Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Ever since the election of Pua Thai with Yingluk as Prime Minister in 2011, I have argued that Taksin, Yingluk and Pua Thai were trying to reach a compromise with the military. We saw constant criticism of Abhisit, Sutep and the Democrat Party, while criticism of Prayut and the military ceased. This was a betrayal of the red shirts who had protested for democracy and been gunned down in 2010 by the military when Prayut was in charge of the army. The lawyer Robert Amsterdam also concentrated on building a case against Abhisit, but not Prayut or any other military officers.
During the 2011 election, Prayut had repeatedly opposed a vote for Pua Thai, but when Pua Thai became the government there was no move to remove him from post and Yingluk posed with him and even Prem for various photo opportunities.
At this time Taksin gave an interview where he stated that he had no quarrel with the military because it was only a dispute between him and the Democrat Party. What arrogance! However, the truth is that the Democrat Party could never have formed a government back in 2008 without the firm backing of the military. The Democrat Party government was just a “civilian front” for military rule.
At various red shirt rallies Taksin’s video links merely talked about himself and his problems, never offering a strategy to defeat anti-democratic forces.
After the Pua Thai election victory, the UDD redshirt leadership, which was closely allied to Pua Thai and Taksin, began to wind-down the red shirt movement. Then the second betrayal took place. Taksin suggested that there could be an amnesty for all those who killed red shirts. The amnesty would naturally include politicians like himself. It was noticeable that lèse-majesté prisoners, and people accused of lèse-majesté, were the only people who were not going to be covered by the amnesty. Pua Thai then proposed this as a law. The Democrat Party and the middle class reacted with fury because they did not want an amnesty for Taksin. But they never cared about an amnesty for killing unarmed civilians. Yingluk called an election and the military allowed the Democrat Party middle class yobs to wreck the election.
The military then saw its chance and stepped in with a coup d’état in May 2014.
The UDD leadership deliberately did nothing to mobilise against the military. Yingluk obediently went to report to the military when summoned to do so. Taksin said “wait”.
Now there is the third betrayal. Taksin and Pua Thai are saying that people should “cooperate” with the junta and its anti-reforms. No doubt Taksin and the Pua Thai politicians are hoping that some day they will be allowed back at the top table or feeding trough of the Thai elites. To hell with freedom and democracy!
The redshirts loved Taksin, but they also organised themselves to fight for democracy independently of him. Yet the issue of leadership was crucial. The grass-roots red shirt groups looked to the UDD for leadership. Not enough people organised themselves politically to win an alternative independent leadership. Now we are paying the price. The dictatorship will stay in power for a while and will leave behind an anti-democratic legacy, including a new antidemocratic constitution.
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