Friday, December 26, 2008

Thai politics in a coconut shell, policy on Burma

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the young and handsome prime minister of thailand certainly has a big job cut out for him. I don't know if you, my loyal readers have been following the politics of the day here in Thailand, but for a while there it was looking like an impossible situation.

Some Background on recent Thai politics.

Basically, there are two large groups that affect political life in Thailand. To make it easy, lets break it down into colours. Red is the colour favoured by the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra people, these are mainly made up of the poorer farmers and labourers in the country's north and north east. Opponents say that billionaire tycoon, Thaksin has essentially bribed millions of the country's poor.
Some anti- Red shirt people tell me that the Thai country people will be loyal to the red shirt movement for many, many years due to Thaksin's pro-poor policies.
On the other side are the yellow shirts...the PAD (no, not Peripheral Artery Disease...the other PAD...People's Alliance for Democrazy). Anyway, name implies democracy but most of us consider what they want to be something other than democracy as it's usually been known. For starters, they want the majority of Member's of Parliament to be they say its a new kind of democracy where some minority groups and interest groups (the army the most notable of them) will have some official role in political life.

They challenge that Thaksin had been leading the government through his various proxies. I'm sure you know that Thaksin was the PM and happened to be out in New York, ready to give a speech when all of a sudden the military took command of Thailand in a bloodless coup. That was 2006. Jump ahead a year and a bit and we get to new elections.
Guess who won? The pro-Thaksin (in exile) red shirts. Guess what the anti-government PAD did? They started protesting...peacefuly at first and then increasingly violent to where some experts were saying that the though of civil war has not been more real than in 700 years. The airports were occupied...(I live in Don Muang, so for me it was a little crazy walking past the protests everyday to get to work)
So, along comes that handsome Abhisit, the new 44 year old Thai prime minister. He was the Orly guy that the PAD said would allow to be Prime Minister. Though the Red Shirt party has more seats in parliament, Abhisit's Democrat party was able to get some red shirt defectors and small party support.

Things have mostly returned to normal, but how long will they stay that way is anyone's guess. I hope he tries to buy back some support in the north so that we can avoid this constant struggle between the farmer/labourers and the urban elite PAD.

A new policy on Burma

Now, just reading on that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has a new policy on Burma. The article says cites an interview with Al Jazeera where he states that Thailand will try to work with her ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) partners to press Burma's abominable (my word, not his) human rights record.

He stated: “The West and Asean have a common objective. We want to bring good change in Myanmar [Burma]" (source) . His new foreign affairs minister, Kasit Paromya went further stating: "“From now on, there will be no personal business dealings on the side. This government will not mix business and politics,” he said. “We shall have no [personal] business deals with the [Burmese] junta; we shall observe human rights and environmental concerns; we shall treat Burmese as we do Thais" (source)

Well hold my coat and give me a rock, they are going to treat Burmese people like Thai people! Treating people like people? Wow, I'll be watching to see if they do.

Abhisit hot, Samak not

The Democrats have a much better record on Burma actually. The last Democrat Prime Minister, (1997-2001) refused to visit Burma. Also, in 1999 when Burmese freedom fighters stormed and occupied the Burmese embassy in Thailand, the government of Thailand said that these guys were not "terrorists" they were students merely seeking democracy in their country

So, as opposed to the former Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej who was forced to quit as PM due to his illegal cooking show, Abhisit is no friend of the Burmese junta.

For his part, Samak actually visited Burma several times in his short time in office and said that the Burmese Generals are religious and devout Buddhists.

Yah, whatever...devout Buddhists who rape, or tolerate the rape of six year old girls. Give me a fucking break. The pig faced Samak also was well known for telling starving Thais to eat more chicken bone soup: "You can make a nice soup for the whole family. It tastes just great," he said.

Samak also once asked a female journalist if she ever had "sinful sex" and he made a lot of people angry when he called for the military to use violence to put down protests back in 1976 and today basically denies that anyone was seriously hurt when the official death toll stands at 46. So, nice guy and all...but happy to see him out.
One of my connections (a Reuters journalist speaking off the record) said that Samark's guys like to say they work for the this I asked..."would you say they are socialist"? the journalist responded "yes...fake socialist".

What's your point?
Point of this ramble is that I always supported the red shirts because I believe, unlike the yellow shirts, that the only solution to Thailand's problems is a peaceful resolution through democratic means. I don't support occupation of government offices and airports unless that government is really, really doing something bad. As much as I hated Samak and felt bad for Somchai Wongsawat Samak's predecessor, who really just wanted to help, I supported a democratic resolution to the problem.

So, when the parties all got together to form a coalition that doesn't include the largest party (red shirt part) my democratic conscience was satisfied...anyone note the interesting parallel to the Canadian situation here?


Anonymous said...

Aehm first of all I am wondering about the scientology ads on you website. Are you aware of this? Thailand is one of the biggest trading partners of Burma, so lets see if economy still rules the world or if there is some ethics left ..

Craig Williamson said...

Yes, I am aware that there have been some Scientology ads appearing through my google ads. I've been debating whether or not to block them. I do believe in religious freedom, but my opinion of Scientology is very low. The only ads I've thus far blocked are some travel to burma ads. I'm leaning on the side of not blocking religious ads.

Thanks so much for your comment. And yes, I agree on the Thailand situation. I'm really hopeful that this is about to change.

Anonymous said...

Another enjoyable essay. I have to say my wife (her family) and I never considered the red shirts democratic. That is because we saw the dirty vote buying politics up close when my wife's father twice ran for local office in the Isan region. My wife's father is one of the most honest men I have ever know, needless to say he did not win either time due to vote buying. We have great hope for the new PM.--keep the blogs coming..Roger

Craig Williamson said...

Thanks Roger,

That's a good take on it. I also don't think that the redshirts are entirely democratic..real democratic but they did win. So, I think that the other sides need to engage it at that level. There will never be a perfect democracy, but once a country starts on the road of democracy I don't see how they can turn back.