Contact: Roland Watson, firstname.lastname@example.org
THAILAND'S MIDDLE WAY
September 25, 2006
Last week, the Thai Military ousted caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. As a longstanding and strong critic of Thaksin, Dictator Watch is pleased to see him go. It was imperative that his destruction of Thai democracy and his splitting of Thai society come to an end. He had organized violence against the Peoples Alliance for Democracy (for their planned demonstration last Wednesday) as a prelude to declaring a state of emergency and subsequently banning public dissent and also purging the armed forces of its last professional officers. Thaksin was about to complete his long-term plan to become the absolute ruler of Thailand.
Had the military not acted, the only possibility to remove him from power would have been a large-scale popular mobilization. But given the level of control that he was about to achieve and his predilection for violence, it is certain that this would have been violently suppressed. The people of Thailand would have found themselves in a similar situation to the repressed population in Burma. Than Shwe and the SPDC are not only Thaksins allies and business partners, they are also his role models.
The Armed Forces had a choice. They could have allowed themselves to be purged, while pro-democracy demonstrators were killed. Alternatively, they could have assassinated Thaksin. (They have this power, although as police behavior has since confirmed, the bomb plot that supposedly existed against him was obviously a fraud, orchestrated by his supporters.)
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist. While it seems counterintuitive, the coup to remove Thaksin was a middle way solution, since it enabled political change without violence. The most important immediate responsibility of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) is to keep things this way: to guard against violence organized by Thaksins cronies.
CDRM has also pledged, and has already taken the first steps, to reinstall democratic government. They must fulfill this pledge or their popular support will end and the PAD will be undoubtedly be reformed.
Many foreign governments and other organizations denounced the coup. They either did this to be politically correct, to protect perceived economic interests, or because they did not fully understand the situation inside the country. For the last, simplistic comments from many analysts revealed their ignorance of what was about to happen last Wednesday.
Further, Thaksin was never democratically elected. This implies that the rule of law has been upheld, and in Thailand it was not. The Thai Constitution and its system of checks and balances first failed when he was found innocent in the assets concealment case. There should have been massive demonstrations or other strong steps at that time, rather than waiting five years. He should never have had the opportunity to drag Thailand to the bottom of the cesspool of political corruption. Everything he did was anathema to democracy.
CDRM has also announced that it will be a year before new elections. The reason for the lengthy period is that the Thaksin regime and the Thai Rak Thai party must be comprehensively eradicated, such that they can never return. This will take time. Thaksin and his gang have done so much wrong that dozens of investigations, regarding both human rights abuses and financial corruption, need to be opened, and result in charges being filed and court convictions. The Thaksin family should be stripped of its illegal wealth, with Thaksin himself personally found guilty of numerous charges.
Ultimately, the real problem is not the Constitution. Thailand is a formative democracy, and the people of the country are still learning their obligations under the system. You do not cast a vote, particularly a vote for which you have been paid, and then ignore everything else that happens and hope for the best. No constitution can withstand a man like Thaksin, if the people allow it. Every step he took, from buying MPs to form a dominant party, to taking control of the courts, the anti-corruption agencies, and the police and army, should have been strenuously opposed until it was stopped. No matter how the Constitution is rewritten, if the people do not meet their obligations to defend democracy, the system remains at risk of overthrow from within.
Regarding Burma, Thai foreign policy should be reversed. The new government should support democracy in Burma, not only in Thailand. State support for the dams on the Salween River should also come to an end. These dams should never be built. In addition, one would hope that mid-level officers in the Burma Army would emulate the Thai military and launch their own coup against the leaders of the SPDC. That way the people of Burma, like the people of Thailand, can also be free of dictatorial rule.