Sunday, July 03, 2011

A slap in the face for the dictatorship of Thailand


Thai Election: A slap in the face for the Military, the "Democrat" Party and the royalist elites

Commentary by Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The Thai election results are a slap in the face for the dictatorship. They prove without any doubt that the majority of people have rejected the Military, the Democrat Party and the royalist elites. Peua Thai, the party closely allied to the Red Shirt movement, has won a clear majority. The result is all the more remarkable, given that the election was held under conditions of severe censorship and intimidation of the Red Shirt democracy movement by the Military and the military-installed Democrat Party of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

This election confirms that the Abhisit government never had a mandate from the people. It confirms that the 90 pro-democracy activists, who were shot down by military snipers last year, were shot in order to keep the Democrat Party and the Military in power.

Every single election since 2001 has been won by the Thai Rak Thai or its descendants, Palang Prachachon and now Peua Thai. The latest results exposes the lies of the Military, the mainstream media, the liberal academics, the NGOs and the Democrat Party, all of whom supported the 2006 military coup and claimed that the coup was “necessary” because the majority of the electorate “didn’t understand democracy” or were “bought-off” in election frauds.

The latest election is a vindication of the struggles and sacrifices of the Red Shirts and it proves the deep commitment to Democracy among the majority of Thai citizens, especially the poor.

But the important question after the election is whether the Peua Thai government will match such commitments to freedom and Democracy shown by those who voted for it.

If Thailand is to shake off the legacy of the 2006 military coup and the subsequent destruction of the democratic process by the courts and the Abhisit government, this new government must take some immediate and important measures. These include:

1. The freeing of all political prisoners, including those jailed or charged under the notorious lèse majesté law.

2. The ending of censorship of all types, especially the internet and community radio stations.

3. The sacking of the Army chief General Prayut Junocha on the grounds that he sought to influence the outcome of the election and announced that he opposed Peua Thai policies in the South. The Army Chief should be the servant of an elected government. He should never have special extra-constitutional powers to intervene in politics.

4. The indictment and trial of former Prime Minister Abhisit and his deputy Sutep, along with Generals Anupong and Prayut on the grounds of murdering Red Shirt civilians last year.

5. The temporary re-introduction of the 1997 Constitution, instead of the present military constitution and the start of a process to rewrite the constitution to increase freedom and democracy.

6. The scrapping of the lèse majesté and computer crimes laws which prevent freedom of expression.

In the long term, Thai society must seek ways to totally reform the Military, drastically cutting its budget and removing its control of the media. This will reduce its political influence. The justice system, which has been plagued by double standards, must also be seriously reformed and measures should start in the process of building a welfare state in order to reduce inequality.

But it is doubtful whether the Peua Thai Party will have any intention of carrying out these necessary changes. It will be up to the Red Shirt movement to push the Government into making more radical reforms rather than doing secret and dirty compromises with the Military and the elites. Of course, the Red Shirt movement has many factions within it. This is normal for such a large mass movement. Some will want to wind down the movement and leave the business of politics to the new government. This would be a serious mistake. The more radical sections of the movement must continue the struggle for justice and equality in order to bring about real changes.

This election is only one step towards restoring Democracy. It will take mass participation of the Red Shirts in order to strengthen and speed up the process.

1 comment:

Jaz said...

Certainly, the election of Puea Thai (led by the sister of Thailand multi-millionaire Thaksin Shinawatra) in Thailand is a slap in the face for the establishment - the military, the monarchy and their corporate backers. And it's understandable that a large section of the rural and urban poor, including impoverished farmers, would vote for this party. A good friend of mine, whose family have been Red Shirt activists in Isan (North-East Thailand) and Bangkok, voted Puea Thai and she sincerely believes that the party will diliver for the lo-so (Thai slang for lower class people) of Thailand. However, my argument to my friend and other Thais is that Puea Thai is not a party of lo-so people, and that many of its leaders are in reality part of Thailand's hi-so elite (Thai slang for socialites and the upper class) who pretend to act in the interest of their mass supporters. The Red Shirts have also been partly led by a section of Thailand's hi-so elite. Thaksin Shinawatra's pervious party, Thai Rak Thai (TRT), did deliver some benefits to the oppressed, but TRT also attacked the working class by corporatising and selling off state assets, as well as killing 1000s of poor Thais with the party's 'war on drugs'. Giles does make the case that Puea Thai is a capitalist party, but I believe he wrongly called for a vote for this party, and additionally has not emphasised the real danger that the new government could enact brutal attacks on Thailand's most vulnerable (including oppressed Muslims in the South and drug addicts). Already Puea Thai is calling for a new 'war on drugs' and there is a likelihood of 1000s of more deaths. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/​world/2011/jul/10/thailand​-war-on-drugs-rights-group​s

John Moore