I know it’s common for ambassadors everywhere to kiss their prime minister’s ass, but the remarks made by Thai envoy in Manila Kulukumut Singhara Na Ayudhaya made me squirm. In an interview with the Inquirer, Kulukumut said: “Our prime minister is too much democratic. He wants to solve the situation in a democratic way. He wants to use soft measure to make people come together”
I wonder if democratic and “soft” measures have different meanings in Thailand, because in other places leading a government devoid of electoral mandate and letting the army shoot on the protesters are neither the”democratic way” nor a “soft measure.”
Democratic is the last adjective I would use to describe Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the ruling clique that supports his government. These people are elitists who have been consistently maneuvering to bloc the excercise of the democratic will of the Thai people.
In 2006, this clique ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist prime minister whose Thaksinomics effected a boom in the Thai economy and improved the lives of the rural poor but challenged the power and influence of the ruling elite, through a Royally-sanctioned military coup. When the post-coup ruling military junta was pressured to return to democracy by calling for fresh elections, the Thai people elected a pro-Thaksin government. But before pro-Thaksin Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat could even warm his seat, the ruling elite began mobilizing the People’s Alliance for Democracy and staged daily protests that culminated in the take-over of the Suvarnabhumi Airport and other vital installations.
Ironically, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is neither a people’s alliance nor for democracy. It is composed of royalists, businessmen and the Bangkok midle class who advocates a parliament composed of Royally-appointed, instead of elected, members. It successfuly overthrew the duly-elected pro-Thaksin governments when the military refused to implement the state of emergency those governments tried to impose to address the anarchy resulting from the PAD’s take-over of vital Bangkok installations. Amid the confusion, the military and the PAD were able to effect defections of pro-Thaksin lawmakers to the Democratic Party, thereby propelling Abhisit to power without electoral mandate.
The ruling elite has therefore hi-jacked the Thai people’s will not once, but twice. Under these circumstances the people would understandably go ballistic, which explains the present violent demonstrations. But instead of blaming the ruling elite, Ambassador Kulukumut chose to blame Thaksin instead, going as far as to accuse Thaksin of paying each of his supporters 700 to 1,000 bahts per day to join the protests. What an insult to those 22 protesters who died for their beliefs.
But the truth is, and I’m sure he good ambassador knows this deep inside, the turmoil in Thailand is no longer about Thaksin. It has evolved into a battle for the fundamental power structure in Thailand. Empowered by Thaksin’s populism, the rural poor have awakened to challenge the structure that has long been dominated by the Royal court and the elite. And what makes the situation more dangerous is the fact that nobody is holding the balance of power anymore. As the Inquirer in its recent editorial said, “with the king ailing, the crown prince unpopular, the much more popular daughter of the king ambivalent about possibly succeeding to the throne, the prime minister diminished and dependent on an armed forces now tainted with the blood of protesters, and Thaksin himself quite possibly not entirely in control of his supporters, something more radical may be afoot in Thailand.”
If Abhisit wants to prevent this mess from spinning out of control, if he wants to resolve this through democratic means, then the only way to go would be for him to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. The presence of a peaceful means to excercise their democratic will is the only way to prevent the Thai people from excercising their will through violent means.