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george

Thailand’s Titanic Struggle

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george    2,855

Thailand’s Titanic Struggle

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By Thitnan Pongsudhirak

Thaksin lost political power but not his potency to trigger another military coup

BANGKOK: -- After more than a year of prolonged political crisis and confrontation, capped by last September’s military coup, Thailand’s murky political environment appears headed towards even greater uncertainty and instability. The coup restored the “holy trinity” of the military, the bureaucracy and the monarchy to the apex of Thailand’s socio-political hierarchy, and put down, at least for the time being, the upstart new order represented by deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his crew. However, the putsch did not put away Thaksin politically for the myriad corruption accusations and alleged abuses of power that hounded his five-year rule.

By New Year’s Eve, when multiple and coordinated bomb blasts convulsed central Bangkok, it became clear that what has transpired since September 19 is a coup gone wrong. Insinuating that remnants of Thaksin’s ousted regime were culpable for the lethal bomb attacks, the military junta, the self-styled Council for National Security, still looked inept because of its inability to maintain security in the capital.

Already reeling from a series of setbacks ranging from the failed liberalization of the underground lottery and slow progress in prosecuting the Shinawatra family’s shady land purchase and tax evasion to policy flip-flops on capital controls, the government of caretaker Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, an erstwhile privy councillor and former army commander-in-chief, consequently became more reliant on the CNS as security priorities surged to the forefront of its policy agenda against the backdrop of its apparent technocratic incompetence.

As both the CNS and the Surayud government have lost their way in the aftermath of the coup, what is likely to take place from here onwards is the continuation of a titanic struggle between the forces of the Establishment and those of Thaksin. At stake will be no less than Thailand’s very heart and soul. Three concurrent trends portend why and how this grand battle will run its course.

First, Thaksin still represents a potent and unrivalled political phenomenon previously unseen in Thailand. He commands deep pockets, thanks to a telecommunications and media empire built on state concessions and government connections. The sale of his family’s flagship company, Shin Corp, to Temasek Holdings early last year netted Thaksin a 73.3 billion baht (US $2 billion) windfall.

Moreover, Thaksin is a unique, consummate personality, who can count on a vast network of contacts, informants, sympathizers, and loyalists in many echelons of the police, the military, the bureaucracy, the private sector, not to mention the rural masses and urban poor who voted his Thai Rak Thai party into office in January 2001 with two successful re-elections in February 2005 and April 2006 (the latter result subsequently nullified).

Most important, Thaksin believes in the righteousness of his cause. Although his opponents have justifiably denounced him for corruption and abuses of power, Thaksin sees his pro-poor, populist platform as a clutch of innovative ideas to remake Thailand into a more egalitarian society, upending its neo-feudal underpinnings. The Thaksin phenomenon, his denials in media outlets such as CNN notwithstanding, is thus unstoppable because of the sheer force of Thaksin’s personality, belief and resources.

Second, the CNS generals have unwittingly facilitated Thaksin’s political longevity.

After failing to take Thaksin to task aggressively in the fortnight after the coup, the CNS set up a lackluster cabinet full of elderly and mostly retired hands from the bureaucracy, and followed up with the appointment of a national assembly with substantial military representation.

The ruling generals also failed to press their coup justifications of Thaksin’s corruption, constitutional usurpation, societal polarization, and disrespect of the king. Their post-coup management had been so dismal that the New Year’s Eve bomb blasts led to rumors of another coup to tighten the military’s grip and get rid of Thaksin’s agents provocateurs and other agitators for good. Indeed, if its security maintenance slips further and Thaksin continues to gain ground on the generals, a harsher, incumbency coup may be in the offing. It would be a coup staged in the same direction with similar objectives, but with a new leadership and tougher methods and means. Another coup in 2007 would almost certainly delay the already contentious and problematic constitution-drafting and election timetables, and could become a source of street protests, with enabling conditions for Thaksin to make his political comeback.

Finally, the September 19 coup was unlike previous putsches in contemporary Thailand for its critical timing. Its tumultuous aftermath is panning out as Thais enter the twilight of their monarch’s glorious 60-year-old reign in a 21st century kingdom characterized by unresolved polarization and an ongoing tussle for the country’s future after the royal succession. Thailand as it is known today has modernized from an Asian backwater to a middle-income nation with a gleaming metropolitan capital, weighed down by social and income disparities between the rich and middle classes on the one hand and the poor on the other, between Bangkok and the countryside.

