Thailand: Judicial coup a blow to democracy

May 10, 2014

Thailand's unelected, anti-democratic and illegitimate Constitutional Court has staged a coup d'etat, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on a mere technicality in a May 7 ruling. It claims the elected prime minister did not have the right to replace a government official.

It is a mere technicality because she is accused of “abusing her power” to appoint an in-law to the vacant position. Yingluk has been accused of this ridiculous “wrongdoing”, but those who made the 2006 military coup and the Democrat Party politicians who killed scores of pro-democracy demonstrators enjoy impunity.

The actions of this court would be laughable if they were not so serious. The court has previously ruled against the right of an elected parliament to amend the military constitution to make all of Thailand's senators elected. At the moment, 74 out of 150 senators are appointed by unelected officials.

It also ruled that the government cannot build a much-needed high-speed rail link. In that case, the old fogies said, “it would be better to build roads”. Apparently they have illusions that they are experts in all matters and have the right to run the country instead of the government.

This coup is basically in support of the anti-democratic mobs, led by the Democrat Party's Suthep Thaugsuban, who have brought chaos and violence to the streets of Bangkok. These mobs have also enjoyed impunity.

The coup is merely the latest in a long line of military or judicial coups since September 2006 that have sought to reduce the democratic space and disenfranchise the majority of the population. Each time they have overthrown an elected government, subsequent elections have shown that the majority of the population continue to support the overthrown political forces.

The Constitutional Court is part of an alliance of the conservative elite. The alliance is made up of the military, the top bureaucrats, the courts, the Democrat Party, the middle classes and the NGOs. These are the guilty people who have promoted the destruction of democracy.

Since the end of last year, violent right-wing anti-democratic mobs have openly used violence, including the use of fire arms, to wreck the February elections. At the same time, middle-class academics and NGO leaders have joined a disgusting chorus of hypocritical calls for an appointed prime minister and measures to restrict the democratic franchise in the name of “peace”.

The caretaker government that survives for now is made up of ministers who were not dismissed by the court along with Yingluck. But it is weaker, and other sections of the anti-democratic order will try to remove them as well. Their aim is to change the rules before a new election so as to further destroy the democratic space.

Make no mistake, this is a conflict between those who believe in the democratic process and modernity, and those who want to turn the clock back to the dark days when the majority of the population were ignored and insulted.

It is not merely an elite struggle. It is not about succession to the throne and it is not primarily about the Shinawatra family. Those who make such claims dismiss the political awakening and political participation by millions of Red Shirts and their supporters.

Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party cannot be trusted to lead a fight for democracy against these continuing threats. Any defence of democracy must come from the Red Shirt movement. But the movement needs new leaders independent of Pheu Thai and more closely allied to the organised working class.

[Reprinted from Red Thai Socialist. Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a political commentator and dissident. In February 2009, he left Thailand for exile in Britain after being charged with lese majeste (“insulting the monarch”) for writing a book criticising the 2006 military coup. He is a member of the socialist group Left Turn Thailand.]

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