Thailand: Judicial coup a blow to democracy

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By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

May 8, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The unelected, anti-democratic and illegitimate Constitutional Court has staged a coup d'état, overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra on a mere technicality. It claims that the elected prime minister did not have the right to move a government official.

It is a mere technicality because she is accused of “abusing her power” to appoint an in-law to the vacant position. While Yingluk has been accused of this ridiculous “wrong doing”, the military coup makers and the Democrat Party politicians who killed scores of pro-democracy demonstrators enjoy impunity.

The actions of this court would be laughable if they were not so serious. The court has previously ruled against the right of an elected parliament to amend the military constitution so that all senators would be elected. It also ruled that the government cannot build a much-needed high-speed rail link. In that case the old fogies stated that “it would be better to build roads”. Apparently they have illusions that they are experts in all matters and have the right to run the country instead of the government.

This coup d'état is basically in support of the anti-democrat mobs, led by Sutep Tuaksuban, who have brought chaos and violence to the streets of Bangkok. These mobs have also enjoyed impunity. It is merely the latest in a long line of military or judicial coups since September 2006 that have sought to reduce the democratic space and disenfranchise the majority of the population. Each time they have overthrown an elected government, subsequent elections have shown that the majority of the population continue to support such a government.

The Constitutional Court is part of the conservative elite alliance. This alliance is made up of the military, the top bureaucrats, the courts, the Democrat Party, the middle classes and the NGOs. These are the guilty people who have promoted the destruction of democracy.

Since the end of last year violent right-wing anti-democratic mobs have openly used violence, including the use of fire arms, to wreck the February elections. At the same time middle-class academics and NGO leaders have joined a disgusting chorus of hypocritical calls for an appointed prime minister and measures to restrict the democratic franchise in the name of “peace”.

The caretaker government that survives for the time being is made up of ministers who were not dismissed along with Yingluk. But it will be weaker and other sections of the anti-democratic order will try to remove them as well. Their aim is to change the rules before a new election in order to further destroy the democratic space.

Make no mistake, this is gigantic conflict between those who believe in the democratic process and modernity and those who believe in turning the clock back to the dark days when the majority of the population were ignored and insulted. It is not merely an elite struggle. It is not about succession to the throne and it is not primarily about the Shinawatra family. Those who make such claims dismiss the political awakening and political participation by millions of Red Shirts and their supporters.

Yingluk’s Pheu Thai Party cannot be trusted to lead a fight for democracy against these continuing threats. Any defence of democracy must come from the Red Shirt movement. But what is needed is new leadership which is independent of Pheu Thai and more closely allied to the organised working class.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a political commentator and dissident. In February 2009 he had to leave Thailand for exile in Britain because he was charged with lèse majesté for writing a book criticising the 2006 military coup. He is a member of Left Turn Thailand, a socialist organisation. His book, Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy, will be of interest to activists, academics and journalists who watch Thai politics, democratisation and NGOs. His website is at]