Interview – Mr. Prasang Mongkonsiri – Part 1 or How I almost scooped the New York Times.


Well It was a pretty awesome night for Hawkeye. I managed to get a pretty good interview with Khun Prasang Mongkonsiri, one of the UDD’s Committee Members. Now, I’ve only been blogging for a week and it’s my first time, so please take it easy on me. This is the first interview I have ever done. By the way, if I owned a laptop I could have scooped the New York Times by an hour. My salary ain’t that good, plus and addiction to baseball and softball drains my finances a bit. Also, I do not claim to be objective but I don’t lie, so here it goes.

Please note that Mr.Prasang Mongkonsiri was in a four and a half hour marathon meeting and had 45 minutes to talk before he went back into the second half of the meeting. He was full of energy and talked in a rapid fire manner. I have not quoted him verbatim but paraphrased our interview. He watched while I wrote every word and agreed with my understanding of his answers. I have tried to be as accurate as possible. There is one verbatim quote. I don’t know how to write short hand.

Hawkeye: “Will the UDD be leaving on Monday May 10th, 2010?

Mr. Prasang Mongkonsiri: ‘We are in negotiations, two days is not enough time. Last nights killing of two police officers and the bombing has influenced our decisions. The appearance of the PAD and Yellow Shirts has also influenced our decisions. We do not know what the relationship between the PAD and Government is.’

Hawkeye: “If Abhisit cancels the agreed upon election date will the UDD return to Bangkok in force?”

Mr. Prasang Mongkonsiri: “I believe that if Abhisit cancels the elections we will call for another rally in Bangkok.”

Hawkeye: “How will violence be avoided?”

Mr. Prasang Mongkonsiri: ‘That is the problem. We are in talks about how to control the violence because of last night’s shootings and bombing. Some UDD Committee Members have received information about the army and PAD. We have 300 plain clothes police volunteering to come and protect us. They will not be armed. They called Veera (UDD Committee Member) and told him that a high ranking police officer believes the military is responsible for the recent shooting of two police officers. They happened to not be wearing bullet proof vests because of budget restrictions.’

Hawkeye: “Is the subject of the 2007 Constitution a sticking point?

Mr. Prasang Monkonsiri: ‘We have not talked about it, yet. We are talking about the elections. Talking about the elections and talking about the who is responsible for the April 10th violence. Many relatives of the victims have already gone to the police stations and asked for investigations, twenty-five days have past and the police do nothing! If the commanding officer does not want to do anything with the cases, he will give a verbal order but no official paper order will be issued.’

I’m absolutely knackered. I was at the rally last night with my wife and we left at about 2:30am. I finally caught some shut eye at 4:00am and had to be at work at 8:00am. Woke at 7:00am. If you do the math it was a long day. I left the rally at 11:30pm tonight. The wife was worried so I left early. Part 2 will be coming tomorrow. It will be a continuation of the violence issue and the lack of investigations by the police. It will also cover the “terrorist charges leveled at many of the UDD’s Committee Members and the dreaded DSI.  Might be a part 3 if I can get some corrections on my notes form Mr. Prasang Mongkonsiri.  The speakers were blaring and tons of people were milling about in their own deep conversations.

On a lighter note, I had a truly entertaining conversation with Sean Boonpracong (UDD’s International Spokesman). I didn’t take any notes because it was a very informal conversation highlighted by sardonic quips and ironic banter meant to feel each other out. There was a sublime moment in the conversation. I told him that I blog for news.inbangkok.org under the name Hawkeye. He replied “I guess I’ll be BJ.” It was one of the best moments of the night.

Content trumps grammar.

Hawkeye

Mr. Prasang after a marathon meeting.

Bombs in Central Bangkok – One Dead – PAD Suspected


A bomb campaign has been launched in central Bangkok – four blasts are reported by the BBC with 45 people injured – although it is not clear who is responsible, the presumption is that it is PAD supporters again who are once again aiming to provoke violence and a military coup. The Nation suggests that grenades were launched and not bombs (but then they always do) – both Sala Daeng Skytrain station and unspecified ‘Silom Road’ targets are being mentioned. The Bangkok Post is now reporting one death and 75 injured. Both the Abhisit regime and the PAD have been threatening violence against the pro-democracy demonstrators repeatedly. There are fears that there will be many more deaths tonight.

