Political Unrest in Thailand

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Dec 2 2013 16:41
Political Unrest in Thailand

So Thailand is in the news again right now, and many leftist and or communist/anarchist commentators or twitters are posting about the protests. However, there isn't much in the way of meaningful analysis. Most of the protestors or Yellow Shirts as I understand it, who are in general supporters of the King and Military (It is, I believe, a constitutional monarchy). What they're calling for is the ouster of Yingluck Shinawtra, therelative of Thaksin Shinawtra. Thaksin was, again, as I understand it, a prominent businessman who became the prime minister and oversaw some degree of land reform and investment in infrastructure. For this reason, many red shirts, poor farmers and the like, or very supportive of Thaksin.
Upon being exiled to Dubai a few years ago, the red shirts protested and about 90 people died. They did some pretty intense stuff, like standing up to tanks and pooring blood on some gov't buildings.

So while Thaksin is a telecommunications "tycoon", bourgeois opportunist soliciting the support of the rural working class, the current protests seem to be in opposition to any reform at all, even if making claims to setting up "People's Councils."

NPR Story

Can anyone offer any better informed analysis? I'm checking out The King Never Smiles over winter break to try and get a better historical background, and will try and familiarize myself with the class composition and economic and political breakdown in Thailand. Anyone have any good places to start?

Thanks a lot!

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Dec 2 2013 16:54

as far as I know, to be anti-monarchist can still get you to prison immediately in Thailand ... some leftwing stuff is here: http://redthaisocialist.com/ ... but don't know, how good it is

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Dec 2 2013 17:58

The website you link, which says as much, is operated by Giles Ji Ungpakorn, who I believe was exiled for talking smack about the king and is now in Australia or New Zealand. He's some kind of social-dem/Marxist. Thanks for the link, will read through it!

EDIT: He has two books up for Download on the site. I will upload them (pdfs) to the library here later. Both are from a stated Marxist position. Should be fascinating reading.

ajjohnstone
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Dec 3 2013 04:29

Same old same...oligarchs versus the plutocrats.
Just posted this on SOYMB blog

http://www.socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-plutocracy-v-oligarchy.html

ajjohnstone
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Dec 3 2013 16:15

Access to the redthaisocialist website is blocked by the government for web-users in Thailand.

The King Never Smiles is banned in Thailand. A translator who posted thai-langauge version on the web was jailed even though he was not a thai resident.

I have never before stood up so much for a national anthem, every movie starts with it and many public venues stop for it ...the alternative is arrest and deportation... and of course every school class starts with it too, and no opting out as the case in America with their daily morning pledge of allegience ritual.

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Dec 3 2013 19:02

Aj are you in Thailand, or have you visited before for extended periods? Or asre you just well researched? Any other english langauge sources on Thai politics and history you could share?

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Dec 3 2013 19:24

AJ, not to short-cut your article, but it links to a lengthy excerpt from a recent book by Ungpakorn, which I've posted below. Definitely worth checking out.

http://links.org.au/node/1754

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Dec 4 2013 00:51

The protest are organised by Suthep the former deputy Prime Minister, he was in the Democrat Party and his career full of corruption scandals, one was so bad he brought down his own party's government in in 1995. He's up on the murder charge along with former PM Abhiset, if the government doesn't fall they could well go to prison. This can be seen as their roll of the dice to avoid jail.

The protesters are a mixed bag, Democrats supporters and yellow shirts as well as general public. The Democrat party are opposition party, the party of business and best described as economic Thatcherites with most of the money, media, corporations, rich and middle class behind them, but not enough voters to win an election. The Yellow shirts are the ultra Royalist, group who believe in turning the country into a feudal monarchy. The Democrats and yellow shirts detest one another. Finally a lot of regular folk who are opposed to government corruption have joined them. The protest is a mixed bag of people with little in common who have once again temporarily decided they dislike the government more than they dislike each other.

The government are the "For Thai" party, a mixture of social democratic economics with conservative morality, They are supported by the Red Shirts a radical movement of poor people, encompassing everything from socialists to social democrats. There are parallels here with the Labour Party and Labour movement in the 1920's. The current government under Thaksin's sister is more moderate than the reds shirts would like and has played it safe this time, trying especially not to annoy the army like her brother.

