At the end of May, nearly half of Thailand remained under emergency rule, which gives nearly total power to the military, after the country’s monarcho-feudal and big-bourgeois government used overwhelming military force to crush a movement of workers, farmers and the poor, who, for nine weeks, had occupied much of the centre of Bangkok, demanding democracy and radical social and economic reforms.
Eighty-eight people were killed and some 1,200 wounded by the Thai regime in suppressing the popular movement. Had such an atrocity occurred in any of Thailand’s close neighbours – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China or Myanmar (Burma) – all of whose governments value their independence and do not tamely run behind the imperialists, we would have endured weeks of round-the-clock hysteria about ‘genocide’ from the media, and every fearless defender of human rights, from Jeremy Corbyn to Nick Griffin, would be insisting that something must be done!
But, as Thailand is firmly in the western camp, with a king whose creepy cult of personality was carefully crafted by the Americans during the Vietnam war, and a puppet prime minister who was born in England and educated at Eton and Oxford, we hear scarcely a word, even in the left-wing press.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Thai ruling class’s blood lust is still far from sated. The head of the Department of Special Investigations – equivalent to MI5 – has warned that arrested leaders of the democracy movement “could face a death sentence”. (‘Briton faces jail or execution for inciting Thai redshirts to torch mall’, Guardian, 25 May 2010)
The government has also issued an arrest warrant for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the only leader in Thailand’s history ever to show any regard for the poor and who is currently living in exile, on terrorism charges. He, too, could also now face the death penalty if returned to Thailand. A statement released by his lawyers noted:
“Today the mask is off the junta in Thailand. Lacking legitimacy and fearing being held to account for the brutal murder of their countrymen, the military-backed Abhisit regime has perverted justice through the laying of a charge that violates logic, law and any claim of hopes for reconciliation.”
Fortunately, the Thai ruling class is not only brutal, but stupid too. Puppet prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared that the levelling of this preposterous and baseless charge would “make our work with foreign countries easier”. (‘Thaksin faces terror charges’, Financial Times, 26 May 2010)
Actually, the exact opposite is the case. Many countries forbid the extradition of people to places where they might face the death penalty. Moreover, Thaksin is a statesman held in high regard in many developing countries, several of whom are known to have given the former prime minister their diplomatic passports since his exile, whilst Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has appointed him as his personal economic adviser.
Other countries will doubtless make a sober and pragmatic judgement as to the likely longevity of the present junta, and weigh their future investment prospects accordingly, should they allow themselves to be complicit in the martyrdom of Thailand’s most popular politician – the only man ever elected to the post of prime minister for two consecutive terms.
Far from ending the struggle for democracy, the suppression of the Bangkok protests is very likely to lead to a more profound revolutionary struggle, retreating at first to the countryside, especially to the north and northeast of the country, and eventually returning to the cities, with its strength increased a hundred and a thousand fold, for the decisive battle for nationwide power.
As Thaksin put it: “There is a theory saying a military crackdown can spread resentment and these resentful people will become guerrillas.” (‘Protests spread after city crackdown’, Financial Times, 20 May 2010)
A Thai political analyst said: “Suppression without accommodation begets a better-armed movement.” (‘“Black shirts” cast shadow on Bangkok protests’ Financial Times, 18 May 2010)
These warnings found a sober echo in the pages of the Economist, which wrote in an editorial:
“The fact that the scale of the disaster has so far been contained should not deflect attention from the dangers ahead. With the stock exchange and several other treasure palaces of Thailand’s globalised elite in flames, unrest spreading outside the capital and a curfew in effect in much of the country, it is not scaremongering to worry that civil war might ensue.” (‘Thailand in flames. The battle of Bangkok’ 22 May 2010)
Where the Economist sees dangers, the working class and its allies see opportunities. In nine weeks of struggle in the heart of Bangkok, the poor and oppressed masses of Thailand learned valuable lessons; lessons which are now echoing and reverberating in the towns and villages, the hills and forests throughout the country.
We wish the Thai people every success in their developing struggle.
For additional background, see > Revolutionary crisis in Thailand, Lalkar, May 2010