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Thailand's `class war': Hundreds of thousands take to the streets to demand democracy

Bangkok, March 14, 2010

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

March 15, 2010 -- Hundreds of thousands of Thai Red Shirt pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Bangkok and other cities over the weekend of March 13-14. This was a show of force to prove the strength of the movement and to dispel any lies by the royalist government and the media that the Red Shirts are not representative of the majority.

Thailand: Seize it all! The palaces, the shares, the diamonds, all the ill-gotten gains!

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

March 1, 2010 -- I don’t shed any tears about former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s billions being seized by order of the Thai Supreme Court on February 26. I advocate that the billions of ill-gotten gains in the hands of the entire Thai rich: the politicians in this government, the generals, the businessmen and businesswomen, and of course the entire royal family and all their hangers-on, should be seized in the future. The rich do not have the right to accumulate wealth on the backs of the majority of hard-working Thais.

No public figures, including the king and the generals, or politicians, should hold shares or have special interests in business. This always leads to corruption. Just think about the corrupt benefits which the politicians around former US President George Bush enjoyed as a result of the illegal war in Iraq.

Who is really avoiding justice in Thailand?

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

February 6, 2010, is the first anniversary of the day I had to leave Thailand and seek political exile in Britain. I left Thailand because it had become a dictatorship with no regard to international standards of justice, democracy or human rights. I was charged with lese majeste for writing a book which criticised the illegal military coup in 2006.

In the book I questioned the role of the king and the relationship between the army and the monarchy. I asked whether the monarchy should have defended the constitution and democracy. The perverse thing about the lese majeste law is that a person can still be “guilty” for telling the truth. It is a law which tries to prevent open discussion. Court cases are heard in camera in a kangaroo court. Human rights activist Da Torpedo was sentenced in such a court to 18 years in prison.

The Thai government has failed to show how I made any untrue statements in my book. Yet it accuses me of “avoiding justice”. The same accusation is made against Jakrapop Penkare. Yet, who are the real criminals in Thailand who avoid justice? They are the military and conservative elites who use bully-boy tactics to destroy justice.

Asia: NGOs display `lobby cretinism' over ASEAN human rights commission

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

October 25, 2009 -- The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is made up of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Brunei and Singapore, which are all authoritarian states. It also includes the semi-democratic Malaysia, along with the Philippines and Indonesia, which are more or less democratic. Would anyone expect a gathering of government leaders from these countries to set up a genuine human rights commission? Apparently, some NGOs from the region did think so.

However, they got snubbed. Not only did the governments decide to appoint the human rights commissioners themselves, they also refused to meet with half the NGO delegates, and allowed only Dr Surichai Wangaeo of Chulalongkorn University to speak on behalf of the NGO delegation. Who is Dr Surichai? He supported the 2006 military coup in Thailand and was an appointee to the military junta’s parliament. The Thai NGO team that was involved in so-called “civil society” discussions also included people who supported the military coup.

Thailand: Comparing the 1976 and 2006 coups

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

October 5, 2009 -- People like to say that “history repeats itself, but not in exactly the same way”. In some ways, and not others, the military coup of the September 19, 2006, was a repeat of the bloodbath and coup on October 6, 1976. Circumstances are different, some actors are different and some have changed sides. But there are interesting comparisons to make.

Both the October 6 and the September 19 coups were actions which destroyed democracy because the conservative elites felt that “too much democracy” would lead to “too much equality”. In 1976, students, intellectuals, workers and farmers were talking of socialism, redistribution of wealth and a welfare state. In 2006, then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) government was providing village funds and had set up a universal healthcare system. His popularity as a result of these genuine pro-poor policies threatened the conservatives. In both cases the conservatives claimed that welfare would make people lazy and that pro-poor policies threatened to destroy the country.

Thailand: When King Pumipon dies ...

Souvenir clock featuring King Pumipon Adunyadet and his mother.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

September 25, 2009 -- Many Thais, whether they are royalist ``Yellow Shirts'' or pro-democracy ``Red Shirts'', are waiting for King Pumipon Adunyadet [often spelled Bhumipol Adulyadej in the Western press] to die. It may take years. Their feelings will be different, either positive or negative. This is because Pumipon has influenced Thai society for years. But the issue to discuss is whether this influence is created by others or based on the king's own power?

Most Thais, both Yellow and Red, believe that Pumipon is the most powerful political actor. Many academics like Paul Handley believe this too. But it is not the case. If Pumipon was powerful, like an absolute monarch, when he dies there would be a civil war between those who want to become the next king. That is unlikely.

