How curious that two years after the violent PAD mob closed down the international airports in Bangkok, in addition to numerous accounts of (well-attested) attempted murder, assault, grievous bodily harm and all manner of other crimes, there is still no evidence to put the known criminal leaders in jail – and yet, a few minutes after ‘grenades’ were launched against Skytrain station Sala Daeng and other locations in Silom, Suthep Thaugsuban is able to claim that the attacks were launched by the pro-democracy demonstrators. Where does this evidence come from, Khun Suthep? You do have evidence, don’t you, and it is not just another lie? You have form, don’t you? He used this obvious lie to warn PAD supporters to pull back as the army is about to launch another murderous assault on political dissidents. Reports now indicate that the PAD bomb attacks have killed three people. (Allegedly, as people say.) Now that the liar Suthep has told his PAD ‘love Silom’ pals to pull back, we can expect the army to move in and murder many, many innocent people.
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.
One aspect about political protests in Europe (not sure about America) is always the presence of anarchists – sometimes dressed in the traditional red and black but more commonly masked and hooded to reduce the risk of being identified, the anarchists are so determinedly opposed to the state that they will take any opportunity to try to bring it down through violence. When there is a political protest in a progressive cause, the anarchists tend to join in on the fringes with their own program of violence; when the protest is reactionary, they might instead attempt to intimidate the protestors or anyone else through using or threatening violence.
Yet we do not seem to have any anarchists in Thailand (unless, as Esther Rantzen might say, you know different[ly]). Of course, some people would argue that all Thai people are at heart anarchists anyway (Thai means ‘free’) and joke about road usage and so forth. In any case, most protests in Thailand attract a wide or at least fairly wide range of different interests. The pro-democracy UDD demonstrations, for example, include leftish progressives (many of whom deeply disdain the capitalism of Thai Rak Thai), Thaksin supporters (these categories are not all mutually exclusive), the rural dispossessed, those upset with the corrupt and brutal Democrat rule, former Communists still wondering when Prem is going to keep his side of the bargain (never, is the answer to that one), labour activists and so on and so forth. The only people who can be accused of anarchic tendencies would be Maj-Gen Seh Daeng Khattiya and his supporters but it must be contradictory being any kind of anarchist in the rigidly hierarchical Thai military forces. Some of the PAD associates appear to be deeply unpleasant and heavily-armed sociopaths, of course, but that is not the same as being an anarchist.
Are there any Southeast Asian anarchists (he asks having thought about this briefly and not done any research at all – hey, it’s a blog not a journal)?
What can honest people do to bring down a thoroughly corrupt, military and aristocracy-backed regime? If they had no interest in the country and its people, they could follow the fascist PAD route of violence and violent occupation of the international airports, government house and other public agencies which were looted and rubbished by the celebrity-sponsored right-wing thugs and their goons in the military.
Prem’s mouthpiece has of course refused to end his regime and call for elections as he was instructed to do (and also because, as one of Thailand’s biggest turkeys, his incredibly privileged and expensive education has taught him not to opt for an election in which the hatred of the people for Abhisit’s contempt for the poor would be so clearly demonstrated).
I’m not convinced that the drawing of a million litres of blood is really such a good idea. Then again, no doubt people like me said the same thing about Gandhi’s approach.
Armed PAD thugs, empowered by the celebrity sponsors who block all action against them, have launched more murderous attacks against the police.
This is from Reuters (thanks to Bangkok Pundit):
“The assault by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) was swift and savage, a head-on charge by a convoy of vehicles speeding down the wrong side of an expressway into scores of unarmed police.
As the terrified officers fled, some of them jumping through the open door of accelerating police vans, wild-eyed young men burst from the PAD vehicles, attacking with sling shots, fireworks, iron bars and wooden stakes.
The onslaught lasted no more than 15 seconds but left the five-lane highway, the main access route to Bangkok’s besieged Suvarnabhumi airport, littered with broken glass and discarded police helmets and truncheons.
The police, who have orders not to retaliate against a movement backed by Bangkok’s establishment grandees, had virtually no warning.
‘The yellow people are coming,’ one officer shouted, turning to run as the PAD vanguard, a large sound-truck blaring out anti-government vitriol, careered round the bend of the expressway exit.”
We have seen so much of this before of course when PAD thugs terrorized people during the illegal occupation of government house and the many murders and assaults PAD thugs committed, supported by their well-known celebrity sponsors (it is illegal to name them) who block the police and government from acting against them.
