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.
Is the army planning to intensify violence against the pro-democracy movement or are the recent reports more examples of sound and fury, signifying nothing? As so often the case in Thailand, it is difficult to tell. On the one hand, the attempts by the right-wing establishment to characterise the pro-democracy movement as simply supporters of Thaksin (with the implication that they are either stupid or their support has been paid for) continues apace; on the other hand, Khun Thaksin has started to reveal the names of those who were (he alleges) responsible for plotting the 2006 military coup. There is no great surprise about the names involved – I think we all knew who was responsible and how much Thaksin will go on to say. However, it remains to be seen whether the establishment and its proxies in the government will consider it acceptable for these names to be bandied about publicly, especially in the international arena.
Meanwhile, more money is being provided for what might be interpreted as suppression of political dissidence and free speech in the countryside, where opposition to Anupong and Abhisit and the desire for a return to democratic government is at its strongest. How much more of this kind of thing goes on is not very well-known, not least because of the unwillingness of so much of the foreign media to stir beyond the bounds of Bangkok.
Another strand of suppression of the people is represented by the continued influence of the rightist religious busybodies, who are trying to control society by banning the poor from enjoying such things as alcoholic drinks and, now, tinned coffee (can you imagine that if alcohol sales are banned for Songkran in addition to all the other occasions that will be the end of the demands? This time next week it will be all about teenagers having sex again).
One thing is clear: history shows that the right will not yield power without first resorting to large-scale violence. There is no reason to imagine that situation has changed. If there is to be a return to democratic government, therefore, then blood will unfortunately be shed.
Fortunately, there are some compensations for those of us who are positioned closer to the revolutionary than the reactionary end of the continuum. There are two main aspects to this: the first is the optimistic belief that things can change for the better and, no matter how grim matters may appear to be, there will always be hope. Look, for example, at the election of Barack Obama, which is an occurrence that could scarcely have been imagined four years ago when the American people were re-electing George W Bush.
Second, there is the belief that the worse the situation becomes, the closer comes the inevitable revolution that will save us all. Marxists, for example, believe that it is necessary for the capitalist system to destroy itself before the arrival of the revolution that will usher in the age of equality. Christianity, too, requires the most devastating event possible to occur before the redemption is possible: without Judas, that is, there can be no crucifixion and then no resurrection. Other belief or thought systems with (variously defined) progressive aims have similar paradoxes at their core.
In this light, therefore, we can look at what has happened in Thailand this year with a slightly less depressed air than would otherwise appear necessary because, let’s face it, this has been a terrible year for Thailand. The armed coup of 2006 demonstrated that army personnel (in the form of sad little General Surayud – who always appeared on television like the little boy on his first day at school wearing his older bother’s discarded uniform) are now completely incapable of running a modern economy – back in the 60s and 70s, generals could run the economy more or less successfully, as they demonstrated. That is no longer the case and, as mentioned, the 2007-7 junta showed it to be the case. So, after ceding power to a democratically-elected government for a brief period (buy paying the PAD to prevent them from actively governing effectively), the powers that be launched a Silent Coup this year to give power to the quisling politicians who can be trusted to maintain the army’s extreme conservative agenda. Preventing the police from acting (this is well documented), the army encouraged (and celebrity sponsors helped pay for) the PAD to occupy not just Government House but Bangkok’s two international airports among a welter of violence aimed at the police and the general public. The closure is likely to cause a million extra job losses and costs of up to 100 billion baht. Weeks after the army-brokered agreement (allegedly) with the PAD to end the occupation in return for the dissolution of the ruling PPP party on a pretext by junta-appointed lawyers and a place in the new Democrat-led coalition – and the Foreign Ministry was indeed given to a prominent PAD spokesperson, to the absolute bemusement of the international audience. No PAD supporter has yet been prosecuted for any of the catalogue of crimes for which more than ample evidence exists that were committed on a premeditated basis.
Now we move into 2009 in the face of possibly the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s with an army puppet PM with no idea of the extent of the problems facing the country. So, on the optimistic note on which I started, is the situation now so desperate that it will lead to real change?