Thailand: The People Have Spoken – No Confidence in Regime or System

With a regime and system rendered
illegitimate with a sweeping boycott of sham elections – Thailand must
find alternatives to patching itself together beyond the broken ballot
box.

February 5, 2014 (ATN) – Thailand’s
February 2, 2014 elections produced the worst ever voter turnout in Thai
history with a humiliating 46% coming out to cast their ballots. Of
this paltry number, many chose to deface their ballots or cast “no vote”
in protest of both the process and the regime overseeing it.

The
elections were highly controversial, with all major opposition parties
boycotting them and the only major party on the ballot being openly run
by an accused mass murderer, convicted criminal, and fugitive, Thaksin
Shinawatra, who is currently hiding abroad from a two year jail
sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending legal
cases.

The elections were carried out with heavy
backing from the West, despite the obvious illegitimacy of the process
and the nature of the regime. While the West claims it was merely
defending the “democratic process,” a look into the relationship between
dictator Thaksin Shinawatra and the corporate-financier interests of
Wall Street and London tell another, more likely story of imposing upon
Thailand a proxy regime serving Western, not Thai interests.

Graph:
Thailand’s Election Commission reported the abysmal voter turnout in
2014, compared with 2011, showing a resounding loss of confidence in
both the ruling regime and the “democratic process” it has highjacked to
grant itself otherwise nonexistent credibility and legitimacy. The
turnouts only tell part of the story, since many who did vote, did so
simply to deface their ballots or check “no vote” in an alternative form
of protest against the regime. (Graphic via The Nation).

….

Of the election turnout, Thai PBS reported in their article, “EC says latest voter turnout is 46.79%,” that: 

The
Election Commission (EC) today released the latest voter turnout for
February 2 general election at 46.79%, with turnout of “vote-no”
standing at 16.57%.

The turnout was counted from 68
provinces, excluding nine southern provinces where voting could not be
held, and some constituencies of Rayong and Bangkok.

Of the 68 provinces where voting was held, EC said there are a total of 43,024,042 eligible voters.

It said 20,129,976 voters or 46.79%, cast their votes. Of all the ballots they casted, 71.38% was valid, and 12.05% was void.

It said of all the valid ballots, 16.57% voters casted “vote-no”.

With
over half of all eligible voters choosing to not even vote, and with so
many defacing their ballots or choosing the “no vote” option, the
ruling regime of Thaksin Shinawatra has clearly lost millions of votes
since 2011. It should be noted that turnout percentages are determined
based on polling stations uninterrupted by protests – though areas where
voting was disrupted are expected to produce results even less
favorable for the regime if and when voting occurs.

It
is clear that the regime has lost the confidence and support of the
vast majority of the Thai population and is now without a mandate to
rule the country. Furthermore, Thais appear to have lost confidence in
the so-called “democratic process” the regime has hijacked in order to
create the illusion of a mandate and legitimacy.

Despite
this, the regime’s Western backers continue to promote the myth that
merely because “elections” took place, whatever government is formed
afterward possesses unquestionable legitimacy. And with this
“legitimacy,” Thaksin Shinawatra and his political party are attempting
to arrest an opposition that clearly commanded the majority of Thai
opinion on February 2.

In Bangkok Post’s article, “Arrest warrants for PDRC leaders, CMPO to suspend transactions,” it reported:

The
Criminal Court on Wednesday approved the Department of Special
Investigation’s (DSI) request for arrest warrants for 19 leading members
of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) for alleged
violation of the emergency decree.

To compound the regime’s authoritarian posture, it should be noted that the emergency decree was announced in response to a terror campaign the regime itself openly carried out
against the opposition. It included almost nightly drive-by shootings
at rally sites and opposition leaders’ homes, as well as brazen broad
daylight grenade attacks that left one dead and scores seriously maimed.

While the regime and the West will continue framing
the elections as a renewed mandate for Thaksin Shinawatra’s illegal,
illegitimate administration of Thailand, and the opposition as
ostentatiously opposing the will of the rural “majority,” the reality is
that this rural majority joined the opposition on February 2 in
boycotting the polls and are literally joining the protesters in Bangkok
in response to the regime’s collapsed rice-buying scheme.

Waiting for the Inevitable 

The
illusion of Thaksin Shinawatra’s popularity has been shattered and the
barriers of fear imposed upon the Thai people by his “red shirt”
enforcers have crumbled into ruins. With wrecking-ball abandon, his
regime has gutted Thailand’s rice industry, skewed the economy, shaken
confidence both domestically and abroad, and is still awaiting the
fallout from other disastrous vote-buying schemes that are in the
process of collapsing.

What the protesters have been
unable to do themselves, the regime itself will accomplish in the final
stages of its grip on power.

