The Who, What, and Why’s of Thailand’s Ongoing Protests.
December 18, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) – This coming Sunday (December 22, 2013) will be the third and potentially largest mass mobilization yet by the anti-regime movement in Thailand. The counter-color revolution against Wall Street-backed Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime’s attempt to transform Thailand into yet another vassal of Western influence has gained immense traction – already forcing the proxy prime minister, dictator Thaksin Shianwatra’s sister, Yingluck, to dissolve parliament and call for new elections.
However, this is not enough. A system that continuously returns a dictator to power when he is not even eligible for office, nor on the ballot, nor even in the country, is a system in dire need of reform before another election can be held. The fact that Thaksin Shinawatra had the arrogance to literally make “Thaksin Thinks, Peua Thai Does” the campaign motto for the 2011 general election is proof positive that 3rd world corruption has permeated Thailand’s democratic process and must be thoroughly purged before legitimate elections can be held again.
Who is Thaksin and Why do People Detest Him?
- In the late 1990’s, Thaksin was an adviser to notorious private equity firm, the Carlyle Group. He pledged to his foreign contacts that upon taking office, he would still serve as a “matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses.
- Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001-2006. Has since dominated the various reincarnations of his political party – and still to this day runs the country by proxy, via his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
- In 2001 he privatized Thailand’s resources and infrastructure including the nation’s oil conglomerate PTT – much to Wall Street’s delight.
- In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.
- Also in 2003, he initiated what he called a “war on drugs.” 3,000 were extrajudicially murdered in the streets over the course of just 90 days. It would later turn out that more than half of those killed had nothing to even do with the drug trade. In this act alone, Thaksin earned himself the title as worst human rights offender in Thai history, and still he was far from finished.
- In 2004, he oversaw the killing of 85 protesters in a single day during his mishandled, heavy-handed policy in the country’s troubled deep south. The atrocity is now referred to as the “Tak Bai incident.”
- Also in 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before the 2011 elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD) in Washington DC.
- Throughout his administration he was notorious for intimidating the press, and crushing dissent. According to Amnesty International, 18 human rights defenders were either assassinated or disappeared during his first term in office. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed in its report, “Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand” that the regime was guilty of financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion of the press.
- Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom House, International Crisis Group,PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR, Carlyle Group), Robert Blackwill (CFR) of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), Kobre & Kim, Bell Pottinger (and here) and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Partners (Chatham House).
While the Western media, including the BBC and the New York Times would have the world believe anti-regime protesters will be taking to the streets on Sunday December 22, 2013 to stop Thaksin Shinawatra from “lifting the rural poor up and giving them a voice,” it is clear that they are instead trying to stop a despotic tyrant from stepping on the poor’s back to reach yet more unwarranted power and influence with which to continue his criminal campaign of national theft and mass murder.
Why Are Elections Unacceptable?
Considering the very real crimes against humanity carried out by Thaksin Shinawatra and his regime while in office, it is difficult to believe that he would be returned to power, time and time again, even when not eligible for office, nor being on the ballot, nor even being in the country (he has lived in self-imposed exile for years to evade a 2 year jail sentence, 2 arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases). Worst of all, it appears that not only are his supporters fully aware of his atrocities, but they have been seen as wildly popular among his support base.
An Economist op-ed titled, “Thailand’s drug wars: Back on the offensive,” admitted that the policy made Thaksin into a “hero” and that no other policy had “won as many votes” as the 2003 brutal campaign of mass murder carried out under the guise of a “war on drugs.” It would appear than, that the electorate voting Thaksin back into power has no grasp or interest in concepts like trials, human rights, or the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Such dangerous disregard of the rule of law and basic civility by Thaksin’s supporters, is just as dangerous as any ruthless despot.
It should be clear that maintaining the rule of law and protecting the basic human rights of minorities takes precedent over the lawless demands of a clearly ill-informed majority. But what’s more, is that Thaksin’s support base does not even constitute the majority of Thai society – not even close.
The Thai Election Commission’s final tally of the 2011 general elections indicated that out all eligible voters, only 35% elected Thaksin’s Peua Thai Party into power. Out of those that actually bothered to vote, only 48% voted Peua Thai. This betrays the myth of Thaksin Shinawata’s overwhelming popularity. A 2010 Asian Foundation report titled, “Survey Findings Challenge Notion of a Divided Thailand,” it was revealed that a mere 7% of Thais identified themselves as “red” Thaksin supporters, with another 7% identifying themselves as merely “leaning toward red.”
While the rhetoric of the regime and the Western media propping it up would have the world believe that the vast majority of Thai society stands behind Thaksin Shinawatra and his criminal enterprise, it is clear that not even close to half do. Elections bring in more support because of outright vote buying and vote buying schemes like the now catastrophically failing rice buying scheme that is bankrupt and has left rice farmers unpaid since October, and with slashed subsidies since last summer.