Democracy and Ochlocracy in Thailand


Perhaps the most cogent and stringent critic of democracy was one of its earliest, Plato:

“For Plato, the demos is the intolerable existence of the great beast which occupies the stage of the political community without ever becoming a single subject. The name which accurately qualifies it is ochlos: the common rabble or, in other words, the infinite turbulence of collections of individuals who are always at odds with themselves, living rent by passion and at the mercy of desire. On the basis of this observation an original duplicity can be defined, a relationship between philosophy and the political which is both thoroughly immanent and radically transcendent, prohibiting the existence of any such thing as ‘political philosophy.'”*

This (rather less well expressed) is at the heart of the position of the PAD and its New Politics Party: the poor people are too uneducated and stupid and greedy to be allowed to vote.

However, Plato was wrong and wrong for several reasons: first, he did not take into account the impact of change and the ability of people to learn; second, the nature of democracy in a modern (and much larger) community does not depend on the ability of individuals to argue with rhetoric against others; third, the desire of the poor (the aporoi, those without means) to achieve liberty (eleutheria) is in fact the principal struggle of human society. Higher levels of goals to be achieved by democracy (i.e. the arete or virtue that is supposed to be desired by those with means (euporoi) may be considered later when people have the basic means of survival in their hands.

This leads to the modern definition of democracy:

“What we mean by democracy is not that we govern ourselves. When we speak or think of ourselves as living in a democracy, what we have in mind is something quite different. It is that our own state, and the government which does so much to organize our lives, draws its legitimacy from us, and that we have a reasonable chance of being able to compel each of them to continue to do so. They draw it, today, from holding regular elections, in which every adult citizen can vote freely and without fear, in which their votes have at least a reasonably equal weight, and in which any uncriminalized political opinion can compete freely for them.”**

In Thailand, of course, the legitimacy of the present government does not come from the mass of the people.

* Jacques Ranciere, On the Shores of Politics (London and New York: Verso, 2007), translated by Liz Heron, p.12.

** John Dunn, Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy (London: Atlantic Books, 2006), pp.19-20.

The Thirst for Blood


It was, I think, in John Le Carre’s excellent novel The Honourable Schoolboy in which it was observed that, of all the peoples of the Mekong region, it was the Thais who were the most willing to turn guns on each other. This seems to be borne out by the thousands of PAD members and others masquerading as the ‘no colour’ demonstrators, whose principal demand seems to be that the army open fire on the pro-democracy demonstrators and use any means available for crushing political dissidence and free speech.

How many deaths will be enough to satisfy the thirst for blood these people have? As a farang, I occasionally come across other farangs who seem determined to tell me that there is a need for the Butcher to show some ‘balls,’ not to be a ‘wuss’ and so forth, by which they seem to mean it is justified to murder scores, hundreds and perhaps even thousands of demonstrators in order to ‘return the rule of law.’ I used to do interviews with executives in different countries as a form of research but, frankly, I became dispirited by the almost relentlessly hate-filled contempt these people mostly have (there are of course exceptions) for the people of the country where they live.

Are the Pylon Bombings Staged?


Before Abhisit’s murderous attack on the pro-democracy protestors last weekend (the death toll has now risen to 24), there were nightly ‘grenade attacks’ on a variety of targets, mostly aligned with the state and its cronies. These attacks generally shared the characteristics that no one saw who was involved, one grenade per ‘attack’ and the almost complete lack of any damage – I have never launched a grenade myself and, indeed, I don’t suppose I have ever seen one in real life but I have the strong impression that if I were prepared to launch attacks against the state, I would make sure the grenades exploded properly and I would shoot several of them to make sure.

Many people concluded, therefore, that these were not genuine attacks.

Now, there are ‘powerful C4 bomb’ attacks against electricity pylons in Ayutthaya, which are being used as ‘evidence’ that ‘terrorist’ attacks intend to plunger Bangkok into darkness. Based on the photos presented in the media that I have seen, these ‘attacks’ seem to have done picturesque but superficial damage to the bases of the pylons but not to have had any real threat to the pylon itself.

Since these ‘attacks’ serve so very well the purpose of the Abhisit regime and the Committee for Resolution of Emergency Situations (when did this start? How many more special powers from the junta’s charter will we see before all this is over?), it is not surprising that people are concluding that these, too, are staged.

The new committee seems to be favouring the use of special forces and, perhaps, vigilantes – since it is known that PAD goons have cooperated with the security forces in the past.

The state is threatening more violence against the pro-democracy demonstrators this weekend. How many will they kill this time?

Database to the Rescue Again


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.

Steamed Chinese Cream Buns


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.

