Thailand is a land in perpetual protest about, well, just about everything. Thai protests bring new meaning to the expression “24/7” as their stages don’t stop at all during these protests. It’s all day and all night talking, speaking, cajoling, screaming, singing. Thailand also brings an entirely new meaning to the Occupy Movement where one doesn’t merely occupy a street or an area around a symbol of corruption—one actually occupies the symbol. And of course a Thai occupation must be in style with proper protest food, music, and branding of all sorts: clappers, t-shirts, whistles, wristbands and the sort. Profanity and politeness exist together closely at these protests with nasty graffiti about Yingluck and her brother, insults at police officers, the next minute it’s prayers and flowers for everyone. Monitor lizards and buffaloes are seen all throughout the artwork.
Below are propaganda images from the anti-Thaksin protests:
At issue is a majority in parliament pursuing its interests over the will of the minority, corruption, and vote buying. The commentariat has provided an array of perspectives from both sides. Thai mainstream commentators from the English language press have offered much of the same in their treatment of Thaksin as an evil octopus with his tentacles reaching every part of the realm poisoning everything he touches. The Nation’s Pornpimol Kanchanalak, editorialist and fugitive from American justice, weighed in. In an editorial she lectured the Western media about the assumptions that cloud their understanding of Thai politics. Ms. Kanchanalak discusses Thaksin Shinawatra’s role in Thai politics, conceding that Thaksin had his strengths:
“His adviser, Pansak Vinyarat, genuinely cared about the rural poor, and together they executed numerous populist policies and hand-outs, including the Bt1-million village fund, one village-one bicycle scheme, one village-one scholarship, one village-one buffalo, one village-one product, welfare housing, welfare taxis, and so on. Thaksin’s first year in office was his finest as a public servant. The rural poor looked to him as their saviour, someone who really cared. They knew they were only getting the “crumbs” of Thailand’s wealth, but at least they were getting something for a change.”
She then goes on to discuss where Thaksin went wrong when the lure of power and money blinded him. She makes many allegations, but offers no evidence, save for this bit about specific jobs for Thaksin’s cronies:
“Please also look into those who occupy the boards of state enterprises. You will find plenty of red-shirt leaders, their families and cronies among them. And please take the time to read the well-researched accounts of just where the rivers of money have flowed from all the government subsidy programmes.”
Much is said about “corruption” but we see little evidence in the form of statistics, state jobs and political affiliation, or charts and graphs of where “populist” monies go. Kanchanalak’s argument is thus dissipated. Thailand could use some quality investigative journalism in this area.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a professor at Kyoto University, offers a different point of view of the recent political turmoil:
“The Thai crisis has partly echoed the anxiety of the Bangkok elite as Thais are approaching the sunset of the Bhumibol reign. This shift of political landscape will cause an impact on their wealth and social status. The anxiety has served as a driving force behind the hatred campaign against Thaksin, seen as an adversary of the monarchy.”
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a moderate observer of Thai politics offers a middle path:
“In the future, the forces of elected power will have to show more integrity and policymaking skill. They will need to bolster the trust of voters and avoid abuses of power. The forces of appointed and unelected authority will have to come up with electoral legitimacy and policy delivery to cater to the vast majority of the electorate. They need to at least have a chance at triumphing at the polls.”
Lizzie Presser offers a great view of a woman from Isan who has been helped by Thaksin’s programs.
Yes, those are chopped off heads!