Thailand: Right-wing thugs unleash fresh violence

January 27, 2014
Anti-democratic protesters attempt to disrupt pre-poll voting in Bangkok, January 26.

The Democrat Party’s mad dogs unleashed violence around Bangkok’s voting stations on January 26.

Voting stations throughout the country were supposed to be open for people to cast their votes before the February 2 general election. Advanced voting is a required service since it is compulsory for people to cast their ballot.

In many areas of Bangkok, angry residents argued with the anti-democratic protesters. They also protested against local election commissioners who closed voting stations whether or not they were surrounded by Sutep Tuaksuban’s Democrat Party thugs.

At some stations, the right-wing thugs physically attacked citizens who wanted to vote. What happened on the day shows that significant sections of the Bangkok population are opposed to the Democrat Party’s attempts to wreck the election.

This will only come as a surprise to those who claim the crisis is a “rural vs Bangkok” dispute. At the last election, almost half of the Bangkok electorate voted for Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party.

Despite the roving gangs of thugs in Bangkok, 597 constituencies nationwide, or 91% of constituencies, managed to hold advance voting. In the Muslim Malay south, village officials stood in line around voting stations to stop the thugs intimidating voters.

The head of the Department of Special Investigation is also looking to prosecute election commissioners who failed to do their duty to ensure voting took place where there were no anti-government protests.

The antics of the election commission, the Democrat Party thugs and the Constitutional Court are like a game of football. Sutep’s thugs want the government to resign and the elections to be scrapped. They want the constitution to be changed so that democracy is abolished.

The thugs cause disturbances to try to wreck candidate registration, the election commission takes the “ball” and uses this as an excuse to call for the election to be postponed. They then pass the “ball” to the Constitutional Court to rule the election can in fact be postponed.

The “ball” now passes back to the thugs who cause more violence outside voting stations. The election commission jumps at the chance to point to this violence as an excuse to close polling stations and call on the government to call off the election.

All the while, these agents of dictatorship are cheered on by the university vice-chancellors, sexist doctors, NGOs, the mainstream press and the mis-named National Human Rights Commission.

The academics, NGOs, backward middle classes and other despicable creatures of the elites, bear a great responsibility for the growing destruction of democracy in Thailand. During the last months of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government, they insulted most of the electorate by claiming that they were “too ignorant” to have the right to vote.

Before that they belittled pro-poor policies, such as universal health care, as being “mere vote-buying”. They are the ones who called for the army to stage a coup d'etat against the elected TRT government in 2006.

They then cooperated with the military junta. They are the ones who supported the blocking of the international airports in 2008 to urge the judiciary to stage another coup against the elected PPP government. It is they who gave tacit support to the killing of 90 pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters by the military in 2010.

Today, they make hypocritical calls for “both sides to refrain from violence” and to “meet each other half way”. This is the same as saying that Sutep’s mob, who want to destroy democracy, have the same legitimacy as the elected government supported by 70% of the population.

If this ragbag of middle-class detritus cared one iota about creating peace and democracy in Thailand, they would join with those who have been lighting candles and urging Sutep to take his mob home. Instead, every time they open their mouths, they give confidence to the thugs.

I and my comrades in Turn Left Thailand have been discussing five urgent reforms that need to take place to win more democratic space in Thailand. You can read the details here or here.

In summary they are:

1. The need to address gross economic inequality by introducing a wealth tax and a welfare state.

2. The need to abolish the lese majeste (insulting the monarch) law, the computer crimes law and the contempt of court law, which protects judges from criticism. Prisoners of conscience like Somyot Prueksakasemsuk should be released from prison. The entire judicial system should be overhauled.

3. The elite-appointed “independent bodies”, which are only independent from any democratic process, and which misuse their power by over-ruling parliament, must be abolished. The worst offenders are the election commission, the Constitutional Court and the half of the Senate that is appointed rather than elected. The whole despicable idea behind such bodies is that the general population cannot be trusted to elect the “right” people to parliament. If parliament and the government need accountability and transparency, it should be done through democratic processes.

4. The need to cut the power and influence of the military in politics and society.

5. The need to punish those who commit gross violations of human rights, including military generals, Democratic Party politicians Abhisit Vejjajiva and Sutep, and Thaksin himself. This is so that real standards of human rights can be established. The pro-elite National Human Rights Commission needs to be abolished.

We in no way claim a monopoly on ideas for political reform. Other groups, such as the Nitirat group of progressive law academics, have many interesting proposals. There are also many other long-term reforms needed.

But it is safe to say that if anyone talks about political reform without mentioning our five main points above, they are merely rebranding “reaction” and “dictatorship”.

[Reprinted from Red Thai Socialist. Giles Ji Ungpakorn is an activist and writer from socialist group Turn Left Thailand. In 2009 he was forced into exile after being charged with lese majeste. You can read more about Thailand at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]

* Editor's note: Largely supported by the poor-based Red Shirt mass movement, the PTP won the elections with Yingluck Shinawatra becoming prime minister. The PTP was founded by Yingluck's brother, former prime minister Thaskin Shinawatra who was overthrown in a 2006 military coup.

Despite accusations of corruption and human rigths abuses, Thaskin's government won support from much of the poor introducing reforms such as universal health care. After the coup, the Red Shirt democracy movement developed, with coup supporters, including the Democratic Party, known as Yellow Shirts.

The PTP government has called the February 2 elections to seek to resolve a political crisis caused by violent Democratic Party-led protests, but the Democratic Party has rejected elections.

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