Thongchai Winichakul On the crisis of Democracy

Thongchai Winichakul, former student leader in 1976 and now a Professor in the U.S.A., has written an article in Prachatai entitled “Wrong methods create even heavier damage”.

Thongchai writes that academics and those claiming to be part of the “peoples’ movement” constantly and selectively criticise Taksin’s “evil capital” while ignoring the largest capital conglomerate that no one can criticise. This is either because of their stupidity or they are just being dishonest to society.

He worries that Human Rights in Thailand, that have taken decades to develop have now been destroyed and are become a laughing matter in which no one has any faith.

Thongchai also writes that we should stop repeating the phrase that “democracy is the least worse system” because it may sound clever, but in reality it is a sign of ignorance and does not help us understand the situation. For Thongchai, democracy is the best system because it is the only just way of managing power relations in a complex society. Using “wrong methods” (as the Sutep mob and others do) can never build democracy because these methods are diametrically opposed to democracy.

Finally Thongchai criticises those “worthies” who have lined up, almost by prior arrangement, to suggest anti-democratic solutions rather than suggesting that those who are using the wrong methods end their actions. They are helping to destroy the future of Thai democracy.

His article can be read in full here: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2014/02/51803

 

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No Justice No Peace

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

The organisation of Muslim Malay youth or “PerMAS” in Patani have just organised a well-attended talk entitled “War and Peace. How can the people of Patani determine their own future?”

The talk was held on the campus of the University of Pattani. It follows the deaths of 16 liberation fighters on the 13th February last year and the appalling murders of 3 children on the 3rd February 2014. The children’s house was raked by indiscriminate automatic gun fire. Locals believe that it was the work of the military.

Thai government security forces in plain clothes have a long dishonourable history of carrying out cold-blooded murders of civilians who are thought to be politically active in “Patani” movement. “Patani” is the name given by locals to the whole area of the three southernmost provinces.

Speakers explained the importance of peace, security and justice for the local population. Many emphasised the need for local people to reaffirm “ownership” of Patani. The Thai state wants to force them to be “Thai Muslims” but this is not what the population desires. Some proposed that armed struggle alone would not win the right to self-determination. It should be a political struggle with mass involvement. Often those voices which just called for “peace” were not reflecting the views of the locals and so far the Thai state has remained deaf to what people are demanding in the official peace negotiations.

Only yesterday a Buddhist monk and 3 other people were shot dead by unknown assassins while the monk was collecting food from Buddhist villagers. It is most likely that this was a revenge attack in response to the shooting of the 3 children. However it is a criminally unacceptable tactic because it helps to inflame communal tensions. The war in Patani is not about Muslims fighting Buddhists. It is about the Muslim Malay people’s struggle against the Thai state.

When considering the unacceptable killing of the Buddhist monk we must realise that the Thai state has militarised Buddhist temples in the region. Monks have police special forces armed escorts and at one time the military were encouraging soldiers to become monks in the local area. In the past Muslim children were also forced take part in Buddhist ceremonies at school as part of the state’s forced assimilation programme.

The violent conflict in Patani is caused by the process of Thai nation building and the subsequent colonisation of ethnically diverse communities into a centralised state, ruled directly from Bangkok, in the late 19th century. Violent repression of the people of Patani has been a constant method in the Thais state’s policies up to the present.

On the 25th October 2004 Thai government security forces broke up a peaceful demonstration at Takbai in the southern province of Naratiwat. There were villagers of all ages and sexes in the crowd. After this, the troops moved in to capture young Muslim Malay men. While women and children huddled in one corner, the men were stripped to the waist and their hands were tied behind their backs. The prisoners were made to crawl along the ground while troops rained kicks down upon their heads and bodies and beat them with sticks. Many of the prisoners were roped together in a long line and made to lie face down on the ground. Finally the bound prisoners were thrown into the backs of open-top army lorries, and made to lie, layer upon layer, on top of each other. Troops stood on top of their human cargo occasionally stamping on those who cried out for water or air and telling them that soon they would “know what real hell was like”. Many hours later when the last lorry arrived at Inkayut Army Camp, nearly 80 prisoners had died. Prime Minister Taksin’s first response to the incident was to praise the security forces for their “good work”.

In the short-term, we must demand the removal of Thai troops from Patani and a general de-militarisation of the area. Emergency security laws should also be repealed and standards of human rights have to be established in Patani and all regions of Thailand, by punishing state crimes, reducing the power of the military and releasing all political prisoners. If the anti-democratic mobs in Bangkok and their elite allies succeed in destroying democracy it will only delay further a peaceful settlement to the war in Patani.

For a more detailed account of the war in Patani see: http://www.scribd.com/doc/207169526/The-Bloody-Civil-War-in-Patani

Lèse Majesté rears its ugly head again

Numnual  Yapparat 

A book seller has just been taken to court under Lèse Majesté. He sold two books that were not allowed to be sold in Thailand. The first book is “The Devil’s Discus” by Rayne Kurger. According to Wikipedia the book discussed the death of King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), the older brother of the present king. The book was published in 1964 and was translated into Thai in 1974. In that period the tide of struggle against injustice in Thailand was very high.  The banned book was sold on the black market and the printing press that printed the book was burnt down. The second book was a book from the “Same Skye” publishing company which discussed the role of the Monarchy, and was published in 2005. The book was banned and also the editor was charge with Lèse Majesté in 2006.

The trial started yesterday and the judges demanded that this case be held in secret. On the first day, the judges gathered evidenced from two witnesses, who were undercover police. The trial is utterly lacking in transparency and hence it cannot be a fair process. It is totally disgraceful.

Another event that we need to talk about is that Ajarn Somsak Jeamteerasakul’s house was attacked. Two thugs shot at his house when he was at home working. It is obvious why this outrage happen now. A few days ago a top spokesman for the army said that they were considering charging Somsak with Lèse Majesté. This precipitated threats against him and the physical attack.

Recently Somsak has criticised extreme royalists for their views. He is now asking whether Lèse Majesté also protects people who claim that they love the king. The military is creating a climate of fear to shut up people who want to ask questions about what is going on in Thailand.

Naturally, Pua Thai and their friends have stated firmly that they do not want to abolish Lèse Majesté. They do not care how many people will become victims of this authoritarian law.

 

Who is Anand Panyarachun?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

In a recent interview Anand Panyarachun said that the Pua Thai government was “dysfunctional”, implying that what Thailand needed was a “stable” and “firm” government that can tackle the economic problems arising from the political turmoil. He suggested that the two sides should “compromise”.

Translated into plain English, this means that he wants Yingluk to resign in favour of an unelected government of “good people” and that Thailand should have a half democracy. Any compromise between Sutep’s Democrats, who are against democracy, and the elected Pua Thai government would naturally be a half democracy. It is difficult to see any difference between Anand’s views and those of Sutep. Although Anand probably doesn’t want to become Prime Minister at this stage in his life, he likes to create an image that he is a “good person”.

What is Anand’s record?

In 1991 Anand was appointed as an unelected Prime Minister by Suchinda Kaprayoon’s military junta. Suchinda had just stage a coup and toppled an elected government. As Prime Minister, Anand introduced free-market policies, especially in banking. These helped to accelerate the 1996 economic crisis and the collapse of the banks.

In 1992, after General Suchinda was overthrown by a mass popular uprising, Anand again became an unelected interim Prime Minister before elections could be held. He pushed through a blanket amnesty for Suchinda and others who had ordered troops to kill pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Bangkok. Soldiers like General Surayut Julanon were under Suchinda’s command and Surayut was responsible for violence against medics treating wounded demonstrators in the Royal Hotel. Later Surayut became a Privi Councillor and then a military appointed Prime Minister after the 2006 coup.

Anand Panyarachun is known to be extremely anti-trade union and his Saha Union factories banned all unions.

After the massacre of ninety Muslim Malays at Takbai in 2004, under Prime Minsiter Taksin Shinawat, Anand was appointed as head of a peace and reconciliation committee. He told the people of Takkbai to “forget” the massacre.

Anand believes that King Pumipon lives a “frugal” life, according to his sufficiency economic philosophy. King Pumipon is the richest man in Thailand and the 8th richest man in the world. Forbes puts his wealth at $44.24B.

So judge Anand Panyarachun’s words today in the light of his past record.

Sutep’s hypocrisy in exploiting the farmers’ plight

Numnual  Yapparat

Sutep is trying to boost his image by pretending to be Robin Hood and collecting money from the rich to help the poor rice farmers. What an absurd and laughable idea! Pure and simple, Sutep and the Democrats are playing a political game to exploit rice farmers’ suffering.

At the moment Pua Thai is still the “caretaker” government, ever since parliament was dissolved for the general election. Therefore, it does not have the power to spend money. If they need to do so they have to consult with the Election Commission (EC), otherwise the government action would be unconstitutional. When Pua Thai asked the EC for permission to release money to rice farmers under the rice subsidy scheme, the EC said that the government has to make its own decision. But this is a trick to catch out the government and then accuse it of unconstitutional activity. This would pave the way for an appointed government of conservatives, just like Sutep’s demands. The government is trapped by administrative problems which come from the Democrats and the EC’s refuse to do their jobs.

The problems of the rice farmers are spiralling out of hand because of Sutep and the Democrats’ attempts to wreck the election and prevent the formation of a democratically elected government.

The reality is that Sutep and the Democrats, plus their neo-liberal academic friends, have always been against the rice subsidy policy because they opposed to the state intervening in the free-market. In fact, Thailand is not a poor country and the sum of money that needs to be spent in supporting rice farmers is considerably smaller than the military budget or money spent on state ceremonies.