There will be a power struggle and rivalries, but it will be a struggle among the elites, including former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to see who can use the monarchy for their own ends. After the 2006 coup, Thaksin lost this battle. Maybe he might return to the fight. Among the Yellow Shirts there will also be such rivalries.

Coup anniversary reveals two faces of Thailand

PAD organised a demonstration on September 19 to attack Cambodian villagers at the ancient Kao Prawiharn [Preah Vihear] temple inside Cambodia. Here a knife-weilding Thai chauvinist attempts to attack the villagers while riot cops look on. Photo: AP.

[See also ``Thailand: The September 19 coup, three years on''.]

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

September 21, 2009 -- On the September 19, 2009, the third anniversary of the military coup that wrecked Thai democracy, two demonstrations took place. They sum up the two faces of Thailand.

One demonstration, by tens of thousands of ``Red Shirts'' in Bangkok, was organised in order to continue the demand full democracy. It was a peaceful and friendly demonstration. Yet the military-backed Democrat Party government, headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva, declared a state of emergency and lined up thousands of police and soldiers to deal with the demonstrators. Previously, in April, Abhisit had urged soldiers to fire on the Red Shirts. Two people were subsequently killed and 70 injured by government soldiers.

Thailand: The September 19 coup, three years on

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

On September 19, 2006, the Thai army staged a coup toppling the elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Soldiers sported yellow royal ribbons and the military junta claimed that it was staging the coup to protect ``democracy with the king as the head of state’’. It certainly was not protecting democracy, but most Thais believed that this was indeed a “royal coup”.

The coup came after mass street demonstrations against the elected government by the royalist and conservative Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD), in which many PAD members and leaders of the so-called Democrat Party had called for the king to sack the elected prime minister and appoint another one. Later, the yellow-shirted PAD took on a semi-fascist nature, using extreme nationalism and having its own armed guard. The PAD used violence on the streets of Bangkok.

The rise and fall of the Communist Party of Thailand

By Pierre Rousset

September 9, 2009 -- ESSF -- The communist movement was first established in Siam (renamed Thailand in 1939) mostly in the Chinese ethnic migrant communities, then proliferated in the seemingly disparate surrounding regions in the north, northeast and south of the country. Following a long, difficult period of transition, the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), once an urban party, retreated to the jungle and engaged in armed struggle. Its national expansion, during the 1970s, occurred while the kingdom was transformed into a US base for military intervention in the Vietnam War. The party eventually saw its decline during the Sino-Indochinese conflict of 1978–9 and disappeared from sight in the mid-1980s.

Thailand: Time for democracy movement to be clear about how to fight (Da Torpedo คุณดา Redshirt strategy แนวทางเสื้อแดง)

Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (`Da Torpedo').

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

September 3, 2009 -- On August 28, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (known by her nickname as “Da Torpedo”) was sentenced to 18 years in prison for lese majeste (insulting the royal family) after a secret trial in Bangkok. This is another example of how Thailand is rapidly coming to resemble authoritarian countries like North Korea. Other examples are the use of the Internal Security Law to prevent peaceful demonstrations by the pro-democracy ``Redshirts'' and the way that the unelected prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, urged the military to kill demonstrators in April. What is also shocking is the way that there has been complete silence from so-called “human rights activists” and NGOs and academics in Thailand about what has been going on. This can only be described as shameful. Amnesty International's long-term policy of turning its back on Thai prisoners of conscience, jailed over lese majeste, is also appalling. It throws into question the role of that organisation.

* * *

Malaysian socialists call for communist veteran Chin Peng to be allowed home

Chin Peng.

May 31, 2009 -- Malaysiakini -- The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM, Parti Sosialis Malaysia) became the latest party to urge the government to allow former Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) chief Chin Peng to return home for good. The PSM said the government must honour the peace accord that it signed with the Communist Party of Malaya in 1989 and allow former CPM leader Chin Peng to return.

“The government should not backtrack on the peace accord and deny the rights promised to the former communist leader”, said PSM secretary-general S. Arutchelvan.

Thailand: Why have NGOs sided with the royalists, against democracy and the poor?

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

April 27, 2009 -- In the present political crisis in Thailand, it is shocking that most Thai NGOs have disgraced themselves by siding with the ``Yellow Shirt'' elites or have remained silent in the face of the general attack on democracy. It is shocking because NGO activists started out by being on the side of the poor and the oppressed in society. To explain this situation, we must go beyond a simple explanation that relies on personal failings of individuals or suggestions that NGOs have “underlying bad intentions”, or that they are “agents of imperialism”.

Thailand: Red Shirt democratic movement faces armed might of the ruling elites

[For the latest on developments in Thailand, please click HERE.]

