Sunday, April 10, 2016

Thailand: The Charter "Battle"

April 11, 2016 (Op-Ed -ATN) - There are lots of reasons to protest the current government constructively, but having a realistic alternative is necessary in order to do this. Repetitively proclaiming platitudes regarding "people power" and "elections" is not a solution. Such unrealistic platitudes, in fact, will simply bring Thailand right back to where it was before the 2014 coup - with a convicted criminal running the country by proxy, mass murdering his opponents in the streets, and eviscerating the nation's culture, economy, and infrastructure through reckless scams designed to buy-off votes.  

Many are Already Protesting, and the Government is Listening...  

There have been unpopular moves telegraphed by the government with popular criticism soon following. The government's plan regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was immediately condemned across public and private sectors - and the government heeded the backlash, particularly because the backlash included a well-articulated argument about how the new policy would needlessly endanger Thailand's promising organic sector.

Another example involves government mega-projects. Ensuring the rights of villagers to have input on environmentally disruptive mega-projects was first overlooked by the government, but backlash and constructive proposals on how to include this additional oversight over large projects finally compelled the government to include it. 

There was also an unpopular land tax proposal that was vigorously opposed with the government finally heeding protests.

The real problem with ensuring the charter is a step forward for the nation is to have organized, constructive protests and counter-proposals to confront concerning policy. With concerted and constructive engagement with the government, the government has proven it is willing to listen and change direction accordingly.

Most bad policy is lobbied for by powerful special interests both within Thailand's borders and beyond them. Barring popular backlash, the government is compelled to push forward otherwise flawed policy that benefits few at the expense of the many. The only way to effectively oppose such lobbying is having the ability to cite popular awareness and viable opposition and better alternatives to such policy.

This concerted and constructive engagement would be the job of an opposition party, if Thailand actually had one.

Thailand's Missing Opposition 

But there is not a legitimate opposition party in Thailand at the moment. Thaksin Shinawatra still clearly, openly runs the Pheu Thai Party (PTP), holding a meeting just this week with the party's senior leadership via Skype while hiding abroad from a 2 year jail term and 2 arrest warrants. PTP is clearly interested only in seizing back power and eliminating its opponents which includes its political opponents, and virtually every institution in Thailand from the military, to the courts, to the monarchy.

The Democrats are doing little better. Their attempts to pander to PTP's followers is as futile as it is disruptive. It is grassroots groups pushing back against unpopular government policy, with the Democrats offering little to no help despite having the resources to make a significant difference. 

Image: Thaksin Shinawatra's "people power" was more an exercise in cynically manipulating poor and desperate people his policies helped keep poor and desperate before collapsing and leaving them absolutely destitute and literally suicidal.

US-funded, trained, and educated "journalists" and "academics" filling op-eds with idealistic platitudes about "people power" turning up in Bangkok Post and other papers 2-3 a day now, claim the charter is about taking power away from the people. Considering that for over a decade, the "people" depended on Thaksin Shinawatra's patronage network, the word "power" seems very inappropriate. The last decade has been more of a demonstration of powerless people strung along, than the people pulling the nation forward under their own power.

Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine trampled any and all who got in their way. In the end, the few policies they produced to buy-off voters ended up costing the people what little they had left, including their rice, their land, their bank accounts, and their futures. Up to and including the day before the 2014 coup, Shianwatra was literally mass murdering his opponents in the streets and openly threatened wider civil war and the division of the country into "north" and "south" attempting to even float the idea of creating a new capital in Chiang Mai.

Thankfully this was never possible, mainly because, despite platitudes of "people power," the people actually do not support Thaksin Shinawatra and PTP. The majority did not vote for PTP, nor the Democrats. It appears the majority, very intelligently, have no faith in the system in general.

Real "Opposition" Proposes, Not Simply Opposes

Real people power in Thailand appears to be the apolitical groups that have stopped GMO legislation, stalled unjust property tax forcing regular people to basically "rent" their land from the government, and include provisions to bring villagers into the process of laying out mega-projects.

This real people power is ignored by Thaksin Shinawatra, his PTP, the Democrats, and the myriad of US-funded faux-nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) - because they are real people, interested genuinely in the future of Thailand, while the others are interested only in their short-term ambitions, even at the cost of their own long-term self-preservation. If any of these political parties or NGOs do by chance get involved in real issues, it is simply to parasitically attach themselves and benefit from the genuine efforts of honest people.   

Image: The coup is not ideal, but going back to a nation run by convicted criminals and mass murderers is not an option. Those opposing the government but providing no alternative besides placing Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine back in power are not genuinely interested in Thailand's future, and therefore have no say in it. In an ideal world, those aiding and abetting Thaksin Shinawatra now, should be convicted of criminal conspiracy and sentenced to prison accordingly. 

It is ironic that an un-elected military-led government is more responsive to these grassroots movements than previous, "elected" governments. Then again, PTP in particular, saw an election as the ultimate rubber stamp of impunity, citing "people power" as justification for everything up to and including mass murder and terrorism.

The business of running a nation is complicated. There are immense special interests at home and abroad exerting immense pressure on the current government, who also must deal with PTP, the Democrats, and an army of faux-NGOs funded by foreign special interests. The only counterbalance to ensure Thailand moves generally in a direction reflecting the best interests of the people is for the people themselves to organize apolitically around practical solutions, not political parties, and not empty platitudes.

Grievances must be specific and enumerated. The terms "democracy" and "people power" are ambiguous and used by criminals hiding ulterior motives they surely would not openly enumerate in public. Those with an honest and constructive vision for Thailand's future can easily enumerate the details of their solutions, and are doing so on a daily basis. In many cases, the government is listening.

If you want to get involved in Thailand's political process, find these people and support them, and condemn the political opportunists of PTP, the Democrats, and faux-foreign funded NGOs.