Forbes: “Thailand’s Military Junta Destroys Democracy, Enjoys Exercising Power: Generals Postpone Elections Before Rigging Them”

Thailand’s Military Junta Destroys Democracy, Enjoys Exercising Power: Generals Postpone Elections Before Rigging Them – Forbes, December 22, 2014

[This is the view of Thailand that is and will be pushed by the pro-Thaksin forces as the outlines of a new constitution become clear. It is the view already being expressed by anti-junta Thai exiles.

In this view, Thailand is portrayed as a country in crisis with a repressive, Burmese-like military regime wronging democratically elected Thaksin. Thai politics is cast as a battle of the elected against an elite that apparently objects, on principle alone, to the will of the majority.

The article is an amazingly comprehensive list of talking points for the pro-Thaksin, anti-junta opposition in English. It includes all the buzz words and concepts that have been used before to obscure the real nature of events–“Orwellian,” invoking the Burmese dictatorship, that Aphisit came to power in a “quasi-coup” and was intolerant of street protests, and that checks and balances benefit the elite (Thaksin apparently not qualifying as an elite). The author even points out Thaksin’s actions were not corrupt, but “imprudent” while acknowledging in the follow sentence Thaksin’s bloody purge of drug suspects.

It ends with typical advice for a U.S. response–aid should have been cut, military exercises should have been cancelled, and respect for human rights should be encouraged.

All of this is similar to the push made in the run-up to the 2011 elections when the pro-Thaksin clique feared that elections could result in a coalition created to block the Pheu Thai from power. Then, as now, the view presented to the world had to be that Thailand was in crisis and needed urgent reforms–if not revolution.

This time things are different. The contention that the coup was simply about an elite thwarting the will of the people or that Thaksin was a democratically elected leader merely minding his business are no longer taken at face value.

There is very little belief any longer that Thaksin has really retired from politics or that Yingluck was part of a rising tide of independent and trailblazing female leaders. The Pheu Thai’s blatant pushes for amnesty and constitutional rewrites at every turn and the intimidation that both the party and Red Shirts applied against the courts means that the old demand that “we came from election, so no one can stop us” is taken with much greater skepticism.

Recent world experience with elections in Egypt, Turkey, and Russia, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, has shown that democracy is a much more nuanced undertaking than the international community might wish. The Thai junta can rest easy knowing that the Obama administration has been little interested in taking diplomatic stands, either in Thailand or elsewhere (earlier: U.S. diplomatic drift and Thailand and Remembering U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney).

There is no doubt that anyone who is counting on the Thai military to selflessly reform the nation is sadly mistaken, if not delusional. However, the same talking points from the 2006 coup casting the Thai elite as objecting to the will of the people on principle alone are not going to have the same impact. Too much has happened and too much is now unequivocally known about Thaksin and his sponsorship of the Red Shirts and the Pheu Thai for those lines to work anymore.]

2Bangkok.com Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

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