Announcing: Walsh, John, “Thai Khem Kaeng: An Inadequate Response by the Thai State to the Impact of the 2008 Economic Crisis,” Journal of Economic and Behavioral Studies, Vol.1, No.1 (December, 2010), pp.1-8, available at: http://www.ifrnd.org/JEBS/1(1)%20Dec%2010/Thai_Khem%20Kaeng.pdf.
The economic crisis erupting from inadequate regulation of reckless banking practices in 2008 was correctly met by Keynesian-style stimulus packages in governments around the world. These measures were successful when they were sufficiently large, properly focused, and implemented promptly. Where these conditions were not met, as in the case of Thailand, the results were unimpressive and the problems not dealt with properly. However, the Thai version of the second part of the stimulus package, Thai Khem Kaeng, had in fact quite a different purpose and appears to have been intended to boost the popularity of the government at the cost of making unsustainable and uncosted deficits for the future. The lack of coherence at the economic planning centre of government and its questionable methods suggest that Thailand has continued the longstanding policy of making economic decisions for non-economic reasons.
At least there are still some students in Thailand with an interest in politics – a group of such at Government House no less were brave enough to beard the bloodstained hypocrite in his lair – based on media reports, students from a range of universities were interested in why the PM* felt it was his right to order soldiers to murder pro-democracy demonstrators and why he continues to collude with anti-democratic elements (he is pictured in the same paper together with convicted criminal and fascist demagogue Sondhi Limthongkul) and intimidation of the people, thereby subverting the democratic process.
As a teacher, I am of course ambivalent about this from a personal point of view – while I would like our students to have more political consciousness, I am relieved that they are not being gunned down in the streets by Abhisit’s goons.
When a man like Abhisit Vejjajiva looks in the mirror, he does not see the same thing that we see when we look at him – or, at least, that is not the only thing he sees.
We look at Abhisit Vejjajiva objectively and we see a blood-stained hypocrite wholly unfit for public office. When he looks at himself, he sees a man with an entitlement to rule, he sees a man of virtue who can do anything he likes to further his own purposes and for that to be justified because of his entitlement and his personal virtue.
So, when it comes to abuse of power for political purposes, to corruption and double-dealing, plotting secret conspiracies and to a whole range of day-to-day activities aimed at bolstering the feudal order, he believes himself entirely justified.
Further, knowing what he himself is willing to do to secure power and wealth, he assumes that anyone else would do as well. So, he is more than willing to use violence to end political protests and so the dissidents must also be terrorists. He will spread money about for political purposes (as in the current ‘buffet budget’) and so the opposition must be involved in vote-buying. And so on and endlessly on.
“It is with man as with commodities. Since he comes into the world neither with a looking glass in his hand … man first sees and recognises himself in other men. Peter only establishes his own identity as a man by first comparing himself with Paul as being of like kind. And thereby Paul, just as he stands in his Pauline personality, becomes to Peter the type of the genus homo.” (Five baht for recognising this quote.)
So what can be done with people who refuse to accept the legitimacy of other people’s views because of the accident of birth and their unwholesome education, buttressed by the deference of ‘Thai culture’?
As far as I can tell, few people really believe that the poor bloke picked up by the cops the other day actually had anything to do with the ongoing bombing campaign in Bangkok – although of course I try not to mix with the hate-filled rightists of whom there seem to be so many these days. However, it is still quite a leap to move from ‘someone in the military is responsible’ for the bombing in order to provide a pretext to maintain the state of emergency and, hence, enable the continuance of large bonuses paid to the military to the position that Abhisit and Suthep themselves are ordering the bombings to take place.
Robert Amsterdam, the lawyer for the red-shirt UDD and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, in a guest post at New Mandala, writes of the Strategy of Tension previously employed in fascist Spain and Italy to keep the public in a state of intimidation and, hence, free the military and security forces to continue their repressive actions. He observes:
“Compared to the reaction of the Italian state to the atrocities perpetrated in Milan, Brescia and Bologna, PM Abhisit and the Thai establishment have been extraordinarily impatient in imposing their draconian and highly oppressive State of Emergency. Some might argue that this is a deliberate ratcheting up of “tension” that seems designed only to provoke fear and create division. In addition, the Thai establishment certainly has form on creating “tension” via the employment of extra-legal forces, the use of which during the 1992 Black May massacre is discussed in Professor Yoshifumi Tamada’s book Myths and Realities: The Democratization of Thai Politics.
With the endless, open-ended nature of Abhisit’s repression, observers are now furnished with a direct insight into the Thai establishment’s vanishing commitment to democracy. We can only hope that Thailand doesn’t have to endure a similarly vicious Strategy of Tension, designed only to protect the interests of extremist elements in the establishment, before democracy can fully flourish again.”
It seems hard to believe that a so-called smoking gun exists demonstrating culpability by those at the top – but there has been evidence of other outrages which have been desperately dismissed as having been ‘faked’ or ‘doctored.’ Besides which, it is far from certain that the integrity-challenged Abhisit is in reality actually in charge of any important decision at all.
Some details on the treatment of the more than four hundred people disappeared by the Abhisit regime have emerged at Prachatai:
“The emergency decree is being used as a tool to “destroy political dissent and democracy”, said Somyos Pruek-sakasemsuk, a key red-shirt member and editor who was detained for three weeks under the law.
Calling it “mafia law”, Somyos said there were still 400 more people – some as old as 70 – being detained with very little information known about their condition. Most are unlikely to be proven as “terrorists” as alleged by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, he said. The red-shirt supporter was detained from May 24 to June 13, when the court found that there was not enough evidence to detain him.
