Monday, May 26, 2014

Democracy Denied Again In Thailand; Military Back In Charge

The old farts of the Thai military bureaucracy have taken control of the country again. They can be expected to screw-up everything just like they did in 2006 after the last military coup. Military rule at that time was widely seen to be inept and unsuccessful. Who'd have thunk it? Rule by troglodyte bureaucrats never works. 

A curfew is in effect between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.  And all state-run, satellite and cable TV providers have been ordered to carry only the signal of the army's television channel. This 'marital law,' of course, is not great news for tourism industry -- a major part of the Thai economy.  So, expect more economic stagnation from the get-go.

The political elites and government bureaucracy in Bangkok, the Royalist military, the King and his vast throng of 'hangers-on' have reversed the results of 5 elections since 2001 -- 3 times by the politically compromised Constitutional Court and 2 times by the Thai military.

Just ponder what this means. It means that the will of the large majority of voters has been dismissed or ignored 5 times under shady pretenses. Is it any wonder that there is unrest?  There may be civil war.  And, naturally, the possibility of civil war is the pretext for the latest coup this month.  Do you see a pattern here?  In reality, the King and the military are bringing civil war to the country.  It's a shame because the King, in power for 64 years, has been a good force for Thailand -- until recently.   This is all so unseemly for a hugely successful country.  All of that progress is again screeching to a halt.

The "Red Shirt" political party, the party that keeps winning elections, is the political party associated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire telecom magnate who became Prime Minister in 2001.  The party's strongest support comes from the farmers in the North and Northeast of Thailand.  I remember him well, as I was living in Thailand during 2004.  He was a strong and active leader -- he tried many things, some things worked and some not.  But he struck me as too strong and heavy-handed for Thai taste and sensibility.  He seemed like he wanted to be the "Lee Kuan Yew" of Thailand.  (Lee Kuan Yew was the long time leader in Singapore who worked miracles there but who was essentially a dictator -- albeit a benevolent dictator) 

Thaksin was removed by force in 2006 and forced into exile. He was unsurprisingly found guilty of corruption in absentia (a conviction which surely must be fair when you can't defend yourself, right?)   The election of Samak Sundaravej in 2007 marked a return to power of Thaksin's party (under a new name).   But right away, a small but vocal group of protesters was able to stir up trouble against Samak.  Suspiciously, Samak was removed by a ruling of the Constitutional court (of fools) for accepting a small payment for appearing on a morning talk show!  Something sounds fishy when the punishment doesn't match the infraction, right?   Worse, the action rewarded the behavior of protesters, who learned that if you make enough noise (and your goal is the same as the elites), you can provide a context to bring down the government.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, from the other party--the Democratic Party (also called the Yellow Shirts), was then elected by parliamentarians in 2008 and was Prime Minister until forced to dissolve parliament in March 2011 after frequent and widespread Red Shirt protests led to violent clashes and deaths.  Abhisit was said to approve sniper killings of Red Shirt leaders.  This is VERY un-Thai.  Thai Buddhists don't even believe in killing insects!  (Thai Muslims, on the contrary, have killed over 4,400 people in attacks since 2004).   Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra won the general election against Abhisit in 2011.   She was arrested, along with 100s of others, last week by the military, convicted by the Constitutional Court of improperly transferring her security chief or some bullshit like that.

The political opposition to the Red Shirts, the the Democrats or also called "Yellow Shirts," hasn't won any election in decades now and has recently taken the position of opposing Democratic rule & voting altogether in favor of an unelected council of "wise men."   And how likely is that to work?  Answer: it won't.  The Democratic Party is now the party AGAINST democracy!  What a joke!  And this latest coup has, in fact, rewarded the Yellow Shirts and has installed a council of unelected bureaucrats!   It's just what they wanted.  A small, noisy opposition wins again!

The lesson from these coups is that even a handful of protesters can reverse the will of 10's of millions of voters.  The King, at any time, COULD have appeared on TV to tell protesters to accept the election results and explain that they must wait for the next election to express themselves.  That alone would have solved the problem as the King is absolutely respected and obeyed.   But it hasn't happened -- and apparently won't. 

Now, the reputation of all of the institutions in Thailand are shattered; the pro-elite media, the pro-elite courts, the pro-elite military and the monarchy itself (but not the current King --yet).  An elite minority is taking away the will of majority.   It's a bit ironic that a billionaire, an "elite" of sorts, became the spokesman and champion for the poor and the farmers in the rural North.  But he did favors for those people in the form of minor infrastructure projects and a micro-finance program that helped people with business loans.  It worked!  Yeah, there is rampant vote buying during all of these elections, but by both sides.

More insights into the current crisis is found here.

No comments: