Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Thailand Divides On Election

Thailand Divides On Election


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's upcoming election on Sunday (December 23) may be won by an "ultra right-wing" politician whose plan to defy last year's coup and bring back disgraced Thaksin Shinawatra from self-exile could bitterly divide this Buddhist- majority, U.S. ally.

Combative, tough-talking former Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej, and his newly formed People Power Party (PPP), were expected to win the most votes in the parliamentary election, thanks to their support for thrice-elected, former Prime Minister Thaksin, who was toppled by a bloodless military coup on Sept. 19, 2006.

Mr. Samak's recent demand on nationwide TV, to know who a Thai reporter "fornicated" the night before, shocked many viewers who perceive him as a loud, street-hardened authoritarian happy to bare his political knuckles to achieve power.

Labeled "ultra right-wing" by Thai media, Mr. Samak, 72, said he will continue Mr. Thaksin's pro-poor policies, including cheap health care and easy credit, and also unleash a fresh "war on drugs." Mr. Thaksin's anti-drug campaign resulted in more than 2,500 murders, which human rights groups said were "extrajudicial killings" by security forces anxious to satisfy government quotas.

Mr. Thaksin and his supporters denied those charges and said most deaths were committed by rival drug gangs settling scores and silencing squealers.

Among Thais, a vote for Mr. Samak is widely seen as a "proxy" vote for the ousted Mr. Thaksin.

The junta and its flustered supporters appeared scared that their coup against Mr. Thaksin -- and their past 15 months of investigations, tribunals, smear campaigns, arrest warrants and asset freezing tactics -- did not destroy "the old power clique." They accused Mr. Thaksin, who is also a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, of massive corruption during his five-year reign, and of bending democracy to dominate government institutions and monopolize lucrative domestic and international contracts.

The coup leaders, along with their collaborators and supporters within Thailand's frustrated military, media, and middle and upper classes, were pinning their hopes on Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, a British-educated parliamentarian who was expected to trail Mr. Samak in the polls.

Seemingly too polished, polite and poised to connect with most voters -- but a hit among wealthy foreign investors and the Thai elite -- Mr. Abhisit is perceived as too close to the junta. "A coup is now the thing of the past, it does not make sense any more," soft-spoken Mr. Abhisit, 43, said on Tuesday (Dec. 19), in sharp contrast to the harsh condemnation the coup received from Mr. Thaksin and his ousted allies.

Whoever scores highest in the Dec. 23 election for 480 House of Representative seats will most likely need to form a coalition with smaller parties, resulting in compromises which could heal or worsen the split between Mr. Thaksin and the junta.

Some activists denounced the junta as a "dictatorial regime," but most Thais did not visibly protest the coup and instead focused on the Dec. 23 election as a way of endorsing or opposing its edicts. The junta shredded the constitution and orchestrated the writing of a new charter -- Thailand's 17th constitution -- which was confirmed by voters despite warnings that it crippled the power of elected officials and gave the junta amnesty.

The junta also created tribunals which barred 111 politicians -- including Mr. Thaksin -- from politics for the next five years.

To dodge the ban, several of the 111 politicians installed their wives, children or brothers as candidates, mostly in Mr. Samak's PPP. The junta and its collaborators have been mocked during the past 15 months for appearing in scandals involving real estate, conflicts of interest, and other ethical and legal violations, while not being able to convict Mr. Thaksin.

While fiddling with politics, laws and the economy, the U.S.- trained military also failed to stop Islamist separatists fighting for an ethnic Malay-Thai homeland in southern Thailand, resulting in more than 2,700 dead on all sides since 2004.

An alleged "secret military order by the junta to suppress the party" of Mr. Samak, and prevent his election victory, ultimately embarrassed the regime when Mr. Samak exposed the scam.

"Military spokesmen and leaders directly lied when they claimed the documents were forged, then blustered that they were stolen, and finally tried to claim they were only a proposal," the English- language Bangkok Post said in a Monday (Dec. 17) editorial. Washington rebuked Bangkok for the coup, and suspended some military ties, but has conducted business as usual with this pro- capitalist Southeast Asian nation.

****************

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news