This is (also thanks to BP) form Asian Human Rights Commission:
“The takeover of the main international airport in Bangkok by protestors going under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy is a watershed moment for democracy and the rule of law in Thailand. It follows some months of increasingly aggressive strategies to get the current government to resign and to block it from making amendments to the 2008 Constitution, which was prepared under the watch of the 2006 military coup leaders and their supporters and pushed through via a deeply flawed referendum.
Alliance members have since August gone from merely occupying spaces like roads and parks to occupying public buildings, in particular, the Government House. Organised armed “guards” have defended their positions both from opponents and from state security personnel. They have also illegally obtained and openly carried an array of manufactured and homemade weapons, including guns from caches that had reportedly been kept in the government premises. They have illegally detained other citizens. They have vandalised, destroyed and stolen public and private property. In the last day or two it has been reported that in addition to occupying the Suvarnabumi airport they have seized busses, and have refused to allow police into the airport to investigate explosions there during the night. They are now reportedly preparing for the latest phase in the “final battle”, which is supposedly being instigated under codenames like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cities on which the United States military dropped nuclear bombs at the close of World War Two.
The alliance has exhibited a number of features that from past lessons of Thailand and other countries around the world pose grave dangers to the future of the country’s imperilled democracy. Of these, the following can be said.
1. They spring from a far-right ideology that has for decades driven successive military-bureaucratic administrations in Thailand, which dramatic changes to political and social life of the last two decades have increasingly threatened.
2. Their coordinated attacks and actions on the pretext of self-defence and national interest are designed to cause a widespread feeling of insecurity and uncertainty and allow reactionary elite forces to push Thailand back to a 1980s model of “half-sail” semi-elected government.
3. The alliance leaders have occupied the public space and forced people throughout Thailand to either take sides for or against them, or to opt out completely, thus alienating millions of people and denying them the opportunity to have a say on the key political and social questions of their time.
Some commentators and opponents of the alliance have described its agenda as fascist. This is not an exaggeration. Experience shows that the types of systemic changes and regimes that follow such movements, although they may not describe themselves as fascist, have fascist qualities. Indeed, successive dictatorships in Thailand’s modern history appreciated, expressed and used many fascist symbols and policies, and the residue of these can be found in the language and behaviour of the alliance leaders today.
If these events are allowed to continue, and it is self-evident that they are being allowed, they will effectively undo everything that was done to build a culture of democratic rights and participation in public life in Thailand during the 1990s … Whatever institutional and legal gains were made in the last decade or two will be undone.
Already, the criminal justice system of Thailand has been reduced to an utter joke, its agencies and personnel either unable or unwilling to intervene effectively to protect public property and people’s lives, or even prosecute wrongdoers. That the security forces can carry out coups on the whimsy of generals and engage in battles over trifles with those of neighbouring countries but not responsibly protect the Government House or international airport is sheer farce. That government agencies have been forced to negotiate and cut their losses rather than insist that the law be enforced is dangerous folly. And that the senior judiciary, which through a succession of highly politicised judgments has played a major part in contributing to the current mess has nothing useful to contribute when lives are at stake and the country is in greatest need of intelligent guidance is altogether shameful.
Peaceful protest is not only a part of democratic process; it is integral to it. But the rallies and blockades in Bangkok of recent days, weeks and months have not been peaceful. Nor can they properly be called protests at all, as they are not merely demonstrations of a wish, but acts aimed at achieving goals at all costs. And the costs to Thailand have already been very high. They will get higher, and be felt in terms of the lives and liberties of all people in the country if they are not brought to an end. All people in Thailand have a right to oppose this ultra-conservative project for state dominance at their expense.”
One thing that does surprise and disappint (and, frankly, disgust) me is that newspapers are now full of letters and articles by people who previously supported the PAD thugs who have now decided that this is a completely different situation – many people, myself included, pointed out that the PAD is a bunch of murderous thugs many months ago. Only fools and charlatans have ever pretended otherwise, no matter what high office they might hold.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is closed– PAD thugs have been occupying the airport overnight and there is chaos around the many places where people have been trying to get home or go on their holidays. Shots have been fired at the airport and there have been explosions in many parts of Bangkok.
I have said enough about the despicable PAD thugs and their various behind-the-scenes supporters.