Unless the Establishment makes greater efforts in bridging this yawning gap, Thaksin may well get another turn. Whichever side comes out on top in this grand struggle, Thailand as we know it is coming to an end. A new Thailand will emerge in an arduous and contested process during which its denizens and foreign friends from near and far should lend a helping hand as much as they can for as smooth a transition as possible.

-- The Irrawaddy 2007-02-03

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LaoPo    179

A brilliant analisys from a brilliant thinker; Thailand need more of those men.

Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak has an impressive Curriculum Vitae:

CV_Thitinan.pdf

LaoPo

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farang62    55

I have been in Thailand for over 30 Years and have been through many coups, but I have never seen so much confusion and counter dictions from so many people both in and out of power.

Many of us love Thailand and have substantial interests in Thailand We have lived and worked he under the laws and are legal. We have contributed to Thailand and the Thai's in general. Most of us have melded into the culture and fit in well here.

Now for the first time I do not feel like things will get better any time soon with out some serious action against those who are threating Thailand and it's people.

The authorities need to get rid of the dead wood, corrupt officials ie: police, military, MP's, judges and get people in who take their jobs seriously and work for the Thai people and NOT Them Selves. These convicted corrupt people need to be put in jail, not transfered at an inactive post, get rid of them, no pension, no benefits just jail time.

This will send a message to the old and new that the Thai people are serious. I don't ever remember a corrupt official ever being sent to jail.

I know we will all get through these tough times and Thailand will emerge a stronger and wiser Kingdom.

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amarka    8

hi...

i would have thought that most of this was obvious......

Thailand is going nowhere right now and the next elections...... if they are allowed to take place will be critical...Thaksin is still out there and in the shadows...... who ... will democraticaly replace him.... i wonder.....

as for for the military.. prestige is everything.. not only in thailand - and if you dont have grey hair and a suit/uniform - you need not apply.....

Thaksin has not gone... he may well return... and in my opinion it will be better for thailand if he returns.......

since he was overturned we have seen only chaos and protectionism from the " military " government... no this/no that....

let the people speak... they have been silent until now....

7 months to go....

WTO where ae you...! all the rules are being broken!

amarka :o

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pjallittle    0
Wow - this is the best analysis I have read anywhere so far. Thanks for posting it!

Entirely agree that it is an excellent summation and very well written although with touches of political naivete, a condition from which most of us suffer to one extent or another.

All of us who visit this interesting forum have our own view of what a perfect world should be, we come together and express our revulsion at the corruption, grasping for riches and power with the usual limousine liberally expressed concerns for the poor. Most of us are probably in the middle to upper income class, some of us have enough personal wealth or intelligence not to be personally effected by the body politic.

In any half decent society, there's always going to be an upper, middle and lower class. Political corruption and power are not exclusive to Thailand. These are facts of life and history. And it is politically naive to think that dramatic changes are going to take place no matter who occupies the core seat of government. Whether by specific design or intent, such an individual will have power and that will usually lead to some degree of personal financial gain. And it is folly to think otherwise, it is the natural course of human nature, foundationed upon centuries of history.

Why then should we expect a Thaksin to be any different? The real issue ought to be whether he can make a difference. There's evidence that, were he to run in an open election, the people would vote him back into power again. Put another way, is Thailand better off today under a failing military coup or not?

The man, his faults, his wealth, pluses and negatives are now very much out in the open. Has it made a difference? Was he better than his predecessors? Was Thailand making progress in the world community?

It becomes a question of dealing with historical realities and reconciling ourselves to the facts. People in power will always have faults, a desire for wealth and power.

Thaksin has enough wealth to comfortably live out his life, we know that. So what is his ultimate goal?

Let the people decide, it's their country.

Before dismissing what I've said, go back and read Thitnan Pongsudhirak's article, take it slow, take it easy.

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Martin    0

The only surprise here is that George posted something that actually mentions what we have all known to have been behind the clamour to oust Taksin and the September coup; but we have been pussyfooting around, alluding to, but never mentioning, for fear of having the thread closed.

<<snip-samran>>.

It will be a very different world after the present Great American Bankruptcy has played out.

A world that is thrashing around without a reserve currency is not going to be a pretty sight, even fromthe (potentially) safe haven of Thailand, with its fundamentally sound position of being able to feed all its people and to house them inexpensively in a clement climate.

Thaksin played it well for the first few years from when the country turned to him in 2001. Then it, rightly or wrongly, turned on him. But, even if that was wrongly, he is not (as a consumerist) a man with the right ideas for the future.

