Constitutional Courts dissolved the country’s democratically
elected governing party for the second time Tuesday, forcing the
government to resign. This follows the refusal of the Armed Forces
and the Police to follow government instructions to clear the two
international airports blocked by armed People’s Alliance for
The royalist alliance
against the government is made up of the fascist PAD, the military,
the police, the judiciary, the mainstream media, the "Democrat
Party," most middle class academics and The Queen. They are all
behind this judicial coup. A leading Democrat Party MP is one of the
leaders of the illegal blockade of Bangkok’s two airports.
The Yellow-shirted PAD
have armed guards which have repeatedly shot at opponents. They
constantly use violence and now demand "joint patrols" with
the police. The PAD has constantly broken the law, and yet they are
untouchable. On the rare occasion when PAD leaders are forced to
attend court, they are given bail and allowed to go back and commit
the same crimes over and over again.
The majority of the
Thai population, who are poor, face a double whammy. First, the elite
royalists are doing everything possible to take away their basic
democratic rights. Secondly, mass job losses are occurring among
workers in the tourist industry as a result of the airport blockade.
Jobs in agriculture and electronics are also affected and of course
we are faced with the serious world economic crisis. The elites do
not care if the Thai economy is trashed and Thailand returns to a
poor third world nation. In such nations the elites continue to live
the same lives as the rich in the developed world. The PAD protestors
are middle-class extremists who do not have to go to work, hence
their prolonged protests.
We are constantly told
by the conservatives that the poor are too stupid to deserve the
right to vote. The army staged a coup in 2006 and rewrote the
constitution in order to reduce the democratic space and also to
absolve themselves of any wrongdoing. The electorate have repeatedly
voted in overwhelming numbers for the government party, whether it be
Thai Rak Thai, which brought the former Prime Minister, Thaksin
Shinawatra, or its successor, Peoples Power Party. Now People’s
Power politicians are moving to the new Pua Thai Party. Will a fair
election be held? Or will the elites engineer a "fix" to
make sure that their people win?
What is the root cause
of this crisis?
The root cause of this
crisis is not the corruption of the Thaksin government in the past.
It isn't about vote-buying, good governance, civil rights or the rule
of law. Politicians of all parties, including the Democrats, are
known to buy votes. The elites, whether politicians, civil servants
or the military, have a history of gross corruption. Even when they
don't break the law, they have become rich on the backs of Thai
workers and small farmers. The Democrat Party is stuffed with such
Ironically, the Thai
Rak Thai party was helping to reduce the importance of vote-buying
because it was the first party in decades to have real policies which
were beneficial to the poor. They introduced a universal health care
scheme and Keynesian village funds. People voted on the basis of such
policies. The Democrats and the conservative elites hate the alliance
between Thaksin's business party and the poor. They hate the idea
that a government was using public funds to improve the lives of the
poor. This is why the anti-government alliance is against democracy.
The PAD have suggested reducing the number of elected MPs and a
recipe to do away with the principle of "one person one vote".
So the root cause of the problem is the conservative elite's contempt
for the poor and their contempt for democracy. They are prepared to
break the law when it suits them.
What is the solution?
Business leaders and
the royalist elites are demanding an un-elected national government.
The Democrat Party leader has "volunteered" to provide the
Prime Minister! Such a national government would complete the
judicial coup for the rich. It would be a victory for the PAD and a
defeat for the electorate.
The Red Shirts, who are
organized by government politicians, are the only hope for Thai
democracy. They have now become a genuine pro-democracy mass movement
of the poor. This is what is meant by "civil society", not
the PAD fascists. Thai academia fails to grasp this basic fact. But
the Red Shirts are not a pure force. Many have illusions about
ex-Prime Minister Thaksin. They overlook his gross abuse of human
rights in the south and the war on drugs, in which hundreds of people
were shot as drug dealers without arrest, trial or proof. But these
human rights issues are also totally ignored by the PAD and their
three-year crisis, the majority of the Thai NGO movement (especially
the NGO-Coordinating Committee) has failed to support democracy. Many
welcomed the 2006 military coup. Many supported the military
constitution. Now they are either silent or are echoing the demands
of the army chief, who said last week that the government should
At no point have they
attempted to build a pro-democracy social movement. Many believe that
the poor are "uneducated and lack enough information to vote".
The honorable examples are the Midnight University in Chiang-Mai,
some sections of the labour movement, groups of new generation NGO
activists and Turn Left.
The economic crisis
Millions of jobs are
being destroyed by the world economic crisis and the unrest in Thai
society. People are being driven back into poverty. Yet the Democrat
Party, the military, the conservative elites and the mainstream NGO
movement do not have a clue or do not care one jot about the
necessary policies to defend the living standards of the poor. They
chant about the King's Sufficiency Economy and the need for fiscal
discipline. In other words, the poor must trim their spending and
learn to live with their poverty while the rich continue to live in
We desperately need
massive government spending on infrastructure, job protection and a
serious expansion of welfare. The value-added tax should be reduced
or abolished and higher direct taxes should be levied on all the rich
elites without exception. The bloated military budget should be cut.
Wages should be raised among workers. Poor farmers should be
protected. This will only happen in a climate of genuine democracy.
This is why we must oppose this second "coup for the rich".
Giles Ji Ungpakorn is
an associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science,
Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. He regularly comments on Thai