This year already, tourism has already suffered considerably: foreign arrivals were already projected to be down 30-50% – and that was before embassies started advising people not to travel here at all (well, they cannot come to Bangkok at all, my wife’s colleague is currently waiting at the gate at Changi Airport with no information and complaining. There are many others, of course). Hotel occupancy was already down 40% (up to 80% in Pattaya, according to one report). As one (unnamed) ‘tourism expert’ observed: ““Do you know when the country’s image is destroyed, it’s very difficult to revive it in a short period? What does Thai hospitality look like now, when there are clashes and violence inside the country?”
As the continuing financial crisis starts to cause real job losses, this is the last thing the country needs.
I will post more later after certain events which are due to take place either have or have not occurred.
Buddhism, the religion of some 95% of the subjects of Thailand, calls for moderation in nearly all things – opium, for example, was for centuries accepted as a means of controlling pain, used in moderation. Those activities not proscribed (e.g. theft or murder) are accepted in, once again, moderation. This is a very humane approach and enables people whose lives were if not nasty, brutish and short at least often difficult, unrewarding and tedious to enjoy the occasional celebration. It is no surprise that animist rituals throughout the country (throughout mainland Southeast Asia more or less) feature the drinking of rice wine and feasting on pigs to recognize important events (e.g. weddings, successful births) and the passing of important dates (e.g. harvests, the monsoon’s arrival).
Of course, there is potential for people to abuse all things and excessive alcohol consumption causes many health and social issues. In other countries which have turned to paternalist authoritarianism, notably South Korea, alcohol (soju, specifically) was manufactured in large amounts and the price kept low as a means of keeping the self-sacrificing working classes compliant in the continual urging to work harder to save the country. There was some justification to this since it is very likely that had South Korea not managed to outdistance its neighbour to the north in industrial and economic terms, then further invasion attempts would have occurred.
In Thailand, the attempt to control the behaviour of the working classes has occurred comparatively recently, although there have always been small abstinence movements largely for the middle classes. The movement occurred as part of the anti-government protests which began in 2005 and has now turned into a fully fledged anti-democracy proto-fascist movement prepared to use violence to overthrow the state. In 2005, a resurgence of ostentatious nationalism and loyalty to the throne through wearing yellow shirts and protesting that loyalty very publicly. One extremist Buddhist school of thought has been led by Chamlong Srimuang, one of the ringleaders of the anti-democracy movement, who protested against the attempt by Thai Bev, one of the country’s leading companies, from registering on the local stock exchange (the SET). Protests were so tediously persistent that Thai Bev listed in Singapore instead. Now it is planning, according to newspaper reports anyway, to attempt once more to list on the SET. The weekend threatens bloodshed on the streets of Bangkok and throughout the country (which will be largely unreported). Whether religious groups again seek to involve themselves remains to be seen.
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows,” so said Trinculo in The Tempest, which is a phrase more commonly heard in the form ‘politics makes strange bedfellows.’ So it has now become in Thailand with the pro-democracy UDD movement (the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship) promising to become human shields for the police, who were repeatedly attacked by the right-wing PAD thugs last week.
For decades, the police have been one of the state agencies routinely used to hassle left-wing and community activists, beating up and killing many people. The military and para-military forces, especially the heavily-armed ‘Village Scout’ or ‘Red Gaur’ movements, have also been used to suppress many forms of dissidence, especially during the period when Communist forces were active in the outlying districts.
The police are also routinely linked with corruption, particularly the traffic police, who are said to stop drivers for various fraudulent reasons and request bribes to make the paperwork disappear. They are not, conventionally, figures of any great sympathy in society.
It comes to something, then, for the ‘boys in brown’ to be seen as, in some ways, heroes of democracy (not by the right-wing, of course, who are talking of police brutality, tyranny etc). This is partly because of the savagery of the PAD attacks, the refusal by certain doctors to treat police who have been injured (including being shot and deliberately driven into by vehicles) trying to enforce the rule of law against the illegal PAD mob, the fact that the police have been prevented from doing their jobs by certain highly-placed individuals who protect the PAD and because it has become clear just how ramshackle their equipment is (in contrast to the enormous increases in the military budget over the past few years). It is said that the police wanted to use water cannon but did not own any and the BMA refused to lend them city equipment. They were obliged, therefore, to use Russian-made tear gas grenades for lack of alternatives.
So, now it is that the right-wing talks about police abuses while those who have actually suffered from abuses for decades are coming to Bangkok to protect them.