Thaksin does not have the majority of Thai society behind him. He simply has the most organized, well funded, and most shameless political machine in the nation. While indeed his opponents fair worse in elections, he himself fails to win over the majority of Thais. While he may technical win election after election, he by no means has the sweeping mandate he is portrayed as having. And of course, under no circumstances does he ever have a mandate to trample the basic human rights of anyone, no matter how many people vote for him.
Elections are therefore impossible until the loopholes are closed that allow this man and his proxies to continuously return to power. No one in good conscience could call his regime nor the process that returns it endlessly to power “democracy.” While a much longer-term program of improving education and economic opportunities for Thais is required, a more immediate solution is to simply uproot the Thaksin regime, and ensure that in the next election, only qualified politicians, disassociated with his many atrocities (or any atrocities for that matter) stand to be elected.
Who are the Anti-Regime Protesters and What do They Want?
The short answer is – the silent majority. They want the end of the Thaksin regime in all of its different insidious shades.
A visit to the rallies will reveal immense diversity, from business owners big (Thai multinationals) and small (noodle and coffee stand owners) to labor unions and organic farmers. The working and middle class constitute by far the vast majority of the movement’s numbers, including an influx of disenfranchised farmers who have been cheated and left unpaid by grandiose price fixing schemes that have since 2011’s elections fallen into bankruptcy.
Their demands are many, but very specific. Unlike pro-regime rallies that repetitively bleat vague demands like “democracy,” the anti-regime protesters know what they want and how they plan to get it.
1. No Amnesty – This refers to an amnesty bill designed by and for Thaksin Shinawatra to absolve himself of a decade of plundering, lying, and mass murder. While the government eventually backed off, it was only because massive street protests were mobilized. When the Constitution Court declared the bill unconstitutional, the ruling regime announced that it no longer recognized the authority of the court – even while using constitutionality to condemn the protests. Even though it is considered “dead,” Thaksin’s entire future depends on it eventually passing. Protesters feel the only way to truly kill this bill, is to remove entirely the regime attempting such an absurd abuse of power.
2. Reform Before Elections – The anti-regime protesters are not, nor have they ever suggested that elections be permanently suspended. Instead, it is recognized that elections now, with no fundamental change to a system that has allowed a mass murdering convicted criminal to run the country by proxy from Dubai will only bring the entire nation back to square one.
3. Restore Article 190 – Article 190 of the Thai constitution requires that all treaties be approved by the parliament before they can be signed. In 2004, this mechanism had prevented Thaksin Shinawatra from unilaterally passing a US-Thai free trade agreement, and was one of many attempted circumventions of the law that led to his ouster in 2006. His nepotist-appointed sister Yingluck Shinawatra, has now managed to amend it making it possible for her to unilateral approve treaties (specifically unpopular FTA’s). Protesters would like to see this reversed.
4. The Re-Nationalization of Thailand’s Oil – Thailand’s oil giant, PTT, was privatized and sold off to foreign multinationals under Thaksin Shinawatra in late 2001. Tremendous wealth has been siphoned out of Thailand and sent overseas, particularly to Chevron, one of the many sponsors on the US-ASEAN Business Council that directly supports the Shinawatra regime.
Image: Another issue protesters have is with the changing of article 190 which allows the regime to now unilaterally sign treaties without the parliament’s approval. This will be used specifically to pass through a series of extremely unpopular free trade agreements with the regime’s Western sponsors.
5. Keep Thailand Anti-GMO, Anti-IP – The current Thai establishment resisting the Thaksin regime has been stalwartly defending against GMO and “intellectual property” (IP) laws pushed on them by the United States, the UK, and the EU. In fact, one of the main points of attack by Thaksin Shinawatra’s Washington lobbyists, was attacking the military council that ousted Thaksin for ignoring US pharmaceutical patents while producing cheaper drugs for poor patients. Regarding GMO, Monsanto has been desperately trying to overrun Thailand’s food security but to no avail. Would it surprise readers to know that the US-ASEAN Business Council directly supporting Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine also includes Monsanto?
December 22, 2013 – Be There
The Western media has attempted to sell a “class struggle” as the context with which to understand the anti-regime protesters – calling them “elitists” who look down on the rural poor that allegedly support Thaksin. In reality, we can see, this is not true. There are not hundreds of thousands of rich elitists in Thailand that can continuously fill the streets in now two historically large mass mobilizations. The demands of the protesters appear more to center around healthy nationalism rather than pro-big business elitism. Reuters and the New York Times claiming it is the “Occupy Movement in reverse” is utterly false. This narrative is a desperate attempt to undercut the legitimacy of a movement that directly threatens the interests of Wall Street, from which these news organizations are fed their daily talking points.
On Sunday December 22, 2013, there will be another mass mobilization, yet again dwarfing anything the regime has ever managed to produce even at the height of its popularity, and this mass mobilization will make attempts by its foes to portray it as “elitist” harder still to peddle to an ever increasingly aware public.
We see the mentality of the regime and the insidious foreign interests that support it, and we can imagine what these interests would do with Thailand should they get their way. They have not gotten their way, and it is precisely because the majority does not stand with them. They stand against them. And as long as we continue to stand, we will continue to win. This Sunday, December 22, 2013 – we will stand together.