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Turn Left Thailand

April 13, 2009 -- For the fourth time in forty years, troops have opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok. Each time, the aim has been the same: to protect the interests of the conservative elites who have run Thailand for the past 70 years.

For those watching the cold-blooded murder by soldiers on the streets of Bangkok, it may be tempting just to assume that the present chaos is merely about different coloured T-shirts and supporters of different political parties, as though they were mirror images of each other. This is not the case.

Thailand: Class war for democracy

Pro-democracy protesters wear red in a Bangkok stadium, December 13, 2008.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

March 21, 2009 -- The current dispensation in Thailand is based on a political reaction to stem and reverse some of the populist measures of the deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was a neoliberal with a few pro-poor schemes. Even this was unacceptable to the elites who used the courts, the military and the monarchy to depose him and institute an anti-democratic constitution which protects their privileges. But now that Thaksin is gone, a grassroots movement of the poor is emerging to challenge the hold of the elites, the military and the monarchy over Thailand.

Thailand: `Red Siam' manifesto

Thais donned red shirts in protest at the far-right PAD's opposition to Thailand's elected government.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

February 9, 2009 -- The enemies of the Thai people and democracy may have their army, courts and prisons. They may have seized and rigged parliament and established the government through crimes like the blockading of the airports and other undemocratic actions by the PAD [Peoples Alliance for Democracy]. Yet those who love democracy, the Redshirts, have strength in numbers and are waking up to political realities. Disorganised and scattered, this movement of ours will be weak, but a party that is organised and self-led can create a democratic fist to smash the dictatorship.

While world leaders such as US President Obama struggle to solve the serious economic crisis, the Democrat Party government in Thailand is allowing thousands of workers to lose their jobs. The government sees its priority only in cracking down on the opposition using les majeste, it has even created a website where citizens can inform on each other. Troops have been sent into communities and villages to stifle dissent.

Thailand: Activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn charged with `insulting' monarchy

[Please sign the petition HERE against the attack on freedom of speech in Thailand, which the use of lese majeste represents.]

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

January 20, 2009 -- Today, the police informed me that I have been charged with lese majeste because of eight paragraphs in Chapter 1 of my book A Coup for the Rich. The paragraphs are listed below.

According to the police charge sheet, the charges arise from the fact that the director of Chulalongkorn University bookshop decided to inform the police Special Branch that my book "insulted the Monarchy". The bookshop is managed by the academic management of the university. So much for academic freedom!

Paragraphs from A Coup for the Rich that are deemed to have "insulted the Monarchy":

Thailand: Petition for freedom of speech; Interview with Giles Ji Ungpakorn on the use of `lese majeste' laws

Please sign the petition (below the videos) and ask others to sign.

Thailand: Activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn faces arrest for `insulting' monarchy (now with excerpts from Coup for the Rich)

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Readers of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal are urged to send letters of protest and calling for all charges against Giles Ji Ungpakorn to be dropped. Send them to the Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House, Bangkok, Thailand,  fax number +66 (0) 29727751. Please also write letters of protest to the ambassador of the Royal Thai embassy in your own country.

By John Berthelsen

Asia Sentinel -- January 12, 2009 -- Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University and a well-known socialist activist, has been ordered to appear at a Bangkok police station to be charged under the country's stiff lèse majesté laws for insulting the country's monarchy.

Thailand: `Cockroaches' take over

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Bangkok, December 15, 2008 -- The appointment of ``Democrat'' Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the new Prime Minister of Thailand is the final stage of the second coup against an elected government. After the deliberate chaos created by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) seizure of the airports, the courts stepped in to dissolve the hugely popular governing Thai Rak Thai (Peoples Power Party) for the second time. [The constitutional court dissolved the party for fraud in the 2007 election that brought it to power.] The army chief then called a meeting of Democrat Party parliamentarians, along with some of the most corrupt elements of the governing coalition parties. It is widely believed that the army chief and others threatened and bribed MPs to change sides. Chief among them is ``Newin Chitchorp'', who was named by his father after the infamous Burmese dictator.

Thailand und der Coup für die Reichen

Von Giles Ji Ungpakorn.

( Thailands Verfassungsgericht löste am Dienstag die demokratisch gewählten Regierungsparteien des Landes zum zweiten mal auf, und zwang dadurch die Regierung zum Rücktritt. Dies folgte der Weigerung der Streitkräfte und der Polizei, den Befehlen der Regierung zu folgen, die Regierungsgebäude und die zwei, von bewaffneten Faschisten der People's Alliance for Democracy besetzten Flughäfen, zu räumen.

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