Thailand: a second “Coup for the Rich”

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn in Bangkok

Today the Constitutional Court dissolved the democratically elected governing party in Thailand for the second time, forcing the government to resign. This follows the refusal of the armed forces and the police to follow government instructions to clear the two international airports blocked by armed PAD fascists. The royalist alliance against the government is made up of the fascist PAD, the military, the police, the judiciary, the mainstream media, the “Democrat Party”, most middle class academics and the queen. They are all behind this judicial coup. A leading “Democrat Party” MP is one of the leaders of the illegal blockade of the two airports. The yellow-shirted PAD have “armed guards” which have repeatedly shot at opponents. They constantly use violence and now demand “joint patrols” with the police. The PAD have constantly broken the law, and yet they are “untouchable”. On the rare occasion when PAD leaders are forced to attend court, they are given bail and allowed to go back and commit the same crimes over and over again.

The majority of the Thai population, who are poor, face a double whammy. First, the elite royalist is doing everything possible to take away their basic democratic rights. Secondly, mass job-losses are occurring among workers in the tourist industry as a result of the airport blockade. Jobs in agriculture and electronics are also affected and of course we are faced with the serious World Economic Crisis. The elites do not care if the Thai economy is trashed and Thailand returns to a poor third world nation. In such nations the elites continue to live the same lives as the rich in the developed world. The PAD protestors are middle class extremists who do not have to go to work, hence their prolonged protests.

We are constantly told by the conservatives that the poor are “too stupid to deserve the right to vote”. The army staged a coup in 2006 and re-wrote the constitution in order to reduce the democratic space and also to absolve themselves of any wrong-doing. The electorate have repeatedly voted in overwhelming numbers for the government party, whether it be Thai Rak Thai or the Peoples Power Party. Now Peoples Power politicians are moving to the new Pua Thai Party. Will fair election be held? Or will the elites engineer a “fix” to make sure that their people win?

What is the root cause of this crisis?

The root cause of this crisis is not the corruption of the Thaksin government in the past. It isn’t about vote-buying, good governance, civil rights or the rule of law. Politicians of all parties, including the Democrats, are known to buy votes. The elites – whether politicians, civil servants or military – have a history of gross corruption. Even when they don’t break the law, they have become rich on the backs of Thai workers and small farmers. The Democrat Party is stuffed with such millionaires.

Ironically, the Thai Rak Thai party was helping to reduce the importance of vote-buying because it was the first party in decades to have real policies which were beneficial to the poor. They introduced a universal health care scheme and Keynesian “village funds”. People voted on the basis of such policies. The Democrats and the conservative elites hate the alliance between Thaksin’s business party and the poor. They hate the idea that a government was using public funds to improve the lives of the poor. This is why the anti-government alliance is against democracy. The PAD have suggested reducing the number of elected MPs and a recipe to do away with the principle of “one person one vote”. So the root cause of the problem is the conservative elite’s contempt for the poor and their contempt for democracy. They are prepared to break the law when it suits them.

What is the solution?

Business leaders and the royalist elites are demanding an un-elected “National Government”. The Democrat Party leader has “volunteered” to be the Prime Minister! Such a National Government would complete the judicial coup for the rich. It would be a victory for the PAD and a defeat for the electorate.

The Red Shirts, who are organised by government politicians, are the only hope for Thai democracy. They have now become a genuine pro-democracy mass movement of the poor. This is what is meant by “Civil Society”, not the PAD fascists. Thai academia fails to grasp this basic fact. But the Red Shirts are not a “pure force”. Many have illusions in ex-Prime Minister Thaksin. They overlook his gross abuse of human rights in the South and the War on Drugs. But these human rights issues are also totally ignored by the PAD and their friends.

Throughout this 3-year crisis, the majority of the Thai NGO movement (especially the NGO Coordinating Committee) has failed to support democracy. Many welcomed the 2006 military coup. Many supported the military constitution. Now they are either silent or are echoing the demands of the army chief, who said last week that the government should resign. At no point have they attempted to build a pro-democracy social movement. Many believe that the poor are “uneducated and lack enough information to vote”. The honourable exceptions are the Midnight University in Chiang-Mai, some sections of the labour movement, groups of new-generation NGO activists and Turn Left.

The economic crisis

Millions of jobs are being destroyed by the World Economic Crisis and the unrest in Thai society. People are being driven back into poverty. Yet the Democrat Party, the military, the conservative elites and the mainstream NGO movement do not have a clue or do not care one jot about the necessary policies to defend the living standards of the poor. They make chants about the King’s “Sufficiency Economy” and the need for “fiscal discipline”. In other words, the poor must trim their spending and learn to live with their poverty while the rich continue to live in luxury.

We desperately need massive government spending on infrastructure, job protection and a serious expansion of welfare. Value Added Tax should be reduced or abolished and higher direct taxes should be levied on all the rich elites without any exceptions. The bloated military budget should be cut. Wages should be raised among workers. Poor farmers should be protected. This will only happen in a climate of genuine democracy. This is why we must oppose this second “Coup for the Rich”.


Fascist thugs terrorise passengers at Bangkok International Airport
Posted 28 November 2008

Bangkok International Airport has now been closed by fascist thugs from the anti-government PAD. The PAD is demanding that the elected government resigns. This is despite the fact that the government has the backing of the majority of the Thai population and even the majority of Bangkok citizens. This backing has been proven by repeated elections. The PAD wants a dictatorship to replace democracy because they deem that the majority of the Thai electorate are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote. How did the PAD thugs manage to seize Bangkok International airport? Airports are supposed to be high security areas. Thai airports are controlled by the Thai military. It is obvious that the Thai military, who staged an illegal coup in 2006, have quietly supported the actions of the PAD. It is obvious that the military is unwilling to provide basic security to air travellers and air crew. But they are happy to rake in huge salaries associated with their control of the Airports Authority. Foreign governments and airlines should reconsider whether the authorities in Thailand are willing to provide international standards of safety and security.

Back in early October, the PAD thugs surrounded parliament to prevent the prime minister from making a policy speech. When the police used tear gas to try to disperse the PAD, the police were roundly condemned by the Thai media and most middle-class intellectuals. It is no secret that the PAD is armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons. They constantly break the law with impunity. Earlier today PAD thugs were filmed by PBS ThaiTV, shooting at taxi drivers who were trying to defend their pro-democracy community radio station. The PAD thugs were holding up pictures of the king. Yesterday the PAD kicked and punched a senior policeman. The police are powerless to act.

The PAD is a royalist fascist mob which has powerful backing. Apart from the army, they are supported by the queen, the so-called Democrat Party, the courts, the mainstream media and most university academics. What these people have in common is a total contempt for the Thai electorate who are poor. They are angry that the Thai people voted for a government that gave the poor universal health care and other benefits. They want to turn the clock back to a dictatorship which they call “the New Order”. They are hoping that the courts will now dissolve the ruling party and that an authoritarian “national government” will be set up.

It is clear that the PAD, the military, the Democrat Party and the conservative establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function. This is despite the fact that we face a serious economic crisis. Interestingly the anti-government groups are extreme neo-liberals with little grasp about how to deal with the economic crisis or how to stimulate the economy. Apart from opposing welfare, they have attacked Keynesian policies of the previous Thaksin government.

Where is the king in all this? Throughout the 3-year political crisis, the king has never attempted to diffuse the problem. Many Thais believe he supports the PAD, but it is more likely that the monarch has always been too weak to intervene in any crisis.

Those who support democracy and social justice in Thailand must condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship. We must be with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support ex-PM Thaksin, who has a record of human rights abuses. I hope that all those friends of Thailand abroad will support all our efforts to defend Thai democracy and to defend those of us who may face arrest in the future.

Associate Professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok


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