The global community should support those battling extremism in Thailand

It’s time for the global community of democrats - whether on the left or the right - to stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling extremism in Thailand.

Andrew Spooner is a London-based blogger who writes regularly on Thai politics

Mention Thailand and most people will think of beaches, backpackers, Buddhism and its famous tourism industry. But you can bet as British tourists pack their sun-cream and beach-towels for a Winter holiday they won’t be thinking of one particular ‘F’ word – fascism.

Yet, last week, amidst the worst violence Thailand has witnessed in several years, the word ‘fascism‘ was uttered by a leading group of progressive Thai thinkers and academics.

In the shadow of protests led by Suthep Thuagsuban, a former ‘Democrat’ party deputy prime minister who is tainted not only with highly credible claims of corruption dating back to the 1990s, but who is also awaiting to be indicted for the murder of pro-democracy protesters in 2010, these thinkers/academics had come together to form the Alliance For the Defence of Democracy (AFDD).

Suthep, who resigned from the Democrat Party only last month, is still closely allied to his former boss and former PM, the present Democrat Party leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva (Abhisit, who is also a British citizen and Old Etonian, is a close friend of London Mayor, Boris Johnson), who was himself indicted for the 2010 murders only last week.

It is quite easy to see how the AFDD came to use the ‘F’ word. Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest movement is made up of senior Democrat Party figures, Thai aristocrats, the super-rich and Bangkok’s middle classes all of whom are desperate to cling onto the status and power they’ve enjoyed for so long.

The PDRC’s avowed programme has morphed from preventing a controversial amnesty bill – the bill was dropped in mid-November – through to its present aim of ‘stopping’ the February 2014 general election called by the 2011 general election-landslide-winning Thai PM, Yingluck Shinawtra.

Instead the PDRC is seeking to impose a ‘People’s Council‘ – a wholly appointed body drawn from Thailand’s elite – on the country in order to enact what the PDRC calls ‘reforms’. These reforms include, among various vague proposals to ‘stop corruption’, forbidding what the PDRC calls Yingluck’s ‘populist policies’ or, more accurately, what The Economist calls good old-fashioned Keynesian economics‘.

In an article in the Bangkok Post entitled ‘Academics brand people’s council ‘fascism‘, the AFDD were damning in their analysis of the PDRC. The Post quoted Piyabut Saengkanokkul, an AFDD member, who said that

“The idea of setting up a people’s council comprising members of various professions was an idea inherited from fascist corporatism, as seen in Italy during the period of Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship.” 

You don’t have to delve too deep to see who is backing the PDRC’s “fascism”. In fact, many Thai aristocrats and super-wealthy openly boast of their disdain for democracy, accompanying this derision with sneering contempt for ordinary Thai voters.

A recent Reuters article examined the Thai aristos and billionaires who have taken a full and active part in the PDRC protests. Reuters’ damning expose partly focuses on one Chitpas Bhirombhakdi an “heiress to a $2.6 billion family fortune” and a Democrat Party spokesperson who has been in the forefront of the protests. Recently Chitpas was quoted in another newspaper stating that ordinary and poor Thais don’t have a “true understanding of democracy…especially in the rural areas”.

Of course Chitpas’ Democrat Party – the absolute bastion of the Thai establishment – have never won a parliamentary majority with their last semblance of success coming over twenty years ago when they managed to become the largest party in the Thai parliament with 21 per cent of the vote.

Since then Abhisit seized power in what was widely termed a ‘judicial coup‘ in 2008 – an act which later led to huge pro-democracy protests in 2010 and the brutal slaughter of almost 100 Thai civilians of whose murder he know stands charged – which was followed by PM Yingluck’s huge landslide election victory in 2011.

And now, unable to win an election, this once seemingly ‘liberal’ party – it’s simply shameful that the UK Liberal Democrats are allied and connected directly to the Thai Democrat Party via the Liberal International – have now veered towards political extremism.

Once the darlings of Bangkok’s notoriously tepid international media corps, articles are now appearing in the global media exposing the Abhisit-led ‘Democrats’ as the anti-democracy activists they’ve become. Time magazine ran a searing article entitled ‘Thailand’s Democrat Party Is Hilariously Misnamed‘, whilst Associated Press speared Abhisit’s party with this single line – ‘The enemy of the Democrat Party? It’s democracy‘.

So what next? Suthep has now taken to threatening PM Yingluck’s 11year old son from the protest stage whilst his acolytes have said they will lead a mob to ‘storm’ the US Embassy. The PDRC, who have vowed to stop the February 2014 general election, still rely on the support of Abhisit’s Democrats who look increasingly likely to boycott the elections. And, waiting in the wings, is the notoriously coup-happy Thai Army.

The experienced and widely-published Bangkok-based German photojournalist, Nick Nostitz, who has been covering Thailand’s political upheavals for the last decade – he was recently singled out for physical attack by the PDRC and then later produced an exceptional report on PDRC attacks on a pro-democracy Red Shirt rally – told me this about possible future Thai Army involvement.

