Unions should not support Thai fascists

August 15, 2009

Recently the International Transport Workers' Federation general secretary David Cockroft issued a letter to the Thai government in support of three trade unionists who face charges for closing down the international airports last year.

Apparently two Australian transport unions, the Rail Tram and Bus Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, have also given
their support to the Yellow Shirt fascists of the People's Alliance for Democracy in Thailand.

Do these unions know what the PAD really is?

Thailand's political crisis started with mass demonstrations led by the misnamed PAD in late 2005.

The PAD began as an "alliance from hell" between disgruntled royalist media tycoon Sonti Limtongkul, ultra right-wing anti-abortionist Jamlong Simuang and a handful of NGO, trade union and social movement leaders.

They attacked the Thaksin Shinawatra government for corruption. But they were never interested in criticising his human rights abuses or the rampant corruption of other sections of the elite.

Thaksin responded to the growing crisis by dissolving parliament and calling fresh elections in April 2006. The opposition, including the Democrat Party, boycotted these elections because they knew that they were very unpopular with the electorate.

Rather than accept that electoral support for Thaksin was because of his government's first ever universal health care scheme and many other pro-poor measures, Thaksin's opponents claimed the poor did not understand democracy and didn't deserve the right to vote.

The NGO, trade union and social movement leaders in PAD moved sharply to the right, becoming fanatical royalists and calling on the king to sack Thaksin's elected government in 2006.

The king refused, but the PAD demands were seen as a green light for the military coup in September. PAD leaders and military junta members were later seen celebrating their victory at a New Year party in 2007.

Some of the Yellow Shirt PAD members have fascist tendencies. Last year, PAD members wrecked Government House and blocked the international airports. Behind them were the army and the palace.

This is why troops never shot at the Yellow Shirts while they created chaos. The PAD built up an armed guard that openly carry and use fire-arms and other weapons on the streets of Bangkok.

The PAD's media outlet, Manager Group, has a history of witch-hunts against academics and social activists on the left who question the deterioration of democracy and the use of the lese majeste (offending the monarch) law to silence dissent.

It encourages people to commit acts of violence against those who think differently.

The aim of the Yellow Shirts is to reduce the voting power of the electorate in order to protect the conservative elites running Thailand. PAD views increased citizen empowerment as a threat and proposes a "New Order" dictatorship where people are allowed to vote, but most MPs and public positions are not up for election.

The political crisis and unrest in Thailand over the past four-and-a-half years represents a serious class war between the rich conservative elites (royalist Yellow Shirts) and the urban and rural poor (Red Shirts).

It is not a pure class war. Due to a vacuum on the left, Thaksin, a millionaire populist, has managed to provide leadership to the Red Shirts. The Red Shirt movement, starting out as passive pro-Thaskin voters, have now began to organise themselves into a grass roots pro-democracy movement.

As the crisis progresses, Thaksin's leadership of this movement has started to be undermined by his willingness to compromise with some sections of the elite, although he still remains very popular.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn lives in exile in Britain after being charged under the lese majeste law for an anti-coup book published in 2007. Visit www.wdpress.blog.co.uk.]

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