However, people need not
wait to begin picking up the pieces the regime’s corrupt, incompetent
ministries have left after their ruinous decade in power. While a new
government will inevitably replace the Shinawatra regime, the lessons of
the past decade should inform the Thai people that the answers to their
solutions lay not at the ballot box, but in their own hands. While
Thailand’s education system, agricultural industry, banking system,
infrastructure, and other essential services provided by the government
cannot be easily replaced, they can be augmented by local
activism, local institutions, and local collaboration to make up for
shortcomings that may or may never be addressed adequately.

Protesters
who have been meeting and organizing to attend mass rallies, supporting
the alternative media in their efforts to counter the regime and its
Western backers’ propaganda, and volunteering at the rallies themselves
can begin expanding their activities toward tangible solutions and
enumerated, specific principles of reform.

It All Begins With Education and Ends With Real Activism

The
“fee tablet PC” scam by the government was a bad idea even if it was
implemented efficiently. The problem with the Thai education system was
never a lack of tablet PCs, but a lack of resources to match qualified
teachers and practical curriculum to appropriately sized classes. 

A real solution could include a Thai-version of OpenCourseWare
where curriculum is available for free on the Internet in a centralized
repository including both free .PDF textbooks and video lectures on
YouTube, along with resources to help educators and potential educators
impart the curriculum upon students. This can be done in parallel with
the existing education system and offered in after-school programs. It
can be lucrative and beneficial to both educators and students within
their village or district.

Concepts like “hackerspaces” and “DIYbio labs
can give high school and university students practical hands-on
experience to augment their theoretical studies across the street from
their classrooms. These local institutions can also serve as SME
kickstarters, while the technological and human resources they are able
to pool can be applied directly to local problems by the local people
themselves. (see more on “How to Start a Hackerspace“)

This can include anything from improving or augmenting local IT infrastructure, to developing cheap and easy-to-replicate technology to assist farmers
in both increasing their efficiency and diversifying their economic
activity. Local institutions like hackerspaces that combine education,
technological research and development, and a venue for meeting and
organizing for a wide variety of pragmatic purposes, can also serve as a
nexus for disaster response – another area in which the current regime
has consistently and tragically failed.

An example of a political movement turned pragmatic was Occupy Wall Street, which in the face of Hurricane Sandy, became “Occupy Sandy.”
It turned its political networks into pragmatic disaster relief
networks, and illustrated their political struggle with Wall Street and
the proxy regime it controls in Washington, could be outmatched by its
pragmatic response to that regime’s failure in the face of adversity.

The
Occupy Sandy movement proved that the US government’s failure was not
because the odds were insurmountable, but because the government simply
did not care. The lesson is that the only people who care about us, are
ourselves, our friends and family, and our community. To solve our own
problems, we must find the solutions within and among ourselves.

The “Occupy Bangkok” campaign
can easily be flipped, just as Occupy Wall Street was in New York City,
to begin addressing the many problems left by Shinawatra regime through
pragmatic means. Before the regime crumbles, and while people are in
“activist mode,” groups can begin forming around a simple table with
notebooks or computers to begin sharing knowledge and exploring models
that can be both profitable in monetary and social terms. These could
include:

Hackerspaces: A space –
perhaps a shophouse – with tables for people to gather and collaborate
on practical projects such as IT, hardware, robotics, electronics,
fabrication, woodworking, etc. Most hackerspaces fund themselves through
a combination of monthly dues from memberships and through classes
organized to teach skills or discuss concepts. The space is very
flexible, and can even be used for local meetings, after-school
tutoring, and social events.

Farmers’ Markets: With
the disastrous rice-buying scam collapsed in corruption, scandal, and
bankruptcy, farmers across the country are left with empty hands and a
wrecked rice industry. Should these farmers possess the skills to
produce organic fruits, vegetables, and livestock, and should urbanites
both in  provincial cities and in the capital create markets for them,
an additional source of sustainable revenue can be offered while deeply
entrenching a healthier, local agricultural industry across the nation.

For
example, organic farmers’ markets could be created across Bangkok, who
independently or cooperatively promote their locations, operating hours,
and the farmers they network with. Tours to the farms producing the
food can also become a part of the new economy, with new media writing
about the health benefits of organic farming versus industrial big-agri.

An industry of the people, by the people, for the
people is the only true way to achieve real, sustainable, and meaningful
“wealth distribution.” The technology and resources already exist to
make this a reality – a reality already unfolding among dissatisfied
Americans seeking an exit out from under the Fortune 500’s corporate-financier monopolies.
The legal and regulatory barriers these monopolies are using to stem
the exodus of consumers into producers do not exist in practice in
Thailand.

For Thais, the only barrier may be a lack of
understanding that the solution is right before us. Understanding it,
however, allows us to take the current momentum of the political surge
against Thaksin Shinawatra and the corrupt system he represents, both in
Thailand and globally, and turning it into a pragmatic and lasting
movement that will finally allow us to make good on the promises
perpetually made and broken by self-serving politicians.