The damage done to Thailand by the actions of the anti-democracy mob will probably take many years to measure and years more from which to recover – and that is not to mention the deaths and injuries the mob has directly caused already (and the many more likely to come, alas).
There is also the economic cost: more than 1.5 trillion baht has been wiped off the share prices on the index of Stock Exchange of Thailand alone. Foreign investors have been postponing decisions and actively moving away from Thailand. The tourism industry is suffering considerably with foreign arrivals down 30% on normal, attributed to the actions of the armed, right-wing PAD mob holding the country to ransom.
The normal business of government has been delayed and disrupted – running a modern, complex country is a difficult and time-consuming business and requires the best minds in government devoted to it – this was the reason the junta gave up military rule in 2007, not because of any desire for a return to democracy or any pretence at ‘reform’ but because even the jackboots realized they were simply not up to the job any more. Military juntas could get away with years of kleptocratic misrule in the 50s, 60s and even the 70s and beyond – but not today.
Perhaps the worst damage has been to the reputation of Thailand and the Thai people. Few people outside the country can imagine why the Thai people, so many of whom were killed in the desperate fight for democracy and freedom, seem to be happy to see democracy sacrificed for the sake of the vanity of criminals like super-rich media magnate Sondhi Limthongkul, a coterie of dangerous military types and a few thousand ‘useful idiots.’
What is it that motivates the anti-democracy mob? Most people from western countries and indeed most Thais too take it more or less for granted that democracy is probably the least worst means of governing a country. There are many important debates to be had about the extent to which genuine choice is possible, the influence of the media in influencing the political agenda, the degree to which politicians can really be held accountable for their actions and so forth but overall few people would genuinely welcome tanks rolling in the streets and generals and their stooges making the decisions. Indeed, during the recent disastrous junta period here, junta cronies such as General Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed prime minister (while looking like he was wearing his older brother’s uniform for the first day at senior school) were revealed to be completely out of their depth in trying to manage a complex, modern economy.
And yet the anti-democracy mob PAD can still draw thousands of supporters, including the majority of the media (which may have changed since last night when armed mobsters began storming government buildings, assaulting journalists and fighting the police). What motivates them?
Clearly, different people are motivated by different things. There will be plenty of ‘useful idiots’ who genuinely believe the right-wing rabble rousers who would have it that the democratically elected government is damaging the country, the monarchy and religious institutions. There are many others who simply enjoy not working and living off the handouts from Sondhi Limthongkul and certain other behind the scenes individuals who have hired and paid for the mob. The chief mobsters, Sondhi prominent among them, are motivated it would appear by a combination of personal spite, hatred and fear of the poor and the instruments of what Michael Kelly Connors calls ‘democrasubjection:’ that is, ‘a neologism designating the way in which people are subjected to imaginary forms of self-rule.’
As he explains it in Democracy and National Identity in Thailand (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2007):
” … the Thai state … ideology, one that it constantly attempted to propagate and one unified by the problematic of the people-problem – the construction of the Thai citizen [is] … the discursive resource of a more thoroughgoing hegemony. Through its deployment the state could aspire to subject the citizen to imaginary forms of their own rule. Such a subject-citizen would, by habit, protect the triad.”
Of course, that’s just one opinion and I could not possibly comment on whether it had any truth in it or not.