The elite stands ready to destroy Thailand’s hard won democratic gains

What we're witnessing in Thailand is a slowly unfolding coup d’etat, reports Andrew Spooner.

What we’re witnessing in Thailand is a slowly unfolding coup d’etat, reports Andrew Spooner

Yingluck Shinwatra

The last week in Thailand has been tumultuous. The caretaker prime minister, Yingluck Shinwatra – who won a huge electoral landslide in the 2011 elections – was removed from office by the Kingdom’s notoriously politicised Constitution Court.

The Constitution Court’s decision was based on flimsy evidence and upon an absurd premise – that Yingluck’s government transferred the previous regime’s national security advisor, Thawil Pliensri, to a different position.

Of course such transfers are common practice in a democracy. Thawil wasn’t sacked, just shuffled to the side. It should also be said that in a more normal situation a standing security advisor with clear political affiliations to the previous regime would do the honourable thing and resign once a new government took office.

Not so Thawil, whose political allegiance to Thailand’s anti-democratic PDRC movement is so explicit he was pictured recently kowtowing to a notorious army-linked ‘Buddhist’ monk, Buddha Issara, who is the leader of one of the most violent factions of the fascistic PDRC.

The international press’s condemnation of the Constitution Court’s decision has been almost universal. The Economist described the court’s decision as a “measure of quite how far Thailand has fallen”; the New York Times called it “a coup by another name”; and Foreign Policy magazine derided the court as having a “dark, sordid history”. Not that any of this helps Thailand’s beleaguered democracy much.

In the last 24 hours a convoy of Thai Army armoured personnel carriers has been spotted on the move in Bangkok and the violent and thuggish PDRC have taken to the streets again, backed, once more, by the Eton-educated and British-born, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of what Time magazine described as the “hilariously misnamed Thai Democrat Party”. As this post is being written, the PDRC – who have been ‘protected’ by Thai Army soldiers throughout almost their entire six month rally – have taken over TV stations and are trying to seize Government House in an attempt to impose an unelected and unconstitutional ‘Peoples Commission’ on Thailand.

This entire situation – wherein the politicised Constitutional Court and their allies in the PDRC work in tandem – can easily be analysed as a slowly unfolding de facto coup d’etat.

Substantive sources also claim that the Thai Army are about to make a more explicit move against what remains of Thailand’s democratic system. A former Thai cabinet minister, Jakropob Penkair, who has high-level contacts throughout Thailand, told me that “there is an ongoing attempt to stage a coup in the next few days”. He added that “the intention is to take a lead before the red-shirt pro-democracy supporters can regroup.”

Another insider, former MP and member of the Thai equivalent of their Foreign Affairs select committee, Jarupan Kuldiloke, said to me that while she felt a military coup might not happen that the Constitutional Court and the PDRC street chaos working together are “exactly the same thing”. Jarupan also said that there were “significant rumours” that a military coup might still take place even though she remained uncertain.

Such rumours and speculation are not without precedent – the Thai Army has staged 18 coups, the most recent being in 2006 which removed Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, only a few weeks before an election that he was absolutely certain to win. To add to this present background noise of military intervention, the Bangkok Post’s well-connected defence correspondent, Wassana Nanuam, published an article in the last few days in which she stated that for the military “the prospect of a coup is looking more appealing”, with one anonymous Thai Army commander stating that “Events will let us know if a coup is necessary”.

Ultimately a more explicit military coup may not come to pass in Thailand; but what is certain is that Thai democracy has suffered considerable damage. It is also clear that the vast majority of Thai voters understand democracy and use their vote, as is the case in all democracies, to the best effect they can.

Today, Saturday 10 May, over 100,000 pro-democracy Red Shirt activists gathered in a suburb of Bangkok to express their resistance to the Thai establishment’s moves to derail a fairer, more accountable society. That powerful and supposedly ‘educated’ Thais – like the cabal of well-groomed thugs in expensive suits who lead the PDRC/Democrat Party – are so ready to destroy Thailand’s hard fought for democratic gains whilst risking civil war, reveals them to be closer to nihilists than a credible political alternative.

9 Responses to “The elite stands ready to destroy Thailand’s hard won democratic gains”

  1. Miguel

    “It is also clear that the vast majority of Thai voters understand
    democracy and use their vote, as is the case in all democracies, to the
    best effect they can.”

    You clearly have no idea what’s happening on the ground in Thailand. Just typing away for your agenda from thousands of miles away. The above excerpt is complete projection and shows your foolish ignorance. Thailand is not California. And defending the Taksins in the name of democracy is not much different from defending Ferdinand Marcos’ rule.

  2. Matthew Blott

    I suggest the author of this piece is better informed than yourself – he names credible sources and uses on the record quotes. What do you know about the situation? Also, it isn’t relevant whether Yingluck Shinawatra is a good or bad prime minister, that is for the people to decide, not judges. That’s how democracy works.

  3. Andrew Spooner

    Miguel,
    I think it is best to stick to the verified facts and not unsubstantiated claims.

    Over the last 14 years Thai general elections have a good turnout with, for example, the 2011 election managing 75% – even the last one in February, despite the PDRC attacking and shooting voters had almost 50% – and of each of the last 6 elections (incl 2014) a Thaksin-linked party has won, most often by what would be described as a massive landslide victory.

    Here’s a comparison – when the UK Labour Party’s won in 1997 they secured 43.2% on a 71.3% turnout. In 2011 Yingluck won 48.4% on a 75% turnout. She had an overwhelming mandate from the Thai people for her policies, her platform and for herself.

    That she was removed in such a fashion is not a defeat for the Shinawatras. It’s a defeat for democracy.

  4. Marty Nakrai

    The really funny thing about this fiasco is that within 24 hours of the CC’s decision the OAG indited Thawil tor insurection and in effect made the CC look even less moral and ethical than the day before. In effect this shows that YL made the correct decision by removing this alleged traitor from such a sensitive position.

  5. Savath POU

    Miguel, the debate here should be centered on whether or not Thai democracy is allowed to live or it is being put to death. In my opinion, Thailand and her people are a trillion times more important than Suthep Thaugsuban and his arch enemy Thaksin Shinawatra. You’ve compared Thaksin Shinawatra to Ferdinand Marcos, it’s your view and it’s your right. For me, Suthep Thaugsuban is just a thug.

  6. robertcp

    People need to understand that the alternative to democracy is usually an unpleasant dictatorship and/or violence. This lesson is being learnt in Egypt and Ukraine.

  7. Andrew Spooner

    One of the “reforms” the anti-democratic lobby want to see is an end to “corruption”.

    Yet what they don’t seem to understand or are attempting to hide is that the form of governance they are espousing – unelected and unaccountable – is without any doubt going to increase corruption.

  8. Steve

    sorry but your comment is pure rubbish..Lived here for 15 years and Mr. Spooner is far closer to the truth than you believe

  9. Tod

    If the anti-democrats were really worried about corruption Suthep would be one of the first to be kicked out.

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