User Preferences

  • Language - en | ga
  • text size >>
  • make this your indymedia front page make this your indymedia front page

Blog Feeds

forward

Dublin Opinion
Life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting

offsite link Irish Labour Movement 1889-1924: Lecture Six - Syndicalism in Ireland 09:02 Fri Oct 24, 2014

offsite link Global Finance, Money & Power: Lecture Seven - Bonds and Money Markets 08:26 Thu Oct 23, 2014

offsite link Irish Labour movement 1889-1924: Lecture Five - 1913 Lockout 09:47 Fri Oct 17, 2014

offsite link Global Finance, Money and Power: Lecture Six - Tax Havens 07:09 Thu Oct 16, 2014

offsite link Irish Labour Movement 1889-1924: Tutorial - Erin?s hope & Class in Ireland 13:44 Mon Oct 13, 2014

Dublin Opinion >>

Irish Left Review
Joined up thinking for the Irish Left

offsite link That Day has Come Thu Oct 23, 2014 10:45 | Anne Irwin

offsite link The Changing Pattern of Foreign Investment in China Wed Oct 22, 2014 13:36 | John Ross

offsite link Welcome to the New Tax Avoidance Scheme, Same as the Old Tax Avoidance Scheme Mon Oct 20, 2014 16:26 | Michael Taft

offsite link Revealed: EU science chief promised to be ?flexible? towards Israel?s war crimes Thu Oct 16, 2014 15:21 | David Cronin

offsite link Austerity is Over? Now Back to the Real World Wed Oct 15, 2014 17:21 | Michael Taft

Irish Left Review >>

Human Rights in Ireland
www.humanrights.ie

offsite link The Extraordinary Synod in Rome. Will it bring extraordinary times? Wed Oct 22, 2014 07:09 | GuestPost

offsite link A new Constitutional Settlement for Northern Ireland: Queries from International Law Mon Oct 20, 2014 10:27 | Aoife O'Donoghue

offsite link Why Budget 2015 must be that last of its kind Fri Oct 17, 2014 08:36 | Liam Thornton

offsite link Socio-Economic Rights & Budget Analysis: Some Notes on Available Resources, ?Progressivity? and Non... Thu Oct 16, 2014 11:55 | Liam Thornton

offsite link Legal pathways to reproductive justice and abortion rights #repealthe8th Mon Oct 13, 2014 15:00 | GuestPost

Human Rights in Ireland >>

NAMA Wine Lake

offsite link Farewell from NWL Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Happy 70th Birthday, Michael Sun May 19, 2013 14:00 | namawinelake

offsite link Of the Week? Sat May 18, 2013 00:02 | namawinelake

offsite link Noonan denies IBRC legal fees loan approval to Paddy McKillen was in breach of E... Fri May 17, 2013 14:23 | namawinelake

offsite link Gayle Killilea Dunne asks to be added as notice party in Sean Dunne?s bankruptcy Fri May 17, 2013 12:30 | namawinelake

NAMA Wine Lake >>

Class War: Thailand’s Military Coup

category international | rights and freedoms | opinion/analysis author Friday June 13, 2014 10:35author by Walden Bello Report this post to the editors

Outnumbered by the country’s rural voters, Thailand’s once vibrantly democratic urban middle class has embraced an elitist, anti-democratic agenda

2014thaianticoup.jpg

After declaring martial law on May 20, the Thai military announced a full-fledged coup two days later. The putsch followed nearly eight months of massive street protests against the ruling Pheu Thai government identified with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The power grab by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha came two weeks after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, was ousted as caretaker prime minister by the country’s Constitutional Court for “abuse of power” on May 7.

The Thai military portrayed its seizure of power as an effort to impose order after two rounds of talks between the country’s rival factions failed to produce a compromise that would provide Thailand with a functioning government.

Deftly Managed Script

The military’s narrative produced few takers. Indeed, many analysts saw the military’s move as a coup de grace to Thailand’s elected government, following what they saw as the judicial coup of May 7.

It is indeed difficult not to see the putsch as the final step in a script deftly managed by the conservative “royalist” establishment to thwart the right to govern of a populist political bloc that has won every election since 2001. Utilizing anti-corruption discourse to inflame the middle class into civil protest, the key forces in the anti-government coalition have, from the start, aimed to create the kind of instability that would provoke the military to step in and provide the muscle for a new political order.

Using what analyst Marc Saxer calls “middle class rage” as the battering ram, these elite elements forced the resignation of the Yingluck government in December; disrupted elections in February, thus providing the justification for the conservative Constitutional Court to nullify them; and instigated that same court’s decision to oust Yingluck as caretaker prime minister May 7 on flimsy charges of “abuse of power.” Civil protest was orchestrated with judicial initiatives to pave the way for a military takeover.

The military says that it will set up a “reform council” and a “national assembly” that will lay the institutional basis of a new government. This plan sounds very much like the plan announced in late November by the protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, which would place the country for a year under an unelected, unaccountable reform panel.

The military’s move has largely elicited the approval of Suthep’s base of middle-class supporters. Indeed, it has been middle-class support that has provided cover for the calculated moves of the political elites. Many of those that provided the backbone of the street protests now anticipate the drafting of an elitist new order that will institutionalize political inequality in favor of Bangkok and the country’s urban middle class.

The Thai Middle Class: From Paragons to Enemies of Democracy

The sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset once celebrated the middle class as paragons of democracy. But in recent years, middle-class Thais have transmogrified into supporters of an elitist, frankly antidemocratic agenda. Today’s middle class is no longer the pro-democracy middle class that overthrew the dictatorship of Gen. Suchinda Krapayoon in 1992. What happened?