“After the PDRC met the top brass on Saturday, it looks that presently the military still refuses to intervene any further than offering itself as a facilitator for possible negotiations. However, the Thai military is notoriously secretive in their decision making processes, next week the configuration could completely change again.”

Thailand stands at crossroads – the potential for civil war is now obvious and fascism is rearing its ugly head. It’s time for the global community of democrats – whether on the left or the right – to stand shoulder to shoulder with those battling extremism in Thailand.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

27 Responses to “The global community should support those battling extremism in Thailand”

  1. Haleema Mini

    I am Thai and you are SO wrong, like a lot of Western journalists. Thaksin (current Thai PM’s brother) is the one calling all the shots and he and his cronies are some of the richest people in Thailand. You are very uninformed to think that elections in Thailand mean anything more than selling votes and capitulating to Thaksin’s paid thugs. Get some facts, dude!

  2. promsop

    Since my opinion as a foreigner will not seem sufficiently informed to you, I will give you my husband’s opinion: he is thai, so does it give it any more credit than mine? Oh no! Wait! My husband is indeed Thai but originally coming from rural areas of the Northeast of Thailand. So in your eyes that makes him a buffalo unable to think, easily paid off, greedy, and probably not worth listening to? Too bad he belongs, as I do as a farang, to the big bunch of “unable to think” kind of person, is it? Would it help if I told you that he has read quite a lot of political essays, literature, traveled a lot and so on? Studied in depth Thai history (and not only out of Thai censured school history books)?
    Anyway, if you are still reading me right now (which I doubt), I will give you his enlightened rural-Thai opinion. Yes Thaksin is corrupted. So are almost all politics in Thailand (the glorious Suthep included). Yes Phua Thai buys votes. So does the democrat party (and with some success, since the central and southern provinces display their highest election-spending, according to some report from Thammasat scholars). And in the end, none of the wrongdoing of Thaksin and co. can stand as an apology to the use of fascist and racist arguments; the arrogance towards people belonging to lower classes than oneself; the denial of democracy as a politicial system; and the denial of civil rights (the right to vote for instance); the discrimination according to one’s opinion, jail imprisonment for stating one’s mind (the lese-majeste laws that are defended by many supporters of today’s movement) and an army shooting civilians (I am thinking of 2010).
    Whether you agree with that is your own choice. But if you find it annoying, then give me better arguments than the usual:” you are not thai so understand nothing”; or “your are from a farmer community and are too stupid to stand an opinion”. Thanks in advance.

  3. BrianJonesG8ASO

    Taksin, on the run from a prison sentence, has been governing the country from Dubai via his stupid sister, who can’t even read an Autocue properly.
    The uneducated people of Isaan are his voters, but they do so for money. The corruption is manifest, Taksin hasn’t even been indicted on all counts, there was massive tax evasion and many deaths from his shoot to kill drug “suspects” idea. If he was charged with all his many offences, he could never set foot in Thailand again as his entire remaining life would be taken up defending court cases.
    The educated people of Bangkok, those who provide the wealth the Taksin supporters syphon off, have had enough, and have managed to derail the Amnesty Bill but they now want a more democratic government, and rightly too.
    Any violence at the demonstrations has been caused by paid troublemakers, as was the case with the previous Red Shirt blockade.
    Taksin is playing a dangerous game with the future prosperity and stability of a whole country, this situation is worsened as the King is not long for this world, and if he was to die any time soon, all hell would break loose.
    There is only solution I can see, and that is for Tasin to suffer a similar fate as Marvin Gaye’s father did – lead poisoning.
    Long live the King,

  4. cheekycheesy

    I am Thai and I live in the US, and for you hopefully I am qualify enough to say that we have got to look past this thing called ” thaksin regime”. What is it? lol I bet most people cant even answer it. Just an excuse to use so they can gather protesters. I do not care much about the yellow shirt, red shirt, or whatever color shirt. What I care about is Democracy in Thailand. You are misinformed about selling votes yourself. Every single political parties in Thailand sell votes. Just because you sell them votes does not mean they will vote for you. Anyone with common sense will know that. If vote buying is effective as you claim they are I am sure with the combination of all the powerful and wealthy protesters money they can buy votes then, but will it work for them? I guess they already know it wont work. In Thai politics nowadays there is no such thing as “facts”, only opinions.

  5. Simon Churchill

    So what if Thaksin was running the country from the outside? Does that matter if the majority voted for his party? Do you not understand democracy? The party with the highest votes wins, simple, or is that too simple? The majority of the people in the world want to live in free democratic countries with free speech and not be dictated to by minority groups or individuals up their own arses. My partner is a middle class political science graduate from Bangkok and she can see through the lies and smoke screens of the MOB (Yellow Shirts). She agrees about the paying for votes, it is true, all the parties do it. The people take the vote money and then vote for the party they want, not the party paying the most. The problem is most of the yellow shirts are irrespective of education, short sighted, narrow minded and easily led as they do not have the guts to allow free society where all get to be treated equally!!!!

Comments are closed.