The history is after three consecutive election wins Thaksin was overthrown by the army for annoying them. After a year's misrule by the military Thaksin's party (him in exile) won the election, but after six months was removed from power and the Democrat Party given power. Next election Thaksin's party won again and is in power now. They are way ahead in the polls and if their was another election would win.

The problem is despite having all the media and money the opposition can't defeat his party legitimately and being the middle and upper class can;t stand the fact a poor party is ruling them. However only the army can bring the government down, the army hates the Democrats and is not a big fan of the yellow shirts and has its own political agenda. It's also divided into factions and needs the big factions to agree before a coup can take place. And at the moment they don't seem that annoyed with the government. The protest seems a desperate attempt to make the army annoyed at them by people who aren't particularly liked by the army themselves.

ajjohnstone
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Dec 4 2013 04:18

After a few years in South India i moved to live in Thailand and been here for a couple of years now but i have personal connections to the country going back to the 1980s. I live in a rural provincial town which means i have not got much first hand knowledge of the events in Bangkok where the real power game is played out. Here, despite having a university, there is no perceptible political activity other than the usual jockeying for local government power.

As i mentioned in the earlier post, the country is very pro-Royalist. Any attempt to try and distinguish pro and anti government on the issue of allegience to the king is on the wrong track, even if the opposing forces try and accuse one another of disloyalty. The problem is that the king is in a near vegetative state, wheeled out for state and religious occasions. Unlike the situation a few decades ago where he personally made a rare intervention to end the military crack-down against protests.

Nor can it be all put down to simply rural poor v urban elite. The divide is also geographical, with the Isaan provinces in the NE pro-government and the southern regions anti-government. I won't add the complication of the southern border area armed rebellion.

I tend to agree with the last poster that the current unrest is to provoke a reaction to involve the army who so far have little inclination to do so.

All in all, how much should the working class or socialist movement get involved and take sides?...IMO...plague on both houses...but an SPGBer regardless of location would say that wink

But there are more vital concerns to concentrate upon than who rules...the workers organisation as Thailand industry booms and also the migrant workers from Cambodia, Burma, being used as cheap labour... but alas again i am an outsider looking in.

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Dec 4 2013 23:00
ajjohnstone wrote:
All in all, how much should the working class or socialist movement get involved and take sides?...IMO...plague on both houses...but an SPGBer regardless of location would say that wink

To give you two very different answers. Should the British working class get involved with third world peasants? I suppose this depends on how you feel about Eton school getting involved with the British working class. The relative wealth and privilege comparison are about the same.

Or alternatively this depends on how much you put in the idea of struggle. Many anarchist thinkers say first you get the anarchist theory right, and then you go out and do activism consistent with the theory and should not be interested in activism not in line with it......... The flaw with this it denies people can learn from struggle or that people can learn from experience, a rather naive view that last one. On the other hand there is the school of though people with little political knowledge can learn on the job through struggle............. The flaw with this is what they may learn is not anarchism.

Despite the flaw I'll go with the latter, because 10 years ago there was no radical movement in Thailand, people didn't even know how to do, so no anarchism. Now there is a radical movement, at least they have made an environment of politically aware people where anarchism may now come into being.

Finally as an anarchist, shouldn't you be supporting the Yellow shirts, after all there leader gave up all his wealth and lives in a vegetarian agricultural commune with no hierarchy and all property is common.

ajjohnstone wrote:
As i mentioned in the earlier post, the country is very pro-Royalist. Any attempt to try and distinguish pro and anti government on the issue of allegience to the king is on the wrong track, even if the opposing forces try and accuse one another of disloyalty. The problem is that the king is in a near vegetative state, wheeled out for state and religious occasions. Unlike the situation a few decades ago where he personally made a rare intervention to end the military crack-down against protests.

Kingy made the intervention against the Suchinda coup, true, but the 76 massacre at Thammasat kingy ordered personally and the Village Scouts (the proto Red Shirts) paraded before the queen and marched from the palace to do the massacre. As for love of the king, it's not as strong as many suspect, the super rich Chinese corporate types really look down their noses at royalty, the Red Shirts are not big fans and many have been jailed for Lese Majeste and also as a friend taught me to understand back in the 90s, Bangkokers have their own secret little Feng Shui/Semitic Code for criticising the king in the way they lay out their ornaments. One of those Thai cultural subtleties unique to them.

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Dec 5 2013 02:28

There still isn't much of a radical movement in Thailand, is there? There are some labor organisations of which many workers have taken advantage to win demands from bosses, and as far as I know the Red Shirt Socialist movemnet which seems like a mish-mash of socialists, social dems, and the like. Giles Ungpakorn himslef is calling for a bourgoise reupublic, in accordance with much of Orthodox Marxism. I'm very much an outsider looking in, but I don't see how running the Thai flag over parliment buildings full of "elected" bureaucrats would serve Thai people (excluding the bourgeoisie of course!) much better.

"Should we get involved" is a false fucking question. Any good materialist whether anarchist or marxist knows that capitalism has us involved with third world peasants, has us involved with Thai auto workers. Our relationship as producers and consumers is inextricably linked, though mystified by notions of nationality etc., to their experience.

ajjohnstone
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Dec 5 2013 04:04

"As for love of the king, it's not as strong as many suspect"

On the Kings Birthday to-day, in a supposed red shirt power base, i stand at my door and see my neighbours, to honour the king, working cleaning up the streets. (your friend's anecdote of secret signs,btw, reminded me of the origins of the Freemasons, a safe space to criticise autocracy)

The question really will be when the present monarch passes away, will the playboy prince assume the crown? Then we can see polarisation increasing. It is at the moment female members of the royal family that dominate the news with royal visits to retain the affection of the people.

As for the Chinese Thais, i failed to mention that they are indeed pivotal for the Thai economy...a saying is that behind every successful Thai business is a Chinese owner... but they have always been side-lined when it came to political/military power.

My remark about getting involved was simply a caution against simplistic interventions such as declaring for one side because they use radical language such as peoples councils or the other because they implemented popular reforms such as the 30 baht health system. i agree with Pennoid's conclusions about little political choice being available.

I also agree that we are linked by being part of the global working-class which is why i specifically mentioned the areas where we should concern ourselves (and by implication involved)...industrial and immigration.

One aspect that is worth exploring is the radical environmental movement often associated with some forms of Buddhist beliefs that is gaining support but we should not mistake the Buddhist religion for anything other than the established status quo religion it is here, which gives legitimacy to the Thai ruling class. There is a big divide in Buddhist abbot hierarchy as there was between Friar Tuck and the Pope.

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Dec 5 2013 16:44

I didn't mean to come off as harsh, I guess I suspected some third-worldist excuse to not interact with the Thai working class and I pounced! I agree with your perspectvie mostly, AJ, to the extent that I'm knowledgable enough to evaluate it. I'm still trying to get more of a picture of Thai society.

Thanks.

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Dec 5 2013 19:02
Pennoid wrote:
I'm still trying to get more of a picture of Thai society.
.

This little article I found gives an excellent insight.

http://www.thai-blogs.com/2009/03/11/last-bastion-of-the-orient/

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Dec 5 2013 19:22
ajjohnstone wrote:
(your friend's anecdote of secret signs,btw, reminded me of the origins of the Freemasons, a safe space to criticise autocracy)

It was quite fascinating, you used to be able to walk up a street in Bangkok,look into each shop at the mini shrine and tell by the way they had laid out the royal pictures whether they loved or were admonishing the king. It was during the 80's and 90's, even early 00's during the hey day of the cult of Chulalongkorn, sadly walking around today you see scant sign of this imagery.

ajjohnstone wrote:
The question really will be when the present monarch passes away, will the playboy prince assume the crown? Then we can see polarisation increasing. It is at the moment female members of the royal family that dominate the news with royal visits to retain the affection of the people.