People being detained under the emergency decree are “political prisoners”, though the government maintains that they are mere suspects, Somyos said.”
It seems like it is the baleful Bush Guantanamo method that is proving to be the inspiration here – people being held incommunicado for extended periods under the pretext that they are ‘terrorists’ and the possible use of torture – certainly the treatment Khun Somyos reports is very harsh. Add this to the ever more comprehensive suppression of free speech, the attempt to steal the assets of suspected ‘terrorists’ (as all political dissidents can now expect to be labelled) and the brazen denial of wrongdoing after the military was repeatedly ordered to use automatic weapons, helicopter-borne tear gas bombs and sniper assassins in killing 86 pro-democracy protestors and the human rights record of the Abhisit regime looks very shabby.
The Abhisit regime’s desire to suppress all forms of political dissidence has plumbed new depths of absurdity with the announcement that it is planning to buy the satellite company Thaicom from Temasek Holdings in Singapore.* The thinking, such as it is, seems to be that naughty people are broadcasting anti-government and pro-democracy messages because the satellite is available to them. So, and this is the stroke of genius, buy the satellite and ban anyone from using it and those pesky messages will just disappear.
In wholly unrelated news, the Ministry of Truth has issued some new classifications:
Football gambling has moved from plus ungood to double plus ungood.
Considering citizen Khanit Na Nakhon to be a disreputable junta crony is now a thoughtcrime.
Murdering citizens is not to be mentioned ever. On pain of death. Double death, if you are a political dissident, obviously.
* Thaicom’s share price was up more than 5% by lunchtime. Note to big-brained Korn: possibly better not to announce this kind of thing in advance.
After yesterday’s report indicating that shootings at the 1972 Bloody Sunday events, when British soldiers shot dead 14 protestors, would include the term ‘state murder,’ there is a further report in today’s Guardian about the response from some of the bereaved. Although the killings took place 38 years ago, it is clear that feelings are still strong:
This is from a young woman who was 18 at the time:
“There were the times you felt very, very proud of how strong people were and how much they could remember, especially older people after such a length of time. And there were times you heard evidence you didn’t want to hear. Giving evidence myself was the end of a long road of wanting to tell what I saw to the world. For a long, long time I had closed what happened deep inside me. I wanted to talk about it, but I couldn’t, because if I brought it to the front of my mind I couldn’t cope. As it gathered momentum, I kept saying to myself, “Aye, you can do this”. When it comes your time you are going to be able to cope.”
This is from an 18-year old man whose 22-year old brother was killed:
“Take the fella that murdered my brother. In his own neighbourhood, that boy probably wouldn’t treat a stray animal the same way. But he doesn’t feel what he did on Bloody Sunday was wrong because he was brought up in the system to see my brother as an enemy, somebody who had to be taught a lesson.”
The families of the more than 80 killed in Bangkok on the orders of the Thai state will feel the same way. Is there any hope that they will receive justice?
Thirty-eight years after the events of ‘Bloody Sunday,’ when 14 unarmed protestors were shot dead by British troops and after a 12-year public inquiry, it appears that a report will rule that at least some troops behaved unlawfully and that prosecutions should now be put into process.
The events have been a painful cause of tension between members of the Irish Catholic community and the British state since then – if prosecutions are brought, then there might finally be a chance for real reconciliation.
If the Thai state genuinely wants reconciliation after the deaths of 89 people, the wounding of hundreds and the disappearances of dozens of people, then a proper inquiry must be established under a person of genuine independence and integrity – which would almost certainly need to be a non-Thai person. The inquiry must continue until it reaches conclusions that all find credible and all necessary witnesses must be called and speak under pain of prosecution for perjury.
There is a high level of interest in the parliamentary censure debate which began yesterday and has continued today. The motion of no confidence has been brought by the opposition Phuea Thai party in the wake of the incredibly violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by the army under, presumably, the orders of the government. At least 88 people were killed, most of them shot dead by the military according to reports and nearly one thousand people injured. In the continued ‘emergency’ and ‘curfew’ ordered by the government subsequently, dozens more people have been disappeared and censorship of the media has reached new heights. The media permitted to broadcast have been pouring out pro-government propaganda on a relentless basis. The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the events – any inquiry established by the current regime is likely to be stuffed with pro-establishment figures (as, for example, happens with humans rights bodies).
When challenged about responsibility for the events, PM Abhisit Vejjajiva seems to have fallen back on his default discourse – deny all responsibility and blame other people, irrespective of facts or evidence. The Nation has this brief report.
Meanwhile, the censure debate seems to have veered off into discussion of the (allegedly) corrupt nature of the current coalition government – according to anecdote, this Democrat government is possibly the most corrupt Thailand has ever suffered, with particularly high levels of looting from the public purse in those ministries (one in particular run by a minister whose gender I will not specify) in which coalition partners have an interest. Let us wait until new figures from Transparency International or other reputable international bodies are published to see whether these rumours are substantiated.
In any case, it does not seem very likely that the censure debate will have any positive impact other than in the court of public opinion – government MPs will simply deny everything (they are not the first to do so, of course) and know that the force of the establishment will surely support them. It does not matter, in other words, how the majority of the people vote and how often they vote for parties representing their interests, those parties are dissolved and the politicians banned. Unable to achieve their objectives by what they perceive to be not just an unfair system but an illegitimate one, their thoughts turn to direct action.
When asking why people behave in an apparently irrational reason, the answer is nearly always the same: it’s the money. For example. Repression by the right always follows the same pattern: first violence, then the introduction of new categories of offence (political dissidence as ‘terrorism’) and then seizure of assets. They have been doing this for thousands of years.