[Marxism] Thailand: Fresh right-wing violence as vote fail to resolve crisis

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 3 19:29:17 MST 2014

On 2/3/14 8:38 PM, Stuart Munckton wrote:
> The national elections held on February 2 cannot solve the Thai political
> crisis because those lined up against the government and democratic
> elections are fundamentally opposed to democracy.
> https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/55783

No, Thailand's protesters don't want 'less democracy'
Democracy does not begin and end with the ballot box – it's a myth that 
this is all about an elite rejecting the popular vote

         Dave Sherman	
         theguardian.com, Friday 24 January 2014 23.00 EST	

As Thailand's protests intensify and a state of emergency is imposed in 
and around Bangkok, some have begun referring to the demonstrations as 
"antidemocratic", zeroing in on the opposition's boycott of a 
forthcoming election and the protest leaders' calls for an unelected 
"people's council" to replace existing democratic structures. But the 
truth is more complex, with the protesters being arguably – and 
paradoxically – more democratically minded than the elected government 
they oppose. To understand how this is possible, one has to scratch 
beneath the surface of Thai politics and dispel some myths.

Myth 1: The protesters are mainly 'Bangkok elites'

The government is led by Yingluck Shinawatra, who is widely acknowledged 
to be the proxy of her self-exiled brother and former PM Thaksin 
Shinawatra. The protests began last November after the parliament passed 
an amnesty bill that wiped Thaskin's slate clean, allowing him to return 
to Thailand without serving his two-year jail sentence.

Spearheaded by the opposition Democrat party and Bangkok's middle 
classes, the protests grew even after the bill was withdrawn, morphing 
into a wider movement to reform Thailand's politics, cleansing them of 
Thaksin's influence once and for all. These protesters are often called 
an "elite" by pro-Thaksin groups – it's a term used to discredit their 
opponents, and it has caught on among many in the international media. 
In reality, while the protests indeed have their centre in Bangkok, most 
protesters are fairly diverse, and include the city's middle and working 
classes, as well as students and people of all walks of life from 
Thailand's south. Crucially, the majority of the Bangkok-born working 
class do not support the government.

It is true that the protest does not enjoy much support in the country's 
northern and northeastern regions, where the majority of Thailand's 
population resides. This geographic divide highlights the protest's 
limits as a national movement, but it in no way supports the notion that 
protesters are an unrepresentative elite.

Myth 2: Urban protesters oppose rural Thais' desire for equality

The protests were never driven by a need of urban Thais to deprive their 
rural compatriots of their rights, but were triggered by specific and 
highly provocative actions by the pro-Thaksin government and parliament. 
The controversial amnesty bill carried one clear message: we are here to 
serve, first and foremost, the needs of Thaksin Shinawatra, not the 
country – and it was, in effect, the last straw.

But while the protesters want to remove Thaksin from Thailand's body 
politic, they do not specifically seek to punish his rural supporters. 
When Yingluck Shinawatra first assumed power after winning the 2011 
election, all Thais accepted the result peacefully. Had "Bangkok elites" 
wanted to bring down the government simply because it represented the 
power of their opponents, they would've come out against it much sooner.

Some protesters have, unfortunately, said disparaging things about rural 
Thais, questioning their ability to make the "right" electoral choices 
due to a lack of education and other perceived faults. What this shows 
is that Thailand has a long way to go in conquering the many stereotypes 
that exist among its people – but it does not point to a protest born of 
a desire of one part of the population to disenfranchise another.

Myth 3: The protesters want 'less democracy'

Thai protesters will invariably tell you that democracy does not end 
with elections – that it is not simply a piece of paper placed into a 
ballot box. This shows parallels to Egypt last year, as masses piled 
into the streets, challenging the elected government of Mohamed Morsi in 
its drive to consolidate power and impose a theocratic state on an 
unwilling populace. It's not that Egyptians did not want democracy – a 
year earlier they had died in the streets fighting for it – but they 
felt democracy was usurped by the very government elected under its rules.

Thai protesters' anger and disillusionment comes from a similar place. 
They are reacting to the government's abuses of power, its vast 
corruption and a majoritarian style of rule that excluded opponents from 
any decision-making on key issues of governance. As the government 
became more and more dedicated to fulfilling Thaksin's need to regain 
power, it became not just distasteful to the protesters, but politically 

To the protesters, Thaksin has always been seen as an autocrat for whom 
democracy is simply a means to holding on to power, not a guiding 
political philosophy. Therefore opposing Thaksin and his proxy 
government is not seen as antidemocratic – as Thaksin himself is 
antidemocratic in substance, if democratic in form.

Meanwhile, Yingluck's dissolution of parliament and call for new 
elections as the protests intensified was viewed as nothing but a raised 
middle finger to the protesters: "We don't care what you're protesting 
or demanding; we will have an election, and we will win on the strength 
of our supporters alone. You don't matter!" The protesters heard this 
message loud and clear, and it only deepened their resolve to resist an 
illegitimate government, hiding behind the facade of an election.

Hence, the demand for "reform before election" – with most protesters 
accepting democracy with free elections as a basic form of government, 
but only after reforming the system to eliminate Thaksin's influence 
from Thai politics.

In truth, eliminating Thaksin and his influence from Thai politics may 
be a very tall order, and the protest leaders' unyielding demands for a 
vague and unelected council will have to be tempered by a more realistic 
and nationally acceptable compromise. Nevertheless, the protests in 
Thailand are not fundamentally antidemocratic. It is a reform movement 
born of a deep frustration and outrage with the way democracy has been 
cheapened and abused by one man and his interminable drive to regain power.

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