imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Subscribe Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news



CopWatch LA


A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network: africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech
printable version - js reader version - email this article - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Class War: Thailand’s Military Coup

by Walden Bello Friday, Jun. 13, 2014 at 1:45 AM

Outnumbered by the country’s rural voters, Thailand’s once vibrantly democratic urban middle class has embraced an elitist, antidemocratic agenda

Class War: Thailand...
2014-thai-anti-coup.jpg, image/jpeg, 507x338

After declaring martial law on May 20, the Thai military announced a full-fledged coup two days later. The putsch followed nearly eight months of massive street protests against the ruling Pheu Thai government identified with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The power grab by army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha came two weeks after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, was ousted as caretaker prime minister by the country’s Constitutional Court for “abuse of power” on May 7.

The Thai military portrayed its seizure of power as an effort to impose order after two rounds of talks between the country’s rival factions failed to produce a compromise that would provide Thailand with a functioning government.

Deftly Managed Script

The military’s narrative produced few takers. Indeed, many analysts saw the military’s move as a coup de grace to Thailand’s elected government, following what they saw as the judicial coup of May 7.

It is indeed difficult not to see the putsch as the final step in a script deftly managed by the conservative “royalist” establishment to thwart the right to govern of a populist political bloc that has won every election since 2001. Utilizing anti-corruption discourse to inflame the middle class into civil protest, the key forces in the anti-government coalition have, from the start, aimed to create the kind of instability that would provoke the military to step in and provide the muscle for a new political order.

Using what analyst Marc Saxer calls “middle class rage” as the battering ram, these elite elements forced the resignation of the Yingluck government in December; disrupted elections in February, thus providing the justification for the conservative Constitutional Court to nullify them; and instigated that same court’s decision to oust Yingluck as caretaker prime minister May 7 on flimsy charges of “abuse of power.” Civil protest was orchestrated with judicial initiatives to pave the way for a military takeover.

The military says that it will set up a “reform council” and a “national assembly” that will lay the institutional basis of a new government. This plan sounds very much like the plan announced in late November by the protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, which would place the country for a year under an unelected, unaccountable reform panel.

The military’s move has largely elicited the approval of Suthep’s base of middle-class supporters. Indeed, it has been middle-class support that has provided cover for the calculated moves of the political elites. Many of those that provided the backbone of the street protests now anticipate the drafting of an elitist new order that will institutionalize political inequality in favor of Bangkok and the country’s urban middle class.

The Thai Middle Class: From Paragons to Enemies of Democracy

The sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset once celebrated the middle class as paragons of democracy. But in recent years, middle-class Thais have transmogrified into supporters of an elitist, frankly antidemocratic agenda. Today’s middle class is no longer the pro-democracy middle class that overthrew the dictatorship of Gen. Suchinda Krapayoon in 1992. What happened?

Worth quoting in full is an insightful analysis of this transformation provided by Marc Saxer:

“The Bangkok middle class called for democratization and specifically the liberalization of the state with the political rights to protect themselves from the abuse of power by the elites. However, once democracy was institutionalized, they found themselves to be the structural minority. Mobilized by clever political entrepreneurs, it was now the periphery who handily won every election. Ignorant of the rise of a rural middle class demanding full participation in social and political life, the middle class in the center interpreted demands for equal rights and public goods as ‘the poor getting greedy’… [M]ajority rule was equated with unsustainable welfare expenses, which would eventually lead to bankruptcy.”

From the perspective of the middle class, Saxer continues, majority rule

“overlooks the political basis of the social contract: a social compromise between all stakeholders. Never has any social contract been signed which obligates the middle class to foot the tax bill, in exchange for quality public services, political stability and social peace. This is why middle classes feel like they are ‘being robbed’ by corrupt politicians, who use their tax revenues to ‘buy votes’ from the ‘greedy poor.’ Or, in a more subtle language, the ‘uneducated rural masses are easy prey for politicians who promise them everything in an effort to get a hold of power.’”

Thus, Saxer concludes, from the viewpoint of the urban middle class,

“policies delivering to local constituencies are nothing but ‘populism,’ or another form of ‘vote buying’ by power hungry politicians. The Thai Constitutional Court, in a seminal ruling, thus equated the very principle of elections with corruption. Consequently, time and again, the ‘yellow’ alliance of feudal elites along with the Bangkok middle class called for the disenfranchisement of the ‘uneducated poor,’ or even more bluntly the suspension of electoral democracy.”

Impossible Dream

However, the elite middle-class alliance is deceiving itself if it thinks the adoption of a constitution institutionalizing minority rule will be possible. For Thailand is no longer the Thailand of 20 years ago, where political conflicts were still largely conflicts among elites, with the vast lower classes being either onlookers or passive followers of warring elite factions.

What is now the driving force of Thai politics is class conflict with Thai characteristics, to borrow from Mao. The central figure that has transformed the Thai political landscape is the exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, a charismatic, if corrupt, billionaire who managed through a combination of populism, patronage, and the skillful deployment of cash to create a massive electoral majority.