Revolutions: Televised or Otherwise


Hannah Arendt observed in On Revolution that it is when revolutionaries focus on one goal (freedom from oppression or freedom from poverty) that a revolution is likely to be successful. So, she argues that the American Revolution was successful because it was able to focus on the political aspect since the country itself was rich (although it had its share of the poor and miserable too), while the French Revolution was ultimately unsuccessful because revolutionaries wanted relief both from tyranny and from economic misery. According to this argument, the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian Revolutions could be accounted failures because they too did not satisfy the demand for economic freedom that had been promised to the people and, just like the aftermath of the French Revolution, was forced to use terror to constrain the people from seeking counter-revolution so as to exit their lives of misery and starvation (readers will be reminded of Lenin’s observation that communism consisted of the Soviet system and electricity). The most successful revolution in Thai history would be that of 1932, therefore, which brought down the Absolute Monarchy and replaced it with the current Constitutional Monarchy system. That Revolution was entirely political and, indeed, took the form more of a coup in that it involved a comparatively small number of members of the state forcing out those others who were enforcing political tyranny. What the PAD achieved was a kind of anti-revolution rather than a counter-revolution. Their goal was to overthrow what political freedom had been achieved and increase tyranny while reducing the possibility of economic freedom for the poor. That aim was achieved, through violence and the compliance of traitors.

Double Standards


Well, blow me down – the court has deferred making a decision on whether to indict nine PAD leaders for some of their numerous criminal activities for the eighth time. On what profound legal point has this later deferment taken place (in the country which, according to Suthep ‘the Thai Isaac Newton’ Thaugsuban has ‘the best judicial process in the world”)? “The postponement, the eighth since Nov 18, 2008, was made at the request of the PAD’s lawyers, who said their clients were busy in other provinces.”

If it were not illegal to say so, people would surely wonder whether there were two standards in operation. Eh? Oh.

PAD Thugs Charged with Terrorism


Although it seems very unlikely that anything lasting will ever come of it, given the one-sided way justice works in Thailand since the Silent Coup, it will be gratifying to see the principal PAD thugs trooping in front of the police and charged with terrorism and other offences.

One of those charged is flap-mouthed buffoon Kasit Piromya, who was given the job of Foreign Secretary as part of the shabby, secret deal between the military, the PAD and integrity-challenged Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democrats. Kasit has subsequently distinguished himself with a series of idiotic and often slanderous claims, wholly undermining whatever is left of the Kingdom’s reputation. Typically, he has subsequently announced that he both will and will not resign.

Unfortunately, all the major charges will almost certainly be dropped because, although the PAD seems to have lost the support of their principal celebrity supporter, enough of the Secret Hand will protect them from the consequences of their actions. Nine of the leading thugs were once rightly charged with treason but that charge was swiftly dropped after a few words were passed into a few ears, so it is widely thought.

Thailand has a long and ignoble tradition of allowing murderers and other criminals get away with their actions when they are protected by members of the elite. Within only the last couple of years, a number of conspiracies to murder and kidnap and other crimes have been quietly dropped. There has never been any serious attempt, it appears, to find those people who murdered three people on the New Year’s Eve bombings a couple of years ago which were exploded with military precision, so it is widely thought. A couple of week ago, there was a big story about the suspected human remains crammed into containers off the coast and then everything suddenly went quiet, almost as if the media were told to stop reporting, so it is widely thought. Perhaps on due course there will be a new story in which the containers are completely empty or filled with non-illegal items.

New Parties and Ideology


In an article in yesterday’s Bangkok Post about the future of Thai politics, there is an enormous hole where the discussion of ideology should be. Parties (and future parties), according to the writer, appear to be devolving into regional groupings who offer to present a number of MPs (who will be elected on the basis of patronage and vote-buying of one form or another) who might then join whatever coalition offers them the best terms, according to whatever criteria they might have put into place. This would, of course, be a very backwards step in terms of progressive politics.

Ironically, the two likely new political parties (not properly considered in this article) are the two most likely to express some kind of coherent ideology, wrong-headed though that ideology is likely to be.

The two parties are, according to rumour and anecdote rather than hard fact, as is the way of Thailand, to represent the yellow shirt PAD and the green shirt military. Presumably they will come up with some anodyne-uplifting-luck inducing names with which to label themselves.

