Late on the evening of October 6, the ultra right-wing fascist mob that calls itself the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD) laid siege to the Thai parliament.
They came prepared with iron bars and crash helmets. Their plan, as always, was to create chaos in the hope that the military would stage a coup or that the ruling party would once again be dissolved by the courts.
Their claim is that the present government led, by the People's Power Party (PPP) (formed by former members of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai, which was banned after the Thaksin government was overthrown in a 2006 military coup), is "illegitimate".
The PPP and previously the TRT party have consistently won large majorities in elections, proving that they are popular with the poor, who make up the majority of the population. This support from the poor is not surprising, since the party was the first elite party in 30 years to offer a universal health care scheme and public funds to develop the rural economy.
The PAD's claim that the government is somehow "illegitimate", is based on the fanatical belief that the poor do not deserve the right to vote because they are "too stupid". This belief is shared by the opposition Democrat Party, which supported the 2006 military coup and is now supporting the actions of PAD by boycotting parliament.
The DP boycotted the 2006 elections because it knew that the poor would not vote for its monetarist and neoliberal policies.
When in office, the DP had set police dogs on peaceful protestors from the Assembly of the Poor. That protest was nothing like the PAD riots of the past few weeks. The Democrats also used public funds to bail out the banks in the
1997 crisis. The poor were told to fend for themselves.
The PAD is calling for the defence of the military constitution introduced in 2007, which has already restricted the electorate's right to vote for the Senate.
PAD wants to bring about a Suharto-style "New Order", where only half the MPs will be elected and the PM need not be an elected MP.
On the morning of October 7, the police cleared one side of parliament using tear gas. This was to allow MPs to enter the building.
The police made it clear that the PAD would continue to be allowed to protest outside the other entrance to parliament. However, the PAD responded by attacking the police with sharpened flag polls, homemade guns and their own tear gas grenades.
In any other parliamentary democracy, the PAD leaders and their rioting supporters would have been arrested. They have been illegally occupying Government House for over a month.
Yet the police have been told to "lay off the protestors" by
people in high places.
Every public institution and organisation in Thailand is now compromised by this inter-elite conflict and the losers, as usual, are the poor — the workers and small farmers.
The monarchy has failed to defuse the situation. The queen has openly sided with the PAD mob. The courts are practising double standards, attacking Thaksin and TRT/PPP corruption, while ignoring illegal coups, mob violence and corruption by opposition politicians and the military.
The military, as always, is on the side of the conservative royalists. The police are unable to act and the government lurches from crisis to crisis.
The majority of academia is hopelessly compromised by its support for the coup and their support for decreasing the democratic space. Democratic principles have been thrown out of the window by professors who teach "democratisation" and the need for "the rule of law".
Even the peoples' movement has shown itself not to be up to the job. Instead of building an independent political position, on the side of the poor and oppressed, sections of the NGO movement supported the coup, the military constitution and the PAD.
Rosana, the so-called NGO senator elected from Bangkok, has joined in the ultra-nationalist fanaticism, especially over the ancient Khmer temple on the border with Cambodia.
These people must bear responsibility for the recent injuries
of both Thai and Cambodian troops in a needless border dispute.
Rosana also disrupted parliament today, working with military-appointed senators. She believes that the poor are too stupid to be allowed to vote. Yet all these people bang on about the need for "good governance" and "accountability" — who are they themselves accountable to?
The Thai economy faces the full force of the global economic melt-down. We need measures to protect the poor. We need income redistribution and a welfare state, and we need to bring peace to the three southern provinces.
Thaksin and his top military men should have been imprisoned long ago over human rights abuses in the south and as part of the so-called war on drugs. Yet this is never mentioned and he and his wife are seeking asylum in Britain while poor people from all over the world seeking the same are sent home to die by the British government.
We need to reform society to bring about progressive changes. This means expanding democracy, not allowing Thailand to slide back into the dark ages of dictatorship.
But the task will only take place when forces in the
peoples' movement — the left, the NGO networks, social movements and trade unions — come together to outline our own reform strategy. We cannot rely on the corrupt human-rights abusers in the government, nor the fascists of the PAD and their allies to achieve these aims.
[Giles Ji Ungpakorn's political blog can be read at http://www.wdpress.blog.co.uk.]