Thailand – rebellion of the rich
In the last edition of Lalkar we reported on the latest incarnation of a wealthy people’s rising, this time in Thailand, whose leaders, if they were honest, would proclaim to the world; “we are the one percent and we want more!” Although Thailand is a bourgeois democracy, with all the corruption and dishonesty that this entails, even this is too much for many of the bourgeois elite who have brought thousands onto the streets of Bangkok to challenge the right of Thailand’s 48 million registered electors to choose a government, even from among the various rightist parties that are on offer, and instead are calling for a ‘selected’ (by who?) Council of the (wealthy) People to run the county’s affairs. This ‘opposition’, centred around the Democratic Party who boycotted the election, is citing the government’s intention on 1 November 2013 to give amnesty re corruption crimes committed after the 2006 military coup to the former Prime Minister (who was ousted in that coup), Thaksin Shinawatra. These were widely acknowledged as trumped up charges that led to him fleeing the country to live abroad in Dubai in voluntary exile. His Party, Pheu Thai, still won the election following that coup and the current Prime Minister, also from Pheu Thai, is his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. This fact is now being used by the opposition to claim that self-interest and greed are the motivators for the Pheu Thai party but the timing of the Democrat Party led protests are not only inspired by the proposed clearing of a political enemy of false charges, current investigations which could bring very real charges against Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the current demonstrations, and Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former army-installed Democrat prime minister, over the killings of pro-Thaksin protesters in 2010 are thought to be as important, if not more so, to the leaders of this wealthy rabble on the streets.
Since Thailand was established as ‘democratic’ 81 years ago, giving up rule by an absolute monarchy, it has seen 18 coups. It has been cited often by the Western press as a great example of an electoral system, who praise the Thai organisation of elections and ‘transparent’ counting of ballots and put it forward as a model for ‘less developed’ neighbouring countries!
In the run-up to elections, the 1% oppositionists took guns and other weapons onto the streets in their demonstrations for the purpose of attacking the police so that they could claim that they were being oppressed, a tactic that has worked well for them as the Western media has dutifully followed their imperialist masters and reported the protesters as both peaceful and unarmed, just as they did in Libya and Syria. The ‘protesters’ also stormed police headquarters and the Prime Minister’s office to force police reaction, a tactic being used in by the reactionary forces in Venezuela and the Ukraine also. In an unusually candid remark by a senior researcher on Thailand for the pro imperialist ‘Human Rights Watch’, it was admitted that armed people within the protest camp fired a military grade M-79 grenade launcher at police trying to clear the streets while others claimed that the ‘peaceful protesters’ were firing automatic weapons and throwing smoke and tear-gas grenades.
Having stopped the registration of many candidates in the affluent area in the South of the country, the Democratic Party thugs ran riot all over Bangkok during the General Election on Sunday 02 February attacking those who brought ballot boxes to polling stations and using trucks and captured buses in attempts to block polling stations, also using violence to deter voters. These representatives of the 1% forced the closure of just less than 500 of Bangkok’s 6,600 polling stations, while no election took place in opposition southern heartlands because no candidates had been registered owing to extreme intimidation at the time of registration.
Verapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-trained lawyer and political commentator, made the observation that he believed that the opposition would call for the election to be annulled on the ground that it was not free and fair because of the many disruptions. He called this argument “absurd” because it was “the opposition forces themselves who were responsible for the problems that plagued voting.”
The Thai elite are missing the days of absolute monarchy when they could also wield absolute power over the poor and to free themselves of the minor irritation of having to take some notice of the wishes/needs of the poor that comes with bourgeois democracy. They have shed the lives of many people, civilians and police but the election went smoothly in northern, central and eastern regions. Voting was successfully carried out in nearly 90 percent of the country’s 375 electoral districts; the disruptions were limited to Bangkok and the south. These few places will still have to vote but the ‘Democratic’ Party will now be using all kinds of legal manoeuvres to slow down, discredit or reverse the will of the vast majority.
Not all of the elite are on board with the Democratic Party thugs, though, and senior military officers turning up at polling stations to vote gave a message to the 1%: no coup this time! Other well-to-do people desperately wanted to cast their votes and were angered by the tactics of the few. Furious Bangkok residents filed complaints at police stations while protesters nearby, many of them looking threatening with military-style clothing and covered faces, blocked access to roads near polling places. “This is the dark ages,” said Wantanee Suthachiva, a businesswoman who was turned away from her polling station. Nattakorn Devakula, a prominent commentator and one of a handful of Thai aristocrats who have spoken against the protest movement, exclaimed. “Those orchestrating this entire sham of a putsch will see their comeuppance in the end and it will be hell“. Another, Pookij Thavornchaichoke, a bank head office manager who said he had travelled almost 600km from the northern city of Chiang Mai, only to find his local polling station dismantled, said: “The demonstrators say they love the country – but they are holding Thailand hostage.”
One of the sillier claims that these thugs have made about the Pheu Thai government is that they buy elections. This is done by giving healthcare and low interest loans to poor peasant famers all the time. This echoes similar claims that the wealthy in Venezuela made about Chavez and is just as ridiculous. Pouring unlimited wealth down the throats of the already wealthy is fine but the slightest assistance to the poor is a bribe it seems!
In the North and North East area, which is heavily populated by poor peasants and workers there was only scorn for the rich as the masses turned out to vote for Pheu Thai. The rich in trying to go backwards may just end up pushing the poor forwards, we will continue to watch Thailand with interest.