While for Thaksin the aim of this coalition might be the cornering or monopolization of elite power, for the social sectors he has mobilized, the goal is the redistribution of wealth and power from the elites to the masses and—equally important—extracting respect for people that had been scorned as “country bumpkins” or “buffaloes.” However much Thaksin’s “Red Shirt” movement may be derided as a coalition between corrupt politicians and the “greedy poor,” it has become the vehicle for the acquisition of full citizenship rights by Thailand’s marginalized classes.

The elite-middle class alliance is dreaming if it thinks that the red shirts will stand aside and allow them to dictate the terms of surrender, much less institutionalize these in a new constitution. But neither do the red shirts at present possess the necessary coercive power to alter the political balance in the short and medium term. It is now their turn to wage civil resistance.

Since the coup, about 150 people have been reported detained—including Pravit Rojanaphruk, a prominent reporter for Thailand’s Nation newspaper known for his criticism of the anti-government protest movement that precipitated the military’s intervention.

What now seems likely is that, with violent and nonviolent civil protest by the red shirts, Thailand will experience a prolonged and bitter descent into virtual civil war, with the Pheu Thai regional strongholds—the North, Northeast, and parts of the central region of the country—becoming increasingly ungovernable from imperial Bangkok. It is a tragic denouement to which an anti-democratic opposition disdaining all political compromise has plunged this once promising Southeast Asian nation.

Walden Bello, a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines, was the principal author of “A Siamese Tragedy: Development and Disintegration in Modern Thailand” (London: Zed Press, 1998).

Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments

Thailand: No Coup

by Walden Bello Friday, Jun. 13, 2014 at 1:45 AM

Thailand: No Coup...
2014-thailand-no-coup-thai-junta-out.jpg, image/jpeg, 537x359

Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments

Local News

Public art project aspires to save California N18 3:42PM

Songwriter, Author, Philanthropist P F Sloan Died On Nov 16 N17 4:48PM

A Plea For Support From Will B N15 4:23PM

10 Shocking Realities of the TPP N09 4:47PM

KPFK needs your VOTE ! or lose it. O31 4:51PM


KPFK is losing and reducing it's main programmers, so can Fresh ones emerge there instead? O26 5:58PM

Fall 2015 National Immigrant Solidarity Network Monthly News Alert! O26 7:58AM

A master-plan is needed to support renter protections in Northern California, & elsewhere O25 9:48PM

KPFK Updating: a coup? or failure? or.... O25 5:04PM

Kapparot Chicken Slaughter Causes Outrage: Activists Demand Change O06 1:59PM

Update on WHAT IS HAPPENING AT KPFK and what can be done & elections O05 12:39AM

A Letter (sent) to L.A. Slut Walk O03 12:51PM

Protesters Enact Symbolic "Die In" to Unwelcome Narendra Modi to Silicon Valley S28 3:52PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

COP21, 25, 32, de l'écocide organisé N30 11:09PM

Is Marsha Levine now the most hated person on the Interwebs? N30 10:51PM

Angel Stone Pirater N30 3:20PM

Angel Stone Generator Online N30 3:18PM

Nuclear Shutdown News, November 2015 N30 1:52PM

fbi and police engage in unstoppable crimes N29 12:14PM

Eutonologie d'éthologie N29 8:08AM

MovieStarPlanet Generator VIP | Online Resources N29 6:03AM

MSP Hack VIP Generator Diamonds and Starcoins N28 5:36PM

MovieStarPlanet Hack Generator N28 5:33PM

Parangon d'une grande infestation N26 11:03PM

The Shortwave Report 11/27/15 Listen Globally! N26 3:56PM

An humble opinion N26 1:59PM

Activistas de los Derechos Humanos Unen Fuerzas en Honor al Derecho a la Democracia N25 3:13PM

VIDEO: What "Orwellian" Really Means N25 1:49PM

US Forces South Africa To Import Sick Birds N25 9:10AM

Presidential Candidates Criticize Pfizer Merger N25 8:19AM

Turkey's Downing of a Russian Fighter Jet Moves the Doomsday Clock Very Close to Midnight N25 5:46AM

NATO is harboring the Islamic State N25 4:43AM

Paraphysique de l'Etat d'urgence N25 1:23AM

Casino Capitalism and Profit Maximization N25 1:18AM

Democracy Now, Military Times, Guardian Articles On Soldiers Refusing To Drop Drones etc N24 9:10AM

First Amendment Under Covert Attack N23 6:27PM

Insanity of the police/fbi community N23 1:35PM

No to Racism and War! N23 6:02AM

(A-Radio) Northern Europe 1: Musta Pispala festival in Finland N23 12:36AM

Paranoïa ou la vérité d'une société N22 11:54PM

Wicked fbi and their mischievous police friends N22 11:22AM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2003 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy