Goya 3

We are being blackmailed with the spectre of civil war

Giles Ji Ungpkorn

Reactionary academics, NGO leaders and the “Great and Good” are all warning of the perils of civil war in Thailand. All this is designed to put pressure on those who support the democratic process, to accept a grubby compromise.

Some say “the only solution” is to have a “neutral Prime Minister” or an unelected government while others suggest a coalition government including Sutep and Yingluk. None of these “worthies” discuss expanding the democratic space. They are not interested in doing so because all they want is to get rid of Taksin’s influence. They are also sceptical about democracy because the majority keep voting for “the wrong people”.

A neutral Prime Minister would either have to be a liar or an idiot because being neutral in Thailand today would mean having kept your head in a bucket for the last 8 years.

The present German coalition government has been raised as an example for Thailand. However Germany only has a coalition government because no party received an overall majority. The coalition may also be very damaging for the SPD as it goes along with the CDU’s conservative policies. Perhaps a better example from Germany might be how Adolf Hitler was appointed as the chancellor of Germany by President Paul Von Hindenburg in 1933? At that time the Nazis did not have majority support.

Civil war is not an immediate threat right now and in such a bloody war the well-equipped military would win. Dividing up the country between the north/north-east and the central/south is merely a wet dream born of anger. The Malay Muslims in the south know how hard it is to break away from the Thai state and dividing up the country would mean handing over Bangkok to the reactionaries.

But this is not the point.

The real point is that all these reactionary academics, NGO leaders and the Great and Good have played important roles in creating this crisis and increasing the tensions and violence. If in the future a civil war were to break out, it would be their fault.

The reactionary academics, NGO leaders and the Great and Good supported the semi-fascist PAD, called for the monarchy to use article 7 to sack Taksin, supported the 2006 military coup, cooperated with the military junta, helped draw up the undemocratic military constitution, supported the overthrow of the second elected government by the military and the judiciary in 2008, helped to occupy the international airports, gave legitimacy to the Abhisit dictatorship, lined up against the red shirts who wanted elections, and kept quiet about the military massacre of ninety unarmed red shirts in 2010. If you were not following Thai politics, you might think this was exaggerated! Today some claim “not to like” Sutep and his tactics, but they have not condemned the authoritarian judges, joined the white shirt “respect my vote” campaign or urged everyone to respect the democratic process. All they are doing now is to say that we must all accept the shrinkage of the democratic space in order to “keep the peace”.

It is unbelievable hypocrisy and blackmail.

For those who wish to protect and expand the democratic space, it means that pro-democracy activists, whether they are progressive Red Shirts, pro-democracy trade unionists, White Shirts, Nitirat supporters, socialists, or members of the Forum for the Defence of Democracy, all have to work together. There is an urgent need to build a strong network of pro-democracy groups. In the long-term this network also needs to expand into the organised trade union movement. For too long, the right-wing has been allowed to have a monopoly of influence among some state enterprise unions.

On an international level, the organised working class has played a crucial role in developing and strengthening democracy, especially in Europe and also in South Korea. Recently, the labour movement strikes in Egypt in early 2011 were a significant factor in the fall of Mubarak. For years activists of the Egyptian Left had worked underground among workers and they were present in the great strike wave of 2006.

Trade unions and strikes have existed in Thailand for many years, but it is ideological factors which have held back the working class. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, the CPT, which originally organised urban workers in the 1940s and 1950s, took a Maoist turn away from the working class, towards the peasantry, in the 1960s. For this reason there has been a lack of left-wing activists willing to agitate among workers for the past 30 years. Unlike South Korea, where student activists had a long tradition of going to work in urban settings with the aim of strengthening trade unions, Thai student activists headed for the countryside after graduation. After the collapse of the CPT we can see the influence of NGOs, using funds from U.S. and German foundations, and more recently the arrival of “international” bureaucratic union federations. These groups are opposed to political trade unionism and strikes. This is the second main factor which accounts for the ideological weakness of the Thai labour movement. There is still no political party of the trade union movement and the lack of a clear pro-democracy political current within the Thai unions is a fundamental weakness in the struggle for participatory democracy and social justice.