Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 01, 2008

Thailand - The PAD Overreaches Itself

Two month ago I wrote about the Coup Attempt in Thailand:

A 'People’s Alliance for Democracy' (PAD) is demonstrating against the government that was elected last December and is ruling within a six party coalition with two-third of the seats in parliament.
Leader of PAD is the right-wing media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul who's newspapers, websites and TV stations drive the protests. He has support from largely middle class urbanites including a union for well payed government employees and part of the army establishment.
Sondhi's aim is to destroy Thailand's democracy so that policies can be implemented that help him and his mostly well-off supporters instead of the more poor majority.

A few days ago the PAD's (paid?) supporters with their yellow scarfs occupied the airport in Bangkok and they are preventing all air-traffic.

But I suspect that the PAD has overreached. There are now over 240,000 tourists stranded in Thailand. The airport occupation now hurts PAD's constituency:

The tourism industry across the country has been dealt a massive blow with the shutdown of Suvarnabhumi, the country's main commercial gateway to the world, as well as Don Mueang airport, which mainly handles domestic flights.

Hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related business owners in key tourist destinations from Satun to Chiang Rai have reported cancellations.

They believe the shutdown of the airports has not only caused difficulties for tourists but has also undermined tourists' confidence in Thailand.
About 50 per cent of the bookings during the Christmas and New Year festivities, mainly by foreign tourists, have been cancelled.

If the democratic forces play this right, they will be able to  chop away the support from the PAD.

Color revolutions from the right are to make money for the right, not to prevent business. By hurting big parts of its support base, PAD has neglected that law.

Posted by b on December 1, 2008 at 19:03 UTC | Permalink


At my local Thai temple there was a rumor going around that the PAD people were being financed by Singapore. Why this rumor was popular I don't know, except the normal human desire to blame disagreeable things on outside agitators.

Posted by: paul | Dec 1 2008 20:30 utc | 1

The media in The Happy Little Kingdom (Denmark) has seen it as a spontaneous democratic protest against big monied coroption -- the biggest worry was that the crown prince and his wife would be able to get out of the country -- which they did.

The most telling sound bite I heard in the Danish news was some Thai, fluent in English, who effused that the people from the countryside were too uneducated to understand democracy...

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Dec 1 2008 21:01 utc | 2

As far as I can understand from the Thai people I know who mainly fall into two groups former rural workers who went to the city and married outta Thailand as well as small merchants who managed to leverage their way here the problem isn't really corruption.
Because the Thai system fell into corrupt practises long ago and people have come to expect it.
The former rural workers are big supporters of the current government (there are exceptions just as some of the small business class are opposed to the yellow revolution).
The current govt learned at the feet of former premier Thaksin who was as bent as a two bob watch but in a good way my friends tell me.
That is the current government has vaguely leftish leanings, they have promoted some land reform and more importantly indulged in providing small welfare type payments for struggling rural families.

This has endeared them to Thailand's masses since all previous governments have gone out of their way to ignore the endemic rural poverty, concentrating instead on ammassing tourism, broadcasting and manufacturing conglomerates with the able assistance of the army who have thus far stayed out of the blue, which may not be quite the positive it seems.
As a consequence the Tai masses considered voting a chore which they would only involve themselves in if forced to or offered a feast on election day. This changed when Thaksin showed them that it is possible for governments to do good things for the people.

You see the older established pols were used to catering to the educated minority who vote and then if need be buying up rural communities with beer and food on election day, so they consider this business of providing welfare to the poor 'vote buying'. I'm not kidding. The way that these Thai pols (and their urban middle class supporters) look at it the limited resources provided to Katrina victims would have had BushCo and cronies thrown into jail.
As for corruption well as The Bangkok Post described it People's Party leader and at that time Thai PM Samak Sundaravej was forced to step down in September 08 because:

the Constitution Court ruled that Samak Sundaravej violated the constitution by hosting cooking shows on commercial television and ordered him to step down.

The guy's gig was a TV cooking show host before he entered politics, some may find that dubious but gimme a TV cook ahead of a general any day and Thailand has had a lot of generals as bossfella over the years.

The government, the inauspiciously named PPP - People's Power Party may not be good guys but they are 'the good guys' in this conflict. All they are doing is trying to spread some of Thailand's 'economic miracle' around a bit. Jeez if that is vote buying and it catches on we may as well all give up and go home cause the only way change will ever be effected is through bloody revolution (Hmmm. . .maybe I better think on that).

The army is priding itself on not getting involved and neither are the police which is kinda strange for a society that used to take away leftish protesters who were marching is all, not cutting off the nation's lifeblood, machine gun the lot and throw the corpses into a hole in the ground.

Once again the world's media is going to great lengths to emphasise the corruption but not the reality behind the vote buying allegations.

My guess is that unless the army and or police (some of whom are putting on the yellow off duty my friends tell me) gets in and clears the protestors out of the airport the government will tumble at that will be the end of 'trickledown' for Thailand.

No one can afford this much longer there is no real pressure from outside Thailand to force the army or police to act and certainly none (apart from the duly elected government who are receiving a lesson in where Thailand's power really resides) from within.

The Royal Family have always been closet facists IMO, (you won't find many Thais, rich or poor, say a bad word about em unfortunately) their edicts from on high have forced compromises that reinforce the status quo of the many poor lorded over by incredible wealth. Sure there is an urban middle class, but we all know which way the bourgeoisie go when push comes to shove -straight behind the yellow revolution.

Maybe this week's court decision will absolve the government but I wouldn't count on it and anyway I doubt even that minor miracle will get the security apparatus to do it's job and support the legitimate government. I hope I'm wrong but too many years of watching same shit different day in Thailand makes me pessimistic.

From VOA:

Attention is now shifting to a constitutional court decision that is expected Tuesday or Wednesday. The court could rule that the PPP and its coalition partners must be dissolved for campaign law violations before the December 2007 election.

Chris Baker is an author and commentator on Thai politics.

"It seems very likely they will dissolve the PPP and possibly other parties; at which point the government falls. What happens after that is less clear. You would still have a functioning parliament. Therefore the next constitutional step would be for that parliament to select another prime minister," he said.

But Baker said the opposition may attempt to block the vote for a new prime minister.

The PPP has already created a new party identity, which could allow it retain control of the government until a general election is held.

PPP party spokesman Kudeb Saikrajang said he is confident the government will remain in power.

"The strategy is clear; we have set up a new party, Puan Thai, to welcome members of PPP to join them en mass so that we can continue our majority in parliament. Anyway we don't give up. We will let the newcomers to replace us right now," che said.

But we may see the army or police busting heads yet, the VOA piece goes on to say:

A ruling against the PPP could prompt the protesters to end their airport blockades. But there is concern in Bangkok that government supporters might become violent, because some have said any verdict that ousts the government would be a "coup by judiciary," which they would oppose.

Fuck this! When do we start up our New World Order with Annie in charge?

Posted by: Debs is dead | Dec 1 2008 21:57 utc | 3

The Thai government has been dissolved.

Posted by: Yellow Tiber | Dec 2 2008 6:28 utc | 4

Thai court orders PM Somchai's party to be disbanded

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai judges ordered Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's ruling People Power Party (PPP) disbanded on Tuesday after it was found guilty of vote fraud.

The Constitutional Court also barred the party's top leaders, including Somchai, from politics for five years, raising the risk of clashes between his supporters and anti-government protesters who are blockading the capital's two airports.
The ruling on allegations of vote fraud in the December 2007 election will not necessarily mean a snap election as many PPP MPs will simply switch to a new "shell" party already set up.

Fears of violent clashes, or worse, are growing.

"It now seems that violence cannot be avoided. Some even predict what has been unthinkable for 700 years: a civil war," the Bangkok Post said in an editorial.

Posted by: b | Dec 2 2008 6:56 utc | 5

Impacts from PAD's violences would be far serious than one could have imagined. Hundred thousands people will loss their jobs. Thousands may attempt to commit suicide. A damage to one small business man I know was 4 million baht due to the closure of the airports. My niece told me an hour ago that the occupying rates at her hotel drop from 90% to 20%-thus lay-off of staff is foreseen for sure..How can you name PAD's movement as saving the nation?

Chatri Moonstan
Ph.D Candidate

Posted by: Chatri Moonstan | Dec 3 2008 8:28 utc | 6

Thai king ill, misses much-anticipated speech

Thailand's revered and influential king missed his traditional birthday eve address due to illness on Thursday, a speech many Thais had hoped would provide short-term relief to the country's intractable political crisis.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turns 81 on Friday, has a throat infection and is on a drip, his daughter said in remarks aired on national radio from Bangkok's Chitralada Palace.

Many Thais had been looking to the world's longest reigning monarch to issue a call for unity after the political maelstrom saw Bangkok's main airport shut for a week by royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters.
Thailand's caretaker government canceled next Monday's special parliamentary session to choose a successor to Somchai Wongsawat, banned from politics for five years for voter fraud.
"Yesterday when I saw him he looked OK. He could eat what we served him, but today he had a throat infection so he could barely eat," Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn said.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who also deputized at the ceremony, said his father was "slightly ill." Neither the prince nor the princess made any mention of politics.

Note again that much of the ongoing in Thailand is a successor fight between the princess and the prince.

The princess is supporting the un-democratic PAD while the prince is more near to Taksin.

As I wrote:

The crown prince had/has good relations with Taksin and less good with the army. General Prem and the establishment does not want him to become king and prefer his Princess sister who lectures at a military academy and is more of a manipulatable figure than the lively crown prince. To get here in would require a significant change in the constitution and is risky revolt against the crown prince.

Prem organized the 2006 coup so stop an alliance between Taksin and the crown prince. But even after the military then changed the constitution (the upper house/senate is now 'appointed') and tried to manipulate the election, the voters picked the Taksin follower Samak and filled the lower house with his supporters.

It's interesting that the report above mentions both. The big fight (which could result in a civil war) over who follows the king seems still undecided.

Posted by: b | Dec 4 2008 19:24 utc | 7

The Economist has a good piece on the background of the protests and the involvement of the royals: Thailand's king and its crisis - A right royal mess

A messy but effective “Thai-style compromise” is still hoped for, to pull the country back from the brink. It is even possible to dream of the red- and yellow-shirt movements transforming themselves into a well-behaved, mainstream two-party system with broad public participation. This, in turn, might help the country escape the dead hand of the courtiers and generals who are trying to drag the country into the past. But none of this is likely.

If Bhumibol’s glittering reign either ends in conflagration or leads to a Thailand paralysed by endless strife, with nobody of his stature to break the deadlock, it will be a tragedy. But he will have played a leading role in bringing about such an outcome. There is of course an opposing case to be made—that the king has been a stabilising influence in a volatile age, that his devotion to duty has been an inspiring example and that he has only ever done what he thought best for the country. But that case has been made publicly, day in, day out, for decades. Thais are not allowed to discuss in public the other side of the coin.

Posted by: b | Dec 5 2008 12:59 utc | 8

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