Thailand and the Fragility of Representative Democracy

(EDIT: I just came across this – the UK foreign office has said “We do not believe that violence has any part to play in achieving political aims” I eagerly await the announcement that the police and army are being disbanded.)

Another post on Thailand. The redshirts, after scoring a coup (figuratively) by forcing the cancellation of the ASEAN summit, have been forced out of the city when the police and army started getting proper rough. In the ensuing riots, more than a hundred people have been injured and two killed. Clashes are not just between state agents and protesters, but also between protesters and local resident – Bangkok being, like most large cities, dominated by the yellowshirts.

In the face of this escalation of violence, the protest organisers have called for people to leave the city, and some have handed themselves in/been taken into custody.

What’s interesting of course is how this didn’t happen when the yellowshirts were doing the exact same thing – mass protests aiming at disrupting high-profile activities (like occupying the airports). Funny that – the army, which mainly supports the conservative yellowshirts, and had previously installed a yellow government by force, was very hands-off with yellowshirt protests. But when their ideological opponents are trying the same thing, it’s “no more Mr. Nice Guy”.

I was thinking about how to summarise the dispute in Thailand for my friends in the UK. In essence, the situation is that every time an election is held, one party (let’s say Labour, or Democrats for the US, Socialist Party for France, etc.) wins. They win because their supporters are more numerous. They win because the poor majority like their policies more.

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International High Five

Those Thai democracy protesters I mentioned a couple posts back? They got the summit cancelled by invading the venue. Impressive.

The People’s Shirts are Deepest Red

As the ASEAN summit approaches, Thailand’s red-shirts are demonstrating in great numbers. Interesting news now is that they have expanded their expressions of rage to include the king’s top advisor – which is interesting because it cuts quite close to the taboo on criticising the king himself. It suggests that the fact that the king is an enemy of the people is slowly eroding the respect for him that blights Thai politics.

I will be watching events in Thailand with interest – though I am fairly confident, depressingly, that even victory will bring the red-shirts about as much good as it brought Ukraine’s “Orange Revolutionaries”, i.e. a popular politician is finally returned to power, sets about bickering, embezzling, and betraying the hopes placed in him.

But it’s still necessary to support such vast masses of people struggling like this. The kind of stronger consciousness that could dispense with kings and politicians needs to be built by experience. I hope the Thai protesters have a better time of it than the British did.

Official: Thai Prime Minister Full of Shit

“They have to respect the law.” Abhisit said in a speech to foreign business leaders yesterday “We’re hoping to show that we can handle political differences.”

This makes my blood boil. The Prime Minister of Thailand has denounced protesters who are planning to disrupt the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) conference held soon in Thailand. He says they can protest as much as they want, but they mustn’t do anything illegal.

The last decade of Thai politics has been endless repeats of the following pattern: a certain party (whose name keeps changing, but may be called the red party) wins elections because the poor majority vote for it, due to its promises to provide them with things like credit and healthcare. The opposition, middle-class urban conservatives (the yellows) make it impossible for that government to function. Then the courts or the army, who support the yellows, remove the red government from power and get it replaced by a conservative yellow one.

So prime minister Abhisit is the direct result of illegal and unconstitutional methods – though technically having the support of sufficient elected MPs, he is in effect a dictator, a front for the vested interests that dominate Thai society. And now he turns around and says that his opponents, who are justifiably fucking angry, must respect the law.

I have little respect for the law in general. I find this case infuriating simply because it makes so clear the absolute hypocrisy of its application.

I also don’t have all that much respect for the red politicians – they combine economic redistribution with generalised authoritarian abuse of minorities (Myanmar refugees, Muslims) and killed a lot of people with their own ‘war on drugs’. But the yellow government seems little better on most of these issues, quite possibly worse, and economically is much less favourable to the majority.

Anyway, this is hardly an insightful or penetrating post, just a register of disgust at the hypocrisy of the Thai leaders in their ongoing struggle to deprive the masses of their electoral voice.