Thailand: Fresh right-wing violence as vote fails to resolve crisis

February 3, 2014
'White Shirt' protesters in Thailand demand respect for elections in the face of fresh right-wing violence.

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.

The election was marred by violence from right-wing Democrat Party thugs who were determined to prevent voting from taking place. Armed thugs fired automatic weapons into crowds of people seeking to vote. These thugs have been enjoying total impunity for more than a month while intimidating voters and candidates.

Democrat Party leaders want the electoral process changed so that the middle class and the elites have an absolute veto over the wishes of most of the electorate. Democracy does not work for them because they only enjoy support from less than 30% of the population.

They are supported in their thuggery by the Constitutional Court, the top civil service, the mainstream media, sections of the electoral commission and the NGOs.

The military is happy to stand by and watch Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her Pheu Thai party’s discomfort. The generals may not want to stage a coup right now, but they will not lift a finger to defend democracy or the elections. They want Yingluck to make more concessions to those opposed to democracy.

Despite the violence and intimidation, voting took place in most provinces and 20.4 million people cast their votes. This was down from 35 million in the 2011 elections, which the Pheu Thai won.

Pheu Thai won with support of the poor-based Red Shirt mass democracy movement that opposed the 2006 coup against then-PM and Yingluck’s brother Thaskin Shinawatra.

Given that the Democrat Party has, in the past, won no more than 14 million votes, and this time they called a boycott, the turn-out was reasonable. It can be assumed that more than 20 million people wish to preserve democracy and many of those support Pheu Thai.

No amount of compromise or negotiations with the anti-democratic thugs will solve the crisis. The only short-term result would be shrinking democratic space and further empowering those who view the majority with contempt.

No amount of outrage at the violence and impunity of the thugs will push Yingluck, Pheu Thai or the authorities into a crackdown on those committing criminal acts. Yingluck would rather do a dirty deal with the Democratic Party’s Suthep Thaugsuban than mobilise the Red Shirts and the general population to fight for democracy.

This means that pro-democracy activists have to work together to stop the destruction of democratic space — whether they be progressive Red Shirts, pro-democracy trade unionists, White Shirts (who support elections and reject the right-wing violence), Nitirat Group of pro-democracy lawyers, socialists, or pro-democracy academics grouped in the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy.

They should also push forward with real reform proposals to increase the rights and empowerment of the majority. The future of Thai democracy lies in their hands.

[Reprinted from Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s website, Red Thai Socialist. He is a Thai socialist and author forced into exile in 2009 after being charged with lese majeste (insulting the monarch).]

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