The rice subsidy policy is one of the best policies of the Pua Thai government and was initially used by Thai Rak Thai before the 2006 coup. The military-backed Democrat government abolished it. The policy helps poor rice farmers have a secure income. In the past government funding would fall into the hands of middle men in the rice trade, who would make a deal with farmers by holding down the price. Farmers would be charged with high interest rates if they got loans from private banks or shark loans to tide them over. Before Thai Rak Thai, previous governments had no idea at all how to plan production in agriculture sectors in a way that would benefit and provide security to farmers. They left this business in the hands of giant agribusiness companies such as CP, who control the agricultural market.

The Pua Thai government has tried to fix the problem by giving the funding directly to farmers. Pua Thai has improved on the Thai Rak Thai scheme by taking over the role of the middle men. They buy rice directly from farmers and pay in cash. The policy has created huge anger among the middle men. No farmer wanted to sell their rice to the middle men any more. However, the project is far from flawless because the big land owners can access large sums of government funding because they can grow more rice then small farmers. However Pua Thai has been discussing putting an upper limit on the subsidy.

Another problem is that Pua Thai’s calculations of the costs of the programme were based on “market forces” pushing up the price of rice, but the global recession and China’s economic slow-down has affected all agricultural products such as rice, sugar and rubber, pushing down prices.

The extreme neo-liberal Thai Development Research Institute and Sutep’s Democrats have fiercely criticised Pua Thai for spending “too much money” to support farmers. But they never criticise the huge military budget.

Photo credit from (Mthai web)

Should 5% hold the country to ransom?

Numnual  Yapparat

In the February 2014 election, 44.7 million people were eligible to vote. On the day, 20.4 million cast their vote. Kasian Tejapira who is a lecturer at Thammasat University has estimated that there were about 12 million people who could not vote because Sutep’s mob were blocking polling stations and using violence to disrupt the election. It means that there were approximately 32 million in total who wanted to vote. This compares to 35 million people who voted in 2011.

It is absolutely clear that majority of Thai people disagree with Sutep’s demands to scrap the elections. Yet Sutep and the Democrats continue to lie that the majority are against the elections.

If we analyse the 20.4 million votes that were cast on 2nd February, there were 3.4 million “No Votes”. This is where the electorate can place a cross in a special “no vote” box. Another 2.5 million ballot papers were “spoilt ballots”. These could be mistakes or protest votes. If we generously assume that most of these spoilt papers were in fact no votes, it means that 14.5 million people voted for parties which were participating. Remember that the Democrats boycotted the election. The likelihood  is that the majority voted for Yingluk’s Pua Thai Party, but we do not know the exact results yet. What about Sutep’s supporters? People who wanted to pursue Sutep’s solution made up only 5 million. They are a clear minority in the country.

What is happening now? The result of the vote has been distorted especially by academics and elite figures those who are on Sutep’s side. The plain facts above show us that the majority of people in Thailand support the election and want democracy. They do not want the election rules to be fixed in favour of the Democrat Party before holding elections. But no doubt they are in favour of further political reforms to improve democracy. Should 5% hold the country to ransom and seek to destroy Thailand’s democratic space?

Photo credit: from google

 

Who is this buffoon Pridiyatorn?

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Aristocratic right-wing economist, Pridiyatorn Devakul, has called for Yingluk to resign so that Thailand can have a “neutral Prime Minister”.

Suteps’ mobs have used violence to disrupt the election, yet most of the population wanted to vote and a majority support Pua Thai. The delay in completing the election is a golden opportunity for the vultures to come out and help along the death of Thai democracy.

To get a so-called “neutral” Prime Minister, a complete imbecile would have to be appointed; someone without a single political thought in their head. This is just more of the same anti-democratic rubbish that Sutep has been demanding. Pridiyatorn wants an appointed conservative Prime Minister, totally out of tune with the demands of the electorate.

Who is Pridiyatorn Devakul?

After the 2006 military coup, the new junta appointed cabinet was stuffed full of neo-liberals. The Finance Minister, Pridiyatorn Devakul, was a man who believed in “neo-liberal fiscal discipline”. He was opposed to “too much spending” on public health. After the coup the Budget Bureau cut the budget for Thai Rak Thai’s universal health care scheme by 23% while increasing military spending by 30%. Pridiyatorn also threatened to axe many good mass transit projects which could solve Bangkok’s traffic.

The junta promoted the Sufficiency Economy and Pridiyatorn explained that Sufficiency Economics meant “not too much and not too little”: in other words, getting it just right. He also explained that the Sufficiency Economy could be applied alongside free-market policies.

So Pridiyatorn is a long standing supporter of authoritarian governments with extreme free-market policies.

Thai politics