“The Right to Know” and to Participate – Sunday, 23.5.2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 665
The Mirror frequently reports about the difficulty of journalists to get information about public concerns when they contact officials at different ministries, even when there are spokespersons appointed. It happens from time to time that these officials refer to others, and the referred persons again to others – and a question remains unanswered, or with different conflicting responses. The most recent such case relates to the more than US$25 million, paid by foreign companies – and it is difficult to know where and according to which procedures they were used or are still kept.
Now it is reported that also the Prime Minister has such problems: it is reported that he warned army commanders to report in detail about the border situation, neither to exaggerate, nor to understate the reality. The media can only welcome such a statement by the Prime Minister, as it may help to clarify the need to have reliable information provided by those who have it – in this case those in charge of leadership of the military at the border.
There were other – related and unrelated problems – in the reports during the last months. On the one hand there is support for the soldiers who are charged with keeping a dangerous situation of border tensions under control – while higher level political discussions between Cambodia and Thailand, which could lead to a final solution of the border problems, do not progress. So there is emotional support for the troops. On the other hand there were many more reports of illegal logging also from the northern border region, since there is more military stationed there.
That the Prime Minister called on the troops to protect the forest and the land in the areas of their bases may be understood in this context – but it does not relate only to the northern border region. Since larger private enterprises started to sponsor and financially support specific military units, there were also reports in the media that up to 150 soldiers have been deployed to protect the preparations for a sugar production entity against the people who claim that this happens on their land. What is the meaning of the Prime Minister’s words – “the troops should protect the forest and the land in the areas of their bases” – in such a situation?
International and national news during the week covered extensively the escalating tensions in Thailand, and the final, violent confrontations between the – initially – peaceful protesters and the military, which led, at the end, to the loss of the life of many people. More than 35 buildings were set on fire after the leadership of the Red Shirts had declared an end of the confrontation; in one building alone, the dead bodies of 10 persons were now found, who had been killed by the fire.
The discussions to come to a common understanding about what happened is controversial – when a solution was closer as ever during these weeks, and then everything turned around negatively. The following is a quote from a Most Viewed report and analysis in the Bangkok Post from three days before the final violence, from 16.5.2010, moved by the concern that the situation was heading toward a bloody conflict. Such reports stands also under the warning of the Prime Minister: to try to find the reality – “neither to exaggerate, nor to understate” – however difficult this is, step by step.
…The military coup in 2006 wrongly overthrew the then democratically elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. That was no democracy.
The coup council handed the power back to the people in 2007. The People Power Party (PPP) won the following election. That was democracy.
The PPP was banned by the Constitution Court for electoral irregularities and the parliament the democratically elected representatives of Thailand voted the Democrats into power. That was democracy.
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) argue against the Democrat-led coalition government’s legitimacy and protest for the government to step down and call a general election.
That was democracy.
And the UDD had won.
The goals of the UDD from the very start: They wanted a House dissolution. They will have one in September. They wanted a general election. They will have one on Nov 14. All within seven months and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s term actually ends in January 2012, a year and a half from now.
They should be dancing in the streets, celebrating victory. Then we can all go to the voting booth in November. Peace and democracy. But no.
The truth has revealed itself. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is simply using democracy as a front in the interests of dictatorship. Refusing the peaceful compromise, forsaking the democratic process, continuing to harm the country for the interests of one man, Thaksin Shinawatra, fighting against security forces of the rightful democratic government of Thailand – that’s an uprising, it’s a rebellion.
It’s criminal. That is not democracy.
If you disagree with me and think the UDD is in the right, then let me simplify it: The next time you’re pulled over by the law in a traffic stop, you should just burn tires, shoot slingshots at the cop and call him a dictator…
Here’s Thaksin’s dilemma. Peace and the democratic process don’t guarantee his return to power…
Accepting the compromise is a loss of face and may even make Prime Minister Abhisit look good in the eyes of the people, for biting the bullet and extending his hand. Thaksin Shinawatra can no longer rely on the voting booths. He can no longer rely on the democratic process. The UDD has used democracy as a tool – manipulated and exploited it to return Thaksin to power. Now that they are no longer confident that the democratic process will serve their interests, the UDD has transformed itself from a democratic movement into an uprising, a rebellion, a criminal organization.
It’s worth repeating: They wanted a House dissolution. They have one in September. They wanted a general election. They have one on Nov 14. That’s democracy. Instead, they flushed democracy down the toilet…
The UDD is screaming: ”Now! Now! Now! Prime Minister resign now!” Thaksin Shinawatra is crying: ”Me! Me! Me! I want my power back!” That’s not democracy…
And when there’s a rebellion, the government must put down the rebellion. Otherwise, we have anarchy. The law must be swift, severe and certain – any student of criminology can tell you that.
It didn’t have to come to this. It shouldn’t have come to this. But here we are on the brink of anarchy because of the pride, greed and vengefulness of one man, and of the indecisiveness, uncertainty and lack of leadership of another.
One day later, on 17.5.2010, the Bangkok Post wrote that Red leaders all miscalculated and are losing. Instead of accepting the proposals of the government,
“they promptly replied with more demands to the government…
The hardliners in the UDD wanted to corner Mr. Abhisit with more conditions, while the moderate camp led by Mr. Veera Musikhapong tried in vain to convince the others to stop the rally by accepting the prime minister’s proposal…
If only they had agreed to disperse the protest after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reported to the Department of Special Investigation last week, they would have emerged as the winner of the political standoff. The leaders could have told the demonstrators that they successfully forced the prime minister to call an early poll.
In fact, the offer by Mr Abhisit was the best ever since the red shirts converged on the capital in mid-March…
The hard core members miscalculated that they could press for more from the prime minister after seeing him show signs of compromise…
The UDD has come up with new calls for Mr Abhisit to immediately quit and not lead the interim government while waiting for the new elections to take place…
The only condition for the prime minister is to immediately end the rally with no more bargains. It would not have turned out this way had the UDD leaders not made the wrong move.
In December 2005, Prime Minister Hun Sen had warned that if illegal land seizures were not brought under control, they could lead to a farmers’ revolution. Nobody can hope that the continuing confrontations related to land conflicts remain mostly solved against the people who have lived and worked on the land for years. This is not only a political concern which the Prime Minister raised in 2005; also many agro-economists consider big agro-business less productive economically – and socially.
The public, the citizens, need to know and be involved, when basic future policy is developed. Obviously, part of the rural population in Thailand felt that they were kept out, and not listened to. Their peaceful protest was not listened to in time, and got finally beyond control.
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