What would a PAD party stand for? It is difficult to be sure because of the contradictory nature of their leadership. They oppose the vote for poor people and wish to have portions (or all) of both houses nominated rather than elected in some fashion. They oppose globalisation and privatization so would perhaps introduce some protectionist measures (which would be disastrous – well, all of their policies are likely to be disastrous). Core leader Chamlong Srimuang seems to have some desire to turn Thailand into a gigantic monastery so we might expect a lot of social conservatism, more taxes on evils such as instant coffee, alcohol and sex, promotion of ‘traditional’ values and so forth. The movement has also been relentlessly told that politicians are corrupt and should not be in power – they will have either to retract this charge or make use of the Thai double think technique which says that the same act may have good or ill consequences depending on whether the person committing the act has a ‘pure’ mind or not.

The green shirt party have a clear ideology: they want to retain all the power they can, they will devote ever more resources to the military and will share the spoils among themselves. They are likely to try to justify this by talking up threats from other countries (Cambodia, China etc) and linking nationalism with patriotism. This kind of thing remains popular with certain sets of people. They are reputed to have a great deal of money to promote this view.

How will they deal with the fact that no political party now represents the interests of the majority poor, rural people? Well, apart from refusing them the vote, which would probably inspire rebellion, they will have to use Culture Wars and rely on ‘populism’ in terms of economic policies. It remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient to attract the votes of the rural poor.

Red Is Not Yellow


The coalition put together by Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai party prior to its electoral landslide in 2001 was one of the widest and most diverse ever seen in Thai politics. It included many of the elements of Thai society that had until then largely been excluded from power or representation in government. Hence, the rural poor and the trades unions found themselves shoulder to shoulder with the ethnic Chinese business class and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Notwithstanding the enormous electoral success achieved and the prosperous economy, it was inevitable that some of the contradictions within the coalition would lead to conflict. Hence, the pro-globalisation sections clashed with the labour leaders concerned with protecting local jobs and with privatization; meanwhile, the many interests represented by the NGOs could not always be met since they were often contradictory and, perhaps more importantly, could not be fixed within the short timescale focus of Thai politics. Consequently, some sections fell away from the initial coalition (it is not surprising but it is disappointing that it is representatives of some of the sections that fell away that became prominent leaders in the violent anti-democracy PAD movement).

That movement paved the way for the military intervention in 2006, the various court decisions that followed and the ushering in of the right wing collaborationist Democrat government. Now, the red-shirted pro-democracy protestors who are widely but wrongly described in the media as pro-Thaksin supporters, are surrounding Government House. The red shirts represent a variety of different groups, just like the original coalition did and many sections are antithetical to each other. Apparently, on Saturday, a group of protestors in Chiang Mai prevented a pro-gay parade taking place (although the presence of military agent provocateurs cannot be eliminated), even using violence according to some reports. This is not just a bad thing in itself but is counter-productive in bringing about the aims of the pro-democracy movement and also provides a pretext for military services to act against them (assuming, of course, that they are not already doing so). It also enables the media to make easy moral equivalence statements about the red shirts and the repellent PAD movement. Further, there is even some chance of PAD leaders being arrested for their (alleged) crimes – and that might include the current Foreign Minister, who was a prominent supporter of the illegal seizure of the two international airports last December. This process might be imperiled as a result.

Let us hope that violence is avoided tonight and in the future demonstrations.

Dealing with the Useful Idiots


What should we do with the useful idiots? The BBC’s Jonathan Head has an interesting article on some of the PAD supporters at a recent meeting. They are people who are very firm in their beliefs – even though those beliefs are completely wrong. The PAD, as is heavily-documented, was a violent, anti-democratic movement aimed at disenfranchising the poor and other groups who had threatened the status quo under which the rich and powerful in Thailand had gained their positions. Numerous crimes were committed by PAD members and evidence is clear – so much is obvious.

Yet the PAD people continue to claim, apparently in good faith, that the movement was aimed at protecting the monarchy, exposing corruption and human rights abuses. Seemingly undeterred by the evidence, it would appear that the PAD would return to the streets if its leaders had some other cause to promote. Even if they all return to private life and we never hear from them again, there are still thousands of people whose opinions are, in my opinion, not just wrong but inherently dangerous.

What, if anything, should be done?

It is easy to talk about negotiation and education as the answers but these are of little help to people who refuse to accept evidence or to question their own beliefs. If PAD ringleaders are ever prosecuted for their numerous crimes, then the useful idiots will presumably fancy those ringleaders to by martyrs or political prisoners and their many media backers will continue to broadcast propaganda on their behalf.

We have seen in all too tragic detail how neighbouring countries have treated those who did not accept political change – look at Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China and the treatment meted out by their governments to dissidents. No one is suggesting those measures will be considered here here but is it reasonable to think that Thai people think so very differently from their neighbours?

At the moment, many (perhaps most) people seem content to let the PADemocrat government have a few months in power – if only because it will give them enough rope to hang themselves and remind people why, in 2001, they swept the incompetent and corrupt Chuan Leekphai government out of office and then repeatedly voted for the Thai Rak Thai party and its successors. This is partly because of the unwillingness of rational people to resort to violence to settle political decisions – an unwillingness clearly not felt by those who now hold power and the useful idiots who will not recognise violence when it is used in front of them by their fellows.

Year in Review I


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?

Is the PAD an Organ of the State?


Is the PAD an organ of the state? As Marxist thought indicates, ‘the state, in the last analysis, consists of armed bodies of men.’ The PAD is certainly a body of armed people – most of the guards appear to be men, while the women act as human shields – in common with most if not all right-wing movements, the PAD maintains strict divisions in duties and responsibilities dependent on gender. However, it is accurate t consider the PAD an organ of the state?

What are the characteristics of an organ of the state, given the characteristics of Thailand in which unelected figures wield the real power either by means of behind the scenes action or else in full public view but in a society which refuses to discuss what is plain and obvious.

First, the organ must do the will of the state where the state is defined as those unelected figures who have genuine power.

Second, the organ must be loyal only to the state and refuse to consider negotiation or compromise with non-state interests (including elected politicians in the case of Thailand).

Third, the organ must receive its authority and needed resources from the state.

I think it is fairly clear that all of these grounds have been met, even if the law prevents open statement of some of the consequences. In the eyes of some members of the state, then, the PAD has more legitimacy than the police, whose loyalty is also commanded (now to only a limited extent) by the will of the people as expressed by government.

Does this matter? It would if certain legal suits were possible.

Poor Suffer Most from PAD


The courts have ruled that it is not defamatory to call someone either a criminal or a ‘ghost.’ Let’s try it out, shall we? So, you khun P….. Right.

A study by the UTCC forecasting unit projects losses of between 154-215 billion baht from the airport losses – although the situation is so volatile these numbers are subject to radical revision, I would have thought. More concretely, the tourism industry is set for enormous job layoffs in the first quarter of next year. Tourism was already very weak this year, given the continuing PAD problem, high oil prices earlier in the year and the ongoing financial crisis. Now it has plunged to disastrous depths.

Jobs in the tourism industry tend to be low-skilled and low-paid. They include hotel maids, drivers, restaurant waiting staff, travel agent assistants and the like. Anyone who has travelled around Thailand will know the importance of labour migration – people move from one part of the country (most commonly Isan) to another to find work. This leads to some equalization of supply and demand of jobs but also has the effect of suppressing wages overall because the migrants lack protection in the workplace and are often obliged to accept low wages, even below minimum wage levels. It was in part to help counter labour migration that the Thai Rak Thai administration introduced regional development programmes such as OTOP and village loans.

Why? Well, once the people lose their jobs, they must either return to rural poverty and under-employment (research showing that the unique kindness of Thai people in the aftermath of the 1997 crisis somehow overcame this problem has been contested, not least by me) or else will be vulnerable and more likely to enter into ‘risk-taking behaviour ‘ which, I hope, I do not have to spell out.

These are the people who most directly suffer from the far right PAD movement’s selfish and self-important actions –but then we already know what the right wing thinks about the poor in Thailand.

Update on Possible Coup or Police Action


Action seems set for tonight. There are numerous rumours of a coup and people claim to have seen tanks on the streets – an army source replies that they were Scorpions (a different kind of vehicle) and were just returning to barracks after a particularly badly timed exercise. In any case, many people were sent home early for work and people are bracing themselves.

PM Somchai has said there will not be a coup and he does not intend to remove army supremo General Anupong Paojinda and others – however, it seems most likely that a state of emergency will be (possibly already has) declared at the two airports and some authorities will be sent in to reclaim them. Police, presumably. 30 emergency crews have been prepared to deal with injuries.

IT seems the ASEAN Summit has already been cancelled or at least postponed – a conference I was due to speak at next January has just been cancelled (or, at least, etc). Suvarnabhumi will be closed until Saturday 6pm at least.

