April 25, 2010

To Maintain Kingdom of Thailand OR To Change to Republic of Thailand?

It is not easy to see any way out from the present impasse in Thailand, which has seen successive governments at the mercy of mob rule while the security forces have failed to do their duty.

Much of the international press and media has romanticized the events in Bangkok as some kind of grassroots democracy at work, in which the poor rural masses have come to Bangkok to confront the cruel ruling classes. This is utter nonsense. Thailand is being torn apart by gangs of hoodlums masquerading as democrats and pretending they are embarked on the pure quest for fresh elections. Mobs of "red shirts," proclaiming allegiance to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are in command of a glitzy hotel and shopping district close to Bangkok's main financial area.

There is big money backing the red shirts, with large numbers of demonstrators being paid 1,000 baht a day, five times the agricultural wage, and their leaders having recourse to the comforts of five-star hotels. The red shirts have also shown good planning and organization and the support of modern weaponry. Some Red leaders have said they are going to wage "war" against the government.

If it is war against the government, this is not democracy. It means that the only democracy the demonstrators will accept is theirs. A BBC correspondent in Bangkok claimed that Thaksin had "empowered the poor." Other Western commentators have painted Thaksin as some democratic hero turfed out of office by military thugs acting on behalf of Thailand's elite vested interests.

William Pesek of Bloomberg astutely noted that Thaksin's "economic policies, dubbed 'Thaksinomics,' were never more than Tammany Hall-like doling out of cash for support." Thaksin certainly had some good ideas, like providing money for poor farmers and trying to establish cheap health coverage, but they were mostly borrowed from previous leaders and spoiled by corruption and the bigger pursuit of vote-buying.

Any civilized government would find it impossible to accept what the red shirts are doing. The mobs move in convoys, randomly blocking all traffic, and storm Parliament, threatening to lynch the prime minister, then go to his house and throw excrement and threaten to kill him. When authorities move in to disperse them, they fire rocket grenades and snipers use laser guidance to pick off officers.

There is no easy way out for Thailand because almost every potential leader has been compromised. Thai politicians have long been thought to be as corrupt as those anywhere in the world. But hitherto the conservative bureaucracy and business elite could be relied upon to see that the country ran relatively smoothly, with backstop from the military if necessary and a cautionary word from King Bhumipol Adulyadej if things really got out of hand.

But when it came to the crunch, the military failed. They ousted Thaksin when he was at the United Nations in September 2006, and then showed that they lacked the imagination and intelligence to run the complex, developing country that Thailand has become. They further disgraced themselves by failing to take action against the previous royalist "yellow shirt" demonstrators even when they took over Bangkok's international airport.....

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