Thailand: PAD thugs close Bangkok airport

Anti-democratic mob blockade Bangkok Airport.

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn

November 26, 2008 -- Bangkok International Airport has now been closed by fascist thugs from the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The PAD is demanding that the elected government of Thailand resigns. This is despite the fact that the government has the backing of the majority of the Thai population and even the majority of Bangkok citizens. This backing has been proven by repeated elections. The PAD want a dictatorship to replace democracy because it deems the majority of the Thai electorate to be too ignorant to deserve the right to vote.

How did the PAD thugs manage to seize Bangkok International airport? Airports are supposed to be high-security areas. Thai airports are controlled by the Thai military. It is obvious that the Thai military, which staged an illegal coup in 2006, has quietly supported the actions of the PAD. It is obvious that the military is unwilling to provide basic security to air travellers and air crews. But they are happy to rake in huge salaries associated with their control of the Airports Authority. Foreign governments and airlines should reconsider whether the authorities in Thailand are willing to provide international standards of safety and security.

Back in early October, PAD thugs surrounded parliament to prevent the prime minister from making a policy speech. When the police used tear gas to try to disperse the PAD, the police were roundly condemned by the Thai media and most middle-class intellectuals. It is no secret that the PAD are armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons. They constantly break the law with impunity. Earlier on November 26, PAD thugs were filmed by PBS ThaiTV shooting at taxi drivers who were trying to defend their pro-democracy community radio station. The PAD thugs were holding up pictures of the King. Yesterday the PAD kicked and punched a senior policeman. The police are powerless to act.

The PAD is a royalist fascist mob which has powerful backing. Apart from the army, it is supported by the Queen, the so-called Democrat Party, the courts, the mainstream media and most university academics. What these people have in common is a total contempt for the Thai electorate who are poor. They are angry that the Thai people voted for a government that gave the poor universal health care and other benefits. They want to turn the clock back to a dictatorship which they call “the New Order”. They are hoping that the courts will now dissolve the ruling party and that an authoritarian “National Government” will be set up.

It is clear that the PAD, the military, the Democrat Party and the conservative establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand rather than allow democracy to function. This is despite the fact that we face a serious economic crisis. Interestingly, the anti-government groups are extreme neoliberals with little grasp of how to deal with the economic crisis or how to stimulate the economy. Apart from opposing welfare, they have attacked Keynesian policies of the previous government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Where is the King in all this? Throughout the three-year political crisis, the King has never attempted to diffuse the problem. Many Thais believe he supports the PAD, but it is more likely that the monarch has always been too weak to intervene in any crisis.

Those who support democracy and social justice in Thailand must condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship. We must be with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support ex-PM Thaksin, who has a record of human rights abuses. I hope that all those friends of Thailand abroad will support all our efforts to defend Thai democracy and to defend those of us who may face arrest in the future.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is an activist with Turn Left (formerly Workers Democracy) and an associate professor in the faculty of political science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.]


it is great to see this kind of view being expressed here.Fortunately, it is getting more and more support as each day unfolds, the irony of all this being that The PAD are causing themselves more pain by continuing this illegal behaviour.Maybe soon, "The People" will put and end to them once and for all!

The takeover of the main international airport in Bangkok by protestors going under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy is a watershed moment for democracy and the rule of law in Thailand. It follows some months of increasingly aggressive strategies to get the current government to resign and to block it from making amendments to the 2008 Constitution, which was prepared under the watch of the 2006 military coup leaders and their supporters and pushed through via a deeply flawed referendum.

Alliance members have since August gone from merely occupying spaces like roads and parks to occupying public buildings, in particular, the Government House. Organised armed “guards” have defended their positions both from opponents and from state security personnel. They have also illegally obtained and openly carried an array of manufactured and homemade weapons, including guns from caches that had reportedly been kept in the government premises. They have illegally detained other citizens. They have vandalised, destroyed and stolen public and private property. In the last day or two it has been reported that in addition to occupying the Suvarnabumi airport they have seized busses, and have refused to allow police into the airport to investigate explosions there during the night. They are now reportedly preparing for the latest phase in the “final battle”, which is supposedly being instigated under codenames like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cities on which the United States military dropped nuclear bombs at the close of World War Two.

The alliance has exhibited a number of features that from past lessons of Thailand and other countries around the world pose grave dangers to the future of the country’s imperilled democracy. Of these, the following can be said.

1. They spring from a far-right ideology that has for decades driven successive military-bureaucratic administrations in Thailand, which dramatic changes to political and social life of the last two decades have increasingly threatened.

2. Their coordinated attacks and actions on the pretext of self-defence and national interest are designed to cause a widespread feeling of insecurity and uncertainty and allow reactionary elite forces to push Thailand back to a 1980s model of “half-sail” semi-elected government.

3. The alliance leaders have occupied the public space and forced people throughout Thailand to either take sides for or against them, or to opt out completely, thus alienating millions of people and denying them the opportunity to have a say on the key political and social questions of their time.

Some commentators and opponents of the alliance have described its agenda as fascist. