonstrators will not all be psychological – some will be physical too. The relatives of one of the protestors killed by troops under the order of the Abhisit regime have begun filing complaints with the police about the actions and the killings. If this happens in a number of cases, it is possible that the Butchers may be entangled in legal proceedings for many years – until last week, it was possible to believe that all of these cases would just be brushed under the carpet, as cases against the designated organs of the establishment always seem to be in Thailand. Yet the Electoral Commission’s decision to dissolve the Democrat Party may mean that all of this has changed. If the dissolution goes ahead, it presumably indicates that the establishment no longer considers Abhisit and his pals as designated agencies and so it will be open season on them. If that is indeed the case, then there must be a genuine chance (slim perhaps but genuine nevertheless) that Abhisit will be forced to stand trial for whatever crime he is deemed to have committed resulting from the deaths of protestors (and who knows how many more there will be in the next week or two). Will he too spend the rest of his life as a fugitive from Thai justice?

I imagine this consideration must have had some influence on his decision to appoint General Anupong as head of the Committee for Resolution of Emergency Situations (although there is a story that Suthep is still actually in charge, although that just seems to be face-saving spin). Military officers do not have to face trial for the acts they commit, as the conspirators and henchpersons behind the 2006 coup demonstrate.

Early Songkran on Ladprao


It has been a quiet start to Songkran in this part of Ladprao – well, I only popped out to Foodland around 11 to collect some Raad and Kaeo Savoey mangoes for she who must be obeyed. A few kids were setting up their stations (and a few more on my back home less than an hour later) and some daddies were transporting their kids on the back of their motor cycles with their water pistols and so forth (I assume they were daddies, I know the look). It would be a pity if the kids cannot have their fun at all.

Yesterday morning, on my way to work, I noticed that the troops and their vehicle had been withdrawn from outside the courts on Phahonyothin Road and the Songkran facilities (an indoor pond, some little fountains and so forth where people can pour water respectfully over each other) had been removed – it is a fixture every year and no one had managed to stop the festive music coming over the PA system.

It is a strange atmosphere: people along Ladprao Road still openly display red shirts, banners and so forth (some people of course just wear work uniforms that are red and some are wearing Manure or Liverpool shirts but still) – some wear pink (not sure if they are the PAD coming back onto the streets or just people wearing pink shirts – it is very tempting, invidious in fact, to judge people by the colour they are wearing because I feel very sensitive to it but one must be careful in doing so). People still travel to the occupied sites in their red shirts to join the protests but everyone knows now what Abhisit has ordered the soldiers to do. It will not be the same again. Even knowing that Abhisit has been declared a non-person by the establishment has not yet made much difference. Symbols are still important – it has not been hard to interpret the meaning of a very well-known person with a record of supporting reactionary interests lighting incense to the officer among the soldiers killed and ignoring the rest, not to mention (obviously) the small people murdered by the state. Perhaps new pictures will emerge tomorrow.

Court Votes to Dissolve Democrats


Amazing Thailand and the amazing ruthlessness of the establishment: within a day of Army Chief Anupong Paojinda calling for a dissolution of parliament (which I take it means no more crackdowns on his watch) and the Electoral Commission has apparently voted 4-1 to dissolve the Democrat Party for receiving an illegal donation and other charges (at least one other charge anyway – the reporting is not entirely clear).

The process is not automatic (well, not in law anyway) as the case is now passed to the Attorney General and then on to the Constitution Court. However, I think there is no need for me to spell out what this means.

So, Abhisit is finished and will presumably be banned for five years, along I guess with Suthep, Kasit (? do PAD coalition members also get banned) and whoever it is who passes for the brains behind the Democrat Party.

This would mean an election and another few months of faffing around with the relevant court still having the power to ban any successful party, if the court so decides (how many times can they do this without looking just a little bit, shall we say, presumptuous?).

That would be good for Anupong, who stands a chance of getting to his retirement with his various powers intact, so to speak. Any potential violence might be put off (unless the stories of the Prem v Watermelon coup/battles I mentioned earlier turn out to be true) but the ill-feeling will be stored up for explosions of anger later.

For the establishment, the system prevails – which is what the system and its key supporters most want.

Abhisit Vejjajiva: Butcher of Bangkok


After all those yearsof being groomed for the position,  Abhisit Vejjajiva has finally lived up to his destiny as the Butcher of Bangkok.

He tried to run away to Australia but Prem banned him.

He tried to run away to Vietnam but Prem banned him.

Now, on orders, at least eight are dead and hundreds injured after Abhisit Vejjajiva was responsible for the murder of unarmed civilians. Update: 21 are confirmed dead and more than 800 injured.

These despicable crimes against humanity can only be ended by the immediate arrest of Abhisit and those who ordered the massacre of unarmed, innocent civilians. Irrespective of whether anyone in the crowd was armed or fought back, those soldiers were armed with live ammunition and used it against civilians. Abhisit must take responsibility for what was done.

 

Will Tonight Be the Night Abhisit Fulfills His Destiny to Become ‘Butcher of Bangkok’


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.

Abhisit Offers Yet More Money for the Military – Who Votes for This? Eh? Oh


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.

Just Who Has Access to Large Amounts of Explosives in Central Bangkok?


Just who has access to M79 grenades and 1.3 kg of C4 explosive? The questions arises after a grenade exploded harmlessly at Rajamangala University of Technology and then the explosive was found (a tip-off?) 250 metres away from the Supreme Court from which position it can not possibly have done any damage to the Court or any of its members. The military-installed Abhisit regime and its lackeys in the pro-establishment media have wasted no time in trying to suggest that these bombs are evidence of what have been falsely called the ‘violence prone’ pro-democracy protestors’ willingness to use force in the run-up to the 26th February verdict – will it be postponed? That would not be very surprising and there are many precedents – it depends, I suppose, whether the Secret Hand thinks he can get away with taking all of the money now or would have a better chance later.

The Secret Hand Speaks (How, Does a Hand Have a Mouth?)


Speaking of wholly incredible utterances, military-installed PM Abhisit Vejjajiva was summoned to the home of the Invisible Hand himself, the Puppet Master General Prem Tinsulanonda to receive new orders ahead of the next round of political disputations. Denying claims made in various newspaper reports, Khun Abhisit observes:

“Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva insisted on Thursday he visited Gen Prem Tinsulanonda at his Si Sao Theves residence late yesterday afternoon for the sole purpose of wishing him a happy New Year and it had nothing to do with politics.”

In other news: the moon is made of green cheese and pigs have been observed flying over it.

Really, to be treated like an idiot is insulting – no wonder so few people actually vote for the person.

Bombs Greet Southern Photo-Op


During the 1970s in particular, the threat of Communist and other insurgents hoping to attack government representatives meant that they were pretty much confined to Bangkok, unless they were prepared to accept the ignominy of huge security presences. Today, the in no way self-satisfied military-installed PM Abhisit Vejjajiva is in the southern border region where at least two bombs have gone off, causing death and injuries.

This follows attacks or demonstrations met with state-sanctioned violence against the current unelected government all over the Kingdom.

Abhisit the Crow


It has been somewhat amusing to observe the preening Abhisit take credit for the one aspect of government performance over which he has precious little control – human rights, integrity in political discourse and behaviour, civil liberties and administrative competence have all suffered significantly this past year (as people have noted in a Bangkok University poll), yet Abhisit has sought to take credit for the supposed economic recovery and claims support from business groups.

The principal feature of the Thai economy is its extremely globalized nature and its vulnerability to external shocks – that is, the dependency of the economy on exporting and on tourism, as well as the very high percentage of GDP devoted to importing oil and gas, all of which means that there has been very little influence that the Thai government can do to affect international conditions. When the junta tried to intervene in capital markets during its disastrous period of misrule, they had to withdraw overnight in the face of market power and disfavour.

What influence a Thai government can wield comes from attempts to strengthen the domestic economy and domestic capitalists through community level efforts such as the Village Fund, OTOP and the 30 baht health care scheme, as well as making Thai organizations more competitive by, for example, promoting the spread of international retail chains. The Democrats, of course, throughout their history have opposed all policies of this sort.

Old Etonians


It costs around 30,000 pounds (or 1.5 million baht) per year in school fees at Eton, apparently – so what does a parent get for that money (assuming that parent is a part of a sufficiently privileged elite as to be able to get the son on the waiting list at all)? Writing in The Guardian today (nominally about David Cameron, leader of the right wing opposition Conservative party), Michael White wrote:

“…the apparently effortless superiority which Eton instils in so many of its sons. That’s what folk pay £30,000 a year for.”

and

“Such people [i.e. old Etonians] … are marked by a strong sense of entitlement … dangerously inflated by a degree of inexperience the previous generations did not suffer. The Etonian officer class at least knew a lot about the men they led.”

Of course, there are differences between Cameron and Thai PM Abhisit – perhaps the most famous Thai Etonian of the day – Cameron is a lot smarter, for a start (anyone who has seen Abhisit speak live will know that he can read the words well but has very little idea what he is saying or what it means). The rest rings fairly true, though, of a man out of his depth whose entitlement and ego blind him to that fact.

I Am Not Making This Up


Things you would hesitate before making up for fear of being accused of gross exaggeration:

Today, Thailand’s reputation (genuine reputation, that is) slid again as it was announced as having declined to 84th in the league tables of corrupt nations – it has been sliding since the disastrous 2006 military coup.

Also today, the leader of the 2006 military coup General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, instead of being sentenced to the lengthy prison sentence he so richly deserves, has announced he is entering politics as the head of the new Matuphum party (with money partly looted from the country after the 2006 military coup).  

Also on the same day, one of the principal beneficiaries of the 2006 military coup, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has announced plans to give substantial salary and allowances increases during an economic crisis with millions unemployed.

Abhisit Descends to a New Low


Well, this is a new low: our mind like a steel trap PM Abhisit is encouraging people to inform on each other – ostensibly to catch those supposed ill-intentioned people who were spreading rumours about HM the King’s health so as to damage the economy/image of the country etc (the SET Index dipped 2% one day but has long since recovered that and more). What could possibly go wrong with this plan? I accuse you, Tituba. I accuse you, Goody Osburn. I accuse you Goody Good (name Pavlov ring any bells?). I wrote the other day about the problem in Malaysia with false accusations and anonymous letters. There is no secret about this kind of thing and the difficulties that it causes.

Cameron and Abhisit


Having seen the coverage of the conference speech by leader of the Conservative Party Sweaty Dave Cameron, it becomes increasingly clear how similar he is as a politician to the meat puppet Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In one sense, the reasons for this are obvious: both share enormously privileged backgrounds which have kept them insulated from the real world and wholly unable to relate to anyone other than the equally rich and privileged, both have the patina of charm and charisma that the many thousands of pounds education at Eton and Oxford University provides, neither has done a socially-useful day’s work in his life.

When reading out a speech, Cameron has the edge – but only I think because he at least has enough self-awareness to realise that he is cynically mouthing a series of platitudes and obvious lies – only a fool or a charlatan would really suppose that his claims to be interested in helping the poor were anything other than mendacity.

Abhisit, on the other hand, reads out the speech but has very little understanding of the issues or any interest in policies and their implications (in this, he resembles George W Bush more). Perhaps he is different behind the scenes or in committees and so forth but it is really difficult to imagine why (apart from the status and power) he wants to be in politics when he offers no indication of any meaningful personal ideology or philosophy – maybe it is, as is the case with other right wing politicians, that he can occupy office simply to deny power to someone who actually try to change things.