Worth quoting in full is an insightful analysis of this transformation provided by Marc Saxer:

“The Bangkok middle class called for democratization and specifically the liberalization of the state with the political rights to protect themselves from the abuse of power by the elites. However, once democracy was institutionalized, they found themselves to be the structural minority. Mobilized by clever political entrepreneurs, it was now the periphery who handily won every election. Ignorant of the rise of a rural middle class demanding full participation in social and political life, the middle class in the center interpreted demands for equal rights and public goods as ‘the poor getting greedy’… [M]ajority rule was equated with unsustainable welfare expenses, which would eventually lead to bankruptcy.”

From the perspective of the middle class, Saxer continues, majority rule

“overlooks the political basis of the social contract: a social compromise between all stakeholders. Never has any social contract been signed which obligates the middle class to foot the tax bill, in exchange for quality public services, political stability and social peace. This is why middle classes feel like they are ‘being robbed’ by corrupt politicians, who use their tax revenues to ‘buy votes’ from the ‘greedy poor.’ Or, in a more subtle language, the ‘uneducated rural masses are easy prey for politicians who promise them everything in an effort to get a hold of power.’”

Thus, Saxer concludes, from the viewpoint of the urban middle class,

“policies delivering to local constituencies are nothing but ‘populism,’ or another form of ‘vote buying’ by power hungry politicians. The Thai Constitutional Court, in a seminal ruling, thus equated the very principle of elections with corruption. Consequently, time and again, the ‘yellow’ alliance of feudal elites along with the Bangkok middle class called for the disenfranchisement of the ‘uneducated poor,’ or even more bluntly the suspension of electoral democracy.”

Impossible Dream

However, the elite middle-class alliance is deceiving itself if it thinks the adoption of a constitution institutionalizing minority rule will be possible. For Thailand is no longer the Thailand of 20 years ago, where political conflicts were still largely conflicts among elites, with the vast lower classes being either onlookers or passive followers of warring elite factions.

What is now the driving force of Thai politics is class conflict with Thai characteristics, to borrow from Mao. The central figure that has transformed the Thai political landscape is the exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, a charismatic, if corrupt, billionaire who managed through a combination of populism, patronage, and the skillful deployment of cash to create a massive electoral majority.

While for Thaksin the aim of this coalition might be the cornering or monopolization of elite power, for the social sectors he has mobilized, the goal is the redistribution of wealth and power from the elites to the masses and—equally important—extracting respect for people that had been scorned as “country bumpkins” or “buffaloes.” However much Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” movement may be derided as a coalition between corrupt politicians and the “greedy poor,” it has become the vehicle for the acquisition of full citizenship rights by Thailand’s marginalized classes.

The elite-middle class alliance is dreaming if it thinks that the red shirts will stand aside and allow them to dictate the terms of surrender, much less institutionalize these in a new constitution. But neither do the red shirts at present possess the necessary coercive power to alter the political balance in the short and medium term. It is now their turn to wage civil resistance.

Since the coup, about 150 people have been reported detained—including Pravit Rojanaphruk, a prominent reporter for Thailand’s Nation newspaper known for his criticism of the anti-government protest movement that precipitated the military’s intervention.

What now seems likely is that, with violent and nonviolent civil protest by the red shirts, Thailand will experience a prolonged and bitter descent into virtual civil war, with the Pheu Thai regional strongholds—the North, Northeast, and parts of the central region of the country—becoming increasingly ungovernable from imperial Bangkok. It is a tragic denouement to which an anti-democratic opposition disdaining all political compromise has plunged this once promising Southeast Asian nation.

Walden Bello, a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, was the principal author of “A Siamese Tragedy: Development and Disintegration in Modern Thailand” (London: Zed Press, 1998).

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Walden-Bello/22844637091

2014thailandnocoupthaijuntaout.jpg

author by punterpublication date Sat Jun 14, 2014 14:54Report this post to the editors

It looks like a colour revolution but with a difference. It would have been interesting to hear what are the wider strategic forces behind this coup.

author by fredpublication date Sat Jun 14, 2014 15:57Report this post to the editors

Tony Cartalucci writes fairly regularly on Thailand. He is very clued in about colour revolutions etc
see here for a few of his articles on Thailand:

http://landdestroyer.blogspot.ie/search/label/Thailand

author by Billy Beachcomberpublication date Sat Jun 14, 2014 23:48Report this post to the editors

When I read about coups in Africa, Asia or Latin America I wonder if there is anything practical I can do? These are parts of the world I don't generally think about or have any involvement in. It's like mentioning the mythical Timbuctoo, a place name that has come to symbolize remote irrelevance to most folks.

In the case of Thailand of course a lot of Irish holidaymakers will have tanned their pale skins on the beaches of Phuket and enjoyed late nights eating seafood and dancing in 'paradise' hotel restaurants. Some male sex tourists will have exploited the vulnerable underaged Thai 'service workers' who have been sold by impoverished parents into degrading careers plied along the back streets of Bangkok.

So there is at least one thing we can do in Ireland - raise awareness of the undemocratic coup, the sex industry that degrades children and the slimy male customers whose foreign currency makes it possible. Encourage Irish tourists to avoid Thailand until democracy is restored.

 
© 2001-2014 Independent Media Centre Ireland. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by Independent Media Centre Ireland. Disclaimer | Privacy