Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thailand's Red Shirts Exploit Memory of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew

Lee's misplaced admiration for Thaksin Shinawatra will now forever haunt his memory in Thailand. 

March 24, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - ATN) - Singapore is not a democracy and the family who rules it, the Lees, are not democrats. In fact, the Lee family is essentially a modern day monarchy in all but name, complete with Le Kuan Yew's son, Lee Hsien Loong, succeeding him and having sat in power for over a decade as Prime Minister of Singapore.

In reality, that is how all nations are run - by institutions, powerful families, corporate-financier monopolies, or a combination of the three - and through varying degrees of success, under the thin veneer of  representative governance through "elections" and "democracy."

Rarely are these powerful special interests competent enough and qualified for the power and influence they hold, and even rarer still are they able to strike a viable social contract with the people. When they do, a balance of power is established and peace, stability, and prosperity ensue.

The Lees have, for now, accomplished this rare balance in Singapore and thus why Lee's recent passing has been the subject of mixed feelings leaning toward the more positive.

For Thailand's "red shirts," supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and self-proclaimed champions of "democracy," they have decided to seize upon Lee Kuan Yew's recent death, and his kind words afforded to Thaksin Shinawatra in the past, to vindicate their own political movement - no matter how hypocritical or ironic it may be.

Lee's Praise of Thaksin Shinawatra

Lee Kuan Yew in his book, "One Man's View of the World," praised Thaksin Shinawatra for "upsetting the apple cart" of Thailand's political status quo.

He admits Thaksin did this by exploiting the rural poor through populist policies - handouts essentially - and handouts Lee himself admitted were unsustainable in the long-term. Lee claimed Thaksin's actions would ultimately undermine Thailand's revered ancient institutions as well as the military, and predicted that the number of red shirts would continue to "outnumber" their opponents.

Lee believed this new course Shinawatra set Thailand on would narrow the income gap across the country and "drive domestic consumption." He assumed that over time, Shinawatra's brand of politics would prevail - but apparently he never foresaw the events of 2013-2014 unfolding as they did.

Lee's book was published in 2013, before the 2013-2014 street protests erupted and before the collapse and cataclysmic fallout of Shinawatra's failed populist "rice scheme" that left over a million rice farmers unpaid for rice already collected for over half a year. While Lee claimed Thaksin helped include "peasants of the north and northeast" to share in the country's economic growth, in reality, Thaksin, through his nepotism-appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra, drove a stake through the heart of their very livelihood.

Image: Rice farmers once the foundation of Shinawatra's political machine, rebelled against his proxy government headed by his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Disastrous, unsustainable populist policies collapsed leaving over a million farmers unpaid for over half a year. Lee severely overestimated the staying power of Thaksin Shinawatra, a misjudgment that he apparently never recanted.  

These "peasants" would end up blocking roads across the "north and northeast" in protest of Shinawatra's proxy government and many would travel to Bangkok to join street protests aimed at ousting Shinawatra's sister from office.

The military that Lee predicted would lose prominence in Thaksin Shinawatra's Thailand, would ultimately be the only force capable of paying back the farmers and instituting more sustainable policies to lift them out of poverty. So unraveled has Thaksin Shinawatra's charade become, one wonders if Lee would still so enthusiastically embrace the fellow billionaire autocrat, if he were to be interviewed today. For Thailand's red shirts, it is just as well that Lee has recently passed away and is unable to recant in retrospect his obviously misplaced praise and optimism.

Pro-Democracy Movement Seeks Seal of Approval of Undemocratic Autocrat 

Thailand's red shirts pose as the vanguard for "democracy." They claim that only through free and fair elections and the rule of law can a nation be run. Anything less is "dictatorship." It is strange then that they use the words of an autocrat to vindicate not their cause of "democracy," but of their movement's leader, Thaksin Shianwatra, who is also anything but a democrat.

Thaksin Shinawatra had two basic principles in common with Lee Kuan Yew. He was undemocratic and a nepotist. While like Lee, Shinawatra used elections as a veneer for legitimacy, unlike Lee, Shinawatra was not a competent technocrat, but rather a mere brute.

Lee himself in his book noted Thaksin Shinawatra's human rights abuses - though he attempted to downplay them. Shinawatra mass murdered nearly 3,000 people in 90 days in 2003. Another 85 would be mass murdered in a single day the following year while attempting to put down a protest in Thailand's deep south. According to Amnesty International, 18 human rights defenders were either assassinated or disappeared during his first term in office.

After his ouster in 2006, he would twice attempt to trigger armed insurrection in 2009 and again in 2010, using heavily armed militants at the cost of nearly 100 lives. His red shirts, while bleating about democracy in front of international NGOs and press, have been used to carry out a campaign of violent political intimidation that has also cost many their lives.

It is ironic that the red shirts today, use the words of an autocrat to vindicate not their alleged cause of "democracy," but to instead simply prop up their true cause, the personality cult of Thaksin Shinawatra. From one autocrat to another, Lee praised Shinawatra in his 2013 book, perhaps the greatest proof yet that Shinawatra and his followers have nothing to do at all with democracy, and are instead simply another clique of special interests trying to rise to political primacy.

Lee, however, by associating himself with the Shinawatra's - having even conducted business with Thaksin Shinawatra in a blatant case of abuse of power and corruption regarding the sale of Shin Corporation to Singapore's Temasek Holdings - has opened the door for Thailand's red shirts to shamelessly exploit his memory.

Because Lee decided to downplay Shinawatra's abuses, including crimes against humanity, the red shirts are here to remind the world in his passing of this enduring blemish upon his legacy.

For the world, here is yet another example of the hypocrisy of Thailand's "pro-democracy" red shirts. It is another demonstration of how democracy is but a catch-phrase they hide their true agenda behind - an agenda of establishing their own hereditary dictatorship, like the Lees have in Singapore, but minus any semblance of competency, technocratic finesse, or regard for the nation's best interests balanced sensibly against their own self-serving agenda.

One is either for democracy or against it. Picking and choosing who is a "dictator" and who lends credibility to your cause  and therefore isn't regardless of their overt autocracy, makes one a champion of hypocrisy, not of the people. Thailand's red shirts have once again proven what they are champions of.