There was once a promise of democracy in Thailand

Giles Ji Ungpakorn…… on the 8th anniversary of the 19th September 2006 coup

For the last 8 years Thai politics and society have been steeped in crisis and the bright future for Thai democracy, which once distinguished the country from many of its authoritarian neighbours, has been trashed.

The blame lies fairly and squarely with the military, the conservative elites, the monarchy, the Democrat Party and the middle-classes. Thai academia and the majority of the NGOs are equally to blame.

Despite the fact that Taksin Shinawat is a big business politician, who has no real commitment to democracy and human rights, he is not to blame for what has happened to Thai democracy.

The trouble with Thai democracy is that the conservatives and the middle-classes do not respect democracy. These anti-democrats cannot bear the idea that ordinary working people should vote in a government which offers and delivers real benefits to them.

Taksin unintentionally sparked the crisis by his attempt to modernise Thai society so that the economy could become more competitive on a global level, especially after the 1996 Asian economic crisis. He introduced the first ever universal health care scheme and job creation programmes. He understood that citizens needed to be involved in building a modern society and he won the hearts and minds of the majority of ordinary people. This is what earned Taksin the hatred of the conservatives.

The anti-democrats have no respect for the majority of Thai citizens and are prepared to support the use of lethal force and draconian jail sentences against those who demand freedom and democracy.

The anti-democrats have no respect for justice. They are happy to see the courts use arbitrary and biased judgments against those who believe in democracy.

Now these creatures are gathering round the table to “reform” out any semblance of democracy from the Thai political system, aping Burma, and pushing the country back to the dark ages of military dictatorships and “Thai-style Guided Democracy”.

We now have a military government run by criminals. General Prayut Chan-ocha is both the junta head and the Prime Minister. This is a man who ordered the cold-blooded murder of prodemocracy demonstrators in 2010. The government and hand-picked parliament are stacked with military generals and neo-liberal cranks who want to destroy the universal health care policy and increase the military and security budget. Many of these people believe in mumbo-jumbo and superstition. They are both vicious and stupid with enormous egos and bank balances.

The Thai king has sat dribbling in his wheel-chair while all this has been going on. He allows himself to be wheeled out to bless everything the dictatorship does. The lèse-majesté law then ensures that dissenters are arrested and given long prison terms.

The military junta has once again announced that its guiding principle will be the king’s Sufficiency Economy ideology. It is nothing more than an extreme version of neo-liberal free-market dogma. The poor must adapt themselves to their poverty while the rich can enjoy life. The state should only act to bolster the interests of the elites. The king is the richest man in the country and head of a large capitalist conglomerate.

Any hope for Thai democracy must come from a reinvigorated Red Shirt movement. There is no other movement which is remotely interested in doing this and no other group which has the potential capabilities. But what is needed is new leadership which is independent of Taksin and Pua Thai and more closely allied to the organised working class and other pro-democracy elements. In order to be able to rebuild democracy and expand the democratic space, the influence of the military, the conservative elites and the middle-classes will have to be firmly suppressed in favour of the enlightened will of ordinary citizens. This will take organisation and a clear political agenda.