It's most likely going to be him. They had no system of succession until the late 90s, when the government passed a law of primogeniture. A fascinating little law as 100% of Thais wanted the daughter. They did it because he was so hated they could then pass a series of constitutions de-powering the king to a constitutional monarch when he succeeded and no-one would complain, not wanting him to have any power. It got all party support in Parliament and was the politicians blatantly de-powering the army. Except in the last coup the army abolished the constitutional reforms. So he will not only be king but have power too.

ajjohnstone wrote:
One aspect that is worth exploring is the radical environmental movement often associated with some forms of Buddhist beliefs that is gaining support but we should not mistake the Buddhist religion for anything other than the established status quo religion it is here, which gives legitimacy to the Thai ruling class. There is a big divide in Buddhist abbot hierarchy as there was between Friar Tuck and the Pope.

10 years in Thailand really taught me to dislike Buddhism, something that really annoys a lot of western trendies when I tell them. I used to live next to a Santi Asoke commune, nice people but whenever I went into the commune I always felt like I had walked into Jonestown.

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Dec 7 2013 10:00

i believe this used to be a Thai-based website but now apparently Malaysia.

It offers a different perspective being very pro-protesters and very anti-Thaksin but i think another interpretation should be offered here so people can evaluate for themselves.

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

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Dec 7 2013 16:22

Yeah, that's a very interesting set of opinions.

The gist of their argument is:

Thaksin is basically an agent of Western Corporate imperialism (which is bad because it's BIG and CENTRALIZED, these cats seem like agorists or right-libertarians) who mobilized thugs with money, sold off the nationalized oil company and was set to privatize more and open the door for Monsanto and foreign investers.

They also say that Cambodia, a western supported dictator-ruled country, could support and send mercenaries in, if the West succeeds in portraying the protestors as "elitist," to start a civil war of sorts and finally ram through western friendly reforms.

(Minor note: The site being right-libertarian is not super important if their sources are well documented but it does explain their weird angle of attack on a lot of topics).

Hmmmm......

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Dec 7 2013 16:38

Also, this seems to contradict Giles (Trotskyist) who claims that in spite of their social-dem leanings, the red shirts are a force for workers power and reform, where as the LD blog describes them as a small band of hired thugs, supporting Thaksin. On the one hand, I could see Giles supporting neo-liberal reform in a weird, Trotskyist, society must pass through key stages type of logic. I can also see how conspiracy happy right-libs would see that Organizers from NGO's as

OH WAIT: Check this total shit out: http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com/2012/10/self-sufficiency-local-solution-to.html

Basically a bunch of loopy shit about localism versus corporate elites and the Carlyle group and how personal fabrication and Thai Nationalist "Self-Sufficiency" will take down the global corporate elite.

I think that these cats are likley right to point out that Thaksin is mostly just a stooge for the penetration of Western, Neoliberal capitalism, and I think that Giles Ungpakorn could likely support reformist garbage because he is a SWP kind of Marxist, and also criticsize Thaksin and Yingluck specifcally.

Interesting.

ajjohnstone
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Jan 29 2014 13:43

An article from the Counterpunch website that some may find an interesting read.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/29/down-and-out-in-thailand/

Been several posts recently on the American radical websites from the very pro-yellowshirt, anti-Thaksin, Tony Cartalucci (aka Land Destroyer).

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Jan 29 2014 16:16
Quote:
It is definitely not a set of uprisings that are supposed to improve the lives in all those above-mentioned countries. Instead it appears that these are events sponsored from abroad and their only goal is to bring politically, religiously or economically oppressive or regressive regimes to power: Mubarak and the military in Egypt, jihadi pro-Saudi cadres in Syria, pro-business and pro-Western market fundamentalists in Ukraine and now this feudal clique in Thailand trying to survive by all means.

This quote is interesting. A friend loosely compared recent western-backed "protestors" as similar to the color revolutions in former soviet areas. This article seems to make sense, in that Thaksin and red shirt people are kind of capitalist reformers getting at the last elements of feudal society, and elites (but which ones?!) are really resistant.

It's not a bad article, but the rhetoric of disgust is a little grating. Also, Land destroyer is total shit. Blegh. Weird libertarian nonsense.

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Feb 14 2014 17:34
ajjohnstone wrote:
An article from the Counterpunch website that some may find an interesting read.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/29/down-and-out-in-thailand/
.

very interesting.

There's an in depth analyses here that takes on board more issues than the average article.

Lillburne