Let us all remember that Thailand is not just Bangkok. And Bangkok is not Thailand, and will be becoming of less and less importance to the country as the future unfolds.

Thailand's need in the future is for leadership with far wider vision than Thaksin possesses.

(But, give honour where honour is due, his narrow vision was very appropriate for the particular conditions in the early years of this decade, and he served his country well for a while.)

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p1p    1
Brilliant!!

At last a real snapshot of what is REALLY going on in Thai politics.

Thaksin tried to help the poor and was crucified for his efforts.

The article quoted above is a good assessment of Thai current politics. Unfortunately this quoted opinion is a highly simplistic and almost wholly erratic view of Taxin’s motives.

Khun Taxin, from his very earliest appearance on the business and political scene cynically used his crony network and the electorate to cement his personal hold on power.

Leaving aside his earlier business history of corrupt cronyism, allowing him to build up such a massive fortune, and his essential destruction of Palang Dharma party, just looking at TRT; he purchased all the votes he used to attain power by the simple expedient of promising 1M Baht to each village! Offering 50 or 500 Baht would have been illegal, and cost him money. 1 Million Baht of the country’s money cost him nothing….. Brilliant, but entirely cynical in motive.

Other populist schemes were introduced solely to concrete himself and his own kleptocracy in place. 30 Baht scheme. Lovely in principle, but disastrously under funded to the extent that many patients with curable conditions are being sent home to die carrying nothing but placebos rather than life-saving medication.

That is enough for now. There is no need to go into his attempts to usurp the royal family and/or detail the immense corruption he was responsible for.

The man is evil and the country is well rid of him.

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maccaroni man    318

i continue to believe that thailand is the mexico of asia. corruption is part of it's fiber which is why no one points fingers; at some point every person in power has been corrupt and will continue to be. until there is no longer an advantage to being a poor developing country no one will be held accountable.

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Martin    0

'pjalittle' said in post #7:

"It becomes a question of dealing with historical realities and reconciling ourselves to the facts. People in power will always have faults, a desire for wealth and power.

Thaksin has enough wealth to comfortably live out his life, we know that. So what is his ultimate goal?

Let the people decide, it's their country."

It may be that Thaksin has learnt from from the historical realities in which he was embroiled and that it is appropriate to say: "Come back, Mr Thaksin, all is forgiven. Lead us again".

I think that 'the jury is out' on that one.

There are, of course, immensely powerful people in various (mutually-opposed) groupings who would say "No way" to any idea of "Let the people decide, it's their country".

Hierarchical societies always contain them, as do so-called democratic societies. (Ask yourselves whether Bush and Blair let the people decide whether or not their countries should declare war on, and invade, Iraq.)

There is no doubt that Thaksin owed his electoral victory to his appeal to those of the people who are the Northern and Northeastern rural voters, but I never heard that he had any wish to break the middle-class grip on Parliament.

Or did I miss something? Did he propose to dispose of that the rule that nobody without a university degree can be put forward as a candidate for Parliament?

Between the grip of the privileged on extra-Parliamentary power, and the grip of the middle class on Parliamentary power, it is all sewn up and the majority of the people only have the illiusion of enfranchisement.

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danmtl    0

I agree extremelly well writen ..were was he when Thailand needed a new Prime Minister probably not a friend of the Military and to young Mr. Thitsan Pongsudhirak i care for this country as a expat and if you decide to run in the next election i will certainly be the first one to help for your side.

The authorities need to get rid of the dead wood, corrupt officials ie: police, military, MP's, judges and get people in who take their jobs seriously and work for the Thai people and NOT Them Selves. These convicted corrupt people need to be put in jail, not transfered at an inactive post, get rid of them, no pension, no benefits just jail time.

This will send a message to the old and new that the Thai people are serious. I don't ever remember a corrupt official ever being sent to jail.

I think farang62 you got it right also when you think Bigamy is a crime in Thailand and the main general as 2 wifes and the prime minister 6 well maybe they need to build more jails because with all the old corrupt in government now and their friends for sure the jail now will eb very crowded but maybe it will serve them well.

As Expat in this country whom really care for it i sure hope it will change soon.

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pjallittle    0
The only surprise here is that George posted something that actually mentions what we have all known to have been behind the clamour to oust Taksin and the September coup; but we have been pussyfooting around, alluding to, but never mentioning, for fear of having the thread closed.

That a condition such as above described should exist at all is, has been and will be a barrier to adapting to or achieving a free and open society. Censorship of this comment may follow, it will only prove the point.

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BANGKOK 25 September 2017 13:10
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