Who Divides Thailand?

Who Divides Thailand? – foreignpolicyjournal.com, March 10, 2012
Almost two years after ordering a massacre of his own citizens, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva remains the leader of the Democrat Party. General Prayuth Chan-ocha, whose troops carried out the killings, is still the Commander in Chief of the Thai army, while many of the officers who assisted in the crackdown’s planning and execution were rewarded with promotions. Even the retired General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who staged a military coup in 2006 against a government elected three times, is now a member of parliament; improbably, he was given the chairmanship of a parliamentary committee on “national reconciliation”…

[Interesting article by Thaksin lobbyist Robert Amsterdam. This is building on earlier positions by the Thaksin side defining reconciliation as Thaksin being allowed to return. This is precisely the opposite position of Thaksin’s foes who vow to return to the streets if the constitution is amended (as was tried in 2008) to allow Thaksin to return.

The article expresses frustration with the international press for reporting that Thaksin’s opposition considers a Thaksin return the key factor that will bring the country into conflict once again.

This has always been a problem for the Thaksin side. The expansion of ways to expose the world to Thai political events, from tweeting to international television networks, worked for a time to present the spectacle and drama of the Red Shirts. It gained sympathy for their cause internationally.

However, the same light that exposed the aspirations of the Thai masses from the countryside also began to focus on the beneficiary of their actions–Thaksin. His record as prime minister saw a choking of the media, extra-judiciary purges of drug dealers and others local police wanted to eliminate, and hostility to independent checks on government (admittedly a hard thing for any Thai politician to accept).

Seeing the Thai tolerance for corruption and unethical behavior in the highest places and the difficulty of instituting true reform, the argument can be made that Thailand does need revolution in the form of a strong man (Thaksin) who can make changes and make them stick.

The Thaksin vision of Thailand as a regional leader with international standing would be a sea-change from the inward-looking insular neutrality of the nexus of Thai families who divide the spoils of the nation’s business among themselves.

However, the likelihood that a Thaksin return would again begin the march to create a one-party Mahathir-style state based around a charismatic personality means the existing political and extra-political centers of power are resisting this revolutionary change. Regardless of whether one feels this is a good or bad thing, this is what is behind the resistance to Thaksin despite his electoral popularity.

The most fascinating point of the article is the focus on the impunity with which political and military figures get away with bloody actions in Thailand. This has long been a difficult thing for non-Thais to accept–how restoring peace to the Thai village is defined as obfuscation–not truth telling and even-handed justice.

The idea of bringing those in high places to justice should be interpreted as a threat in the Thai world. It is the threat of finger pointing and truth telling–both anathemas–if moves for Thaksin are blocked. Then Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party can make conciliatory statements saying all should “forgive and forget” in the Thai way as long as Thaksin is included in the forgiveness.

We are not saying any of this is right or wrong. It is just the way things are in a strange world called Thailand.]

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