Illegal Airport Occupation Continues – Bloodshed Seems Increasingly Unavoidable


There has been no improvement overnight – the PAD remains in illegal occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport and have also forced the closure of Don Mueang. A few diplomats and officials are getting in and out via U Tapao military airport but thousands of passengers, mostly tourists, are stranded not just in Bangkok but across the country. Economically it is a disaster. Thousands of jobs will be lost and the poor and working class will of course suffer the most.

The likelihood of force being used to end the occupation increases by the hour – PAD ringleaders are refusing to obey court orders to leave the premises and refuse requests by the army chief to vacate the airport (although it is not clear exactly how much help PAD continues to receive from at least some factions in the military).

The government is obliged to do something to restore the rule of law – numerous foreign governments, including the EU, have called for non-violent means to resolve the situation but nevertheless said that the situation must be resolved. Many of the PAD’s useful idiot class seem quite happy to die as ‘martyrs.’ Bloodshed seems unavoidable (of course there are still gunfire and low level explosions going off – possibly by PAD elements to keep the temperature high).

No meeting between PM Somchai and HM the King has taken place, despite reports yesterday – perhaps no such meeting was ever scheduled or communication took place by telephone? Who knows how these things are managed? Well, someone presumably but not me.

PAD ringleaders continue to spout diatribes against the elected government and its supporters , including the most offensive insults. Whatever happens now and in the future, there are going to be thousands of people remaining who believe that this stuff is true and that the politicians really are the terrible people falsely portrayed by the demagogues. That is going to represent a serious threat to public order and security for years to come.

Thai Democracy and Rule of Law on a Knife Edge


I cannot see anything good coming out of this. Army chief General Anupong Paojinda has called upon the government to resign – let us hope Khun Somchai will remain resolute because dissolving parliament now would lead to chaos and, it seems likely, increased bloodshed on the streets. Looks like 18% of government budget plus being one of the most powerful people in the country is not enough for General Anupong to do his duty.

PM Somchai is back in the country, apparently and has gone to Chiang Mai. He was summoned for a meeting with HM the King but it will take him a while to get there, presumably. There is a bit of a lull at the moment – perhaps people are awaiting news of the meeting? I cannot imagine anything other than a personal meeting being suitable.

By the time I post again, I expect the PAD will be responsible for more deaths and misery.

What could happen? Impossible to imagine the PAD thugs just going home. Will some police/military unit loyal to the democratically-elected government clear out the PAD after tourists have been evacuated? Possible. Will nothing happen apart from a stand-off with a few bombs/beatings? Also possible?

Eventually the government is likely to have to call more elections, assuming that the recent trend of judicial decisions continues and the ruling parties are dissolved on some pretest (verdicts are due ‘in a few days or a few weeks’). The likelihood of being able to amend the Junta’s Constitution prior to that is receding.

Whatever happens, it will be worst for the poor and the workers, as most people well know.

Smeliies Occupying Don Mueang


I went past Don Mueang airport on my way to where I am now and had chance to see the occupation at first hand – it was the first time I had seen the Smellies up close and it confirmed my impression that they are a self-important bunch of twerps. Why else would they think they are so much more important than ordinary people that they should be able to use the expressway for free and could keep honest people waiting to go about their business waiting behind them? It is the same for the poor bus passengers forced to get off the buses highjacked by armed PAD goons and left on the side of the road. Luckily police were able to reclaim one such bus – but only at the cost of shooting out its tyres. The others are still in use by the Smellies.

Possibly 20,000 people or a few more joined the PAD useful idiots protest at Don Mueang and some other sites, far below the number of pro-democracy supporters who turned out the other week and it does appear as if the popularity of the anti-democracy movement is finally waning – Chief Smellies had to bus in thousands of presumably Democrat supporters from the South just to reach this number. PM Somchai Wongsawat is, it is being reported, relying on the good sense of the great majority of Thai people who wish to see democracy triumphant in the country. PAD smellies will try to occupy Don Mueang and possibly the Supreme Command HQ if the Cabinet decides to meet there but its apocalyptic government must resign today rhetoric has been exposed as empty posturing. There is still, of course, the danger that PAD goons will take one final chance to unleash another wave of violence on the city but, so far, nothing they have done has roused military leaders to bring the tanks back on to the streets again (Bangkok Pundit (http://feeds.feedburner.com/BangkokPundit) comments that many PAD useful idiots may not be aware of the extent to which armed thugs conduct business on their behalf)

 

Perhaps this might be seen, not as the end or the beginning of the end but at least the end of the beginning.