Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thailand: Protests Neither a "Class Divide" Nor "Anti-Democratic"

Protesters are fighting against a loud, violent, and well connected minority led by Thaksin Shinawatra and backed by Wall Street. 

January 14, 2014 (ATN) - Even at face value, Eric Sommer's (under the pen name David Marx) op-ed on Russia's RT is full of factual errors that call into question both his premise and his conclusion. The opinion piece titled, "Thailand's political crisis: The inside story," contains such blatant errors it is a wonder it was published at all: 

  • Sommer claims there are "80 million Thai people," when in fact Thailand's population is only between 65-70 million. 
  • Sommer calls protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, former "vice-president." In fact, Suthep Thaugsuban was deputy prime minister, as Thailand is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in which there are no "presidents" or "vice presidents." It appears Sommer is not even aware of what form of government Thailand practices.
  • Sommer also repeatedly claims the vast majority of Thais stand behind Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine. The final tally conducted in 2011 by Thailand's Election Commission showed that Thaksin Shinawatra's proxy political party received 15.7 million votes out of the estimated 32.5 million voter turnout (turnout of approx. 74%). This gave Thaksin's proxy party a mere 48% of those who cast their votes on July 3rd (not even half), and out of all eligible voters, only a 35% mandate to actually "lead" the country. 

Image: Eric Sommer's "unarmed red-shirt pro-democracy demonstrators"  in the streets of Bangkok, April 10, 2010. While Sommer and others have attempted to portray the loss of life in 2010 as the result of a "brutal" military crackdown, it was in reality the result of some 300 heavily armed, professional mercenaries deployed by Thaksin Shinwatra, seeking specifically for a bloodbath to undermine the credibility of both the government at the time and the Thai military to this day. 
  • Sommer claims violence in 2010 was the "brutal killing by the military of 80 red-shirt pro-democracy demonstrators." By the red shirt leaders' own admissions, they had fielded some 300 heavily armed, professional mercenaries who in fact drew first blood on April 10, 2010, and continued for weeks engaging in gun battles with Thai troops. Attempts to claim the government at the time simply "murdered" scores of unarmed protesters is veritably false

Thailand is Not Divided Along "Class"

Sommer, along with othes from across the West, including Reuters, the BBC, and the New York Times, attempts to portray Thailand as "divided" along class. Beyond anecdotes and repetitive baseless claims, they never qualify a "class divide" with actual facts, statistics, or demographics. This is because others have already done so and conclude indeed, that Thailand is not divided along class, or even between Thaksin's supporters and his opponents. 

A survey (full .pdf here) conducted by the Asia Foundation in 2010 found that the vast majority of Thais do not identify with the so-called "red shirts" of Thaksin Shinawatra, the defacto leader of the current regime in Thailand.

The findings were published on the Asian Foundation's website, "In Asia," in a report titled, "Survey Findings Challenge Notion of a Divided Thailand." It summarized the popular misconception of a "divided" Thailand by stating:
Since Thailand’s color politics began pitting the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s (PAD) “Yellow-Shirt” movement against the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD) “Red-Shirt” movement, political watchers have insisted that the Thai people are bitterly divided in their loyalties to rival political factions.
The survey dispels this myth, conducted over the course of late 2010 and involving 1,500 individuals, revealing a meager 7% of Thailand's population identify themselves as being "red," with only an additional 7% identifying themselves as "leaning toward red." 

The survey reveals that by far, most Thais constitute what is called the "silent majority." The survey included multiple questions that reveal the leanings of this silent majority.

For instance, regarding violence that erupted when Thaksin Shinawatra attempted to seize back power in 2010 with large street mobs augmented by armed mercenaries, only 37% blamed the government, 40% squarely blamed Thaksin, 4% held both sides responsible, and the remaining 19% weren't sure. 62% found the army (which ousted Thaksin in 2006, and restored order in Bangkok both in 2009 and 2010 after pro-Thaksin mobs turned violent) as an important independent institution that has helped safeguard and stabilize the country.

Protesters are Not "Anti-Democratic" 

To claim that protesters in the streets of Bangkok and across a growing number of other provinces are "anti-democratic" implies that currently Thailand is democratic. 

The regime and its Western backers insist that the solution to the current political impasse, therefore, is an election. Of course, this is impossible because the current regime is openly run by Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal and fugitive who was neither on the ballot nor even in the country during last elections, and will simply resume control of the nation after any future election in which his proxy party wins. 

While Thailand is technically under the premiership of Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, by his party's own admission, Thaksin is still literally running the country. The election campaign slogan for the last general election in 2011 was literally, "Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Does," Puea Thai being his political party. Forbes would report in their article, "Thaksin in Exile: Advising Sister, Digging for Gold," that: 

Regarding his behind-the-scenes role in the party and policy, he is not shy: “I am the one who thinks. Like our slogan during the campaign, Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts.”
The New York Times admitted in an early 2013 article titled, "In Thailand, Power Comes With Help From Skype," that: 
For the past year and a half, by the party’s own admission, the most important political decisions in this country of 65 million people have been made from abroad, by a former prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape corruption charges. 
The country’s most famous fugitive,Thaksin Shinawatra, circles the globe in his private jet, chatting with ministers over his dozen cellphones, texting over various social media platforms and reading government documents e-mailed to him from civil servants, party officials say.
The NYT piece would also report:  
“He’s the one who formulates the Pheu Thai policies,” said Noppadon Pattama, a senior official in Mr. Thaksin’s party who also serves as his personal lawyer. “Almost all the policies put forward during the last election came from him.” 

ImageThe New York Times openly admits that Thailand is currently run by unelected convicted criminal/fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. Clearly any proxy government or elections in which it participates in are illegitimate by both Thai and international standards. Thaksin's foreign ties are what have afforded him impunity regarding an otherwise cartoonish, 3rd world dictatorship. 

There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2 year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy. Being unelected, Thaksin Shinawatra is by all accounts a dictator, and his "government" a regime, however cleverly they try to dress it up

Elections in any other nation on Earth featuring a convicted criminal openly running a contending party would be unacceptable - and in Thailand as well, they are equally unacceptable until after reforms that prevent such a abuse from occurring again. 

As reported many times before, current anti-regime protesters are not trying to end "democracy." They are simply trying to end the abuse of the democratic process by an overt criminal. Elections must be carried only after Thaksin Shinawatra and his entire political machine have been safely and completely dismantled. 

For Eric Sommer (aka David Marx), who can't even get the basic facts straight regarding Thailand's population or form of government, he will need to dig deeply and source documented evidence extensively if ever he is to restore credibility he now has completely lost. His narrative - ideologically packed but fact-free - is just another echo in the chamber of Western propaganda aimed at perpetuating Thaksin Shianwatra's Wall Street-backed, illegal, unwarranted, and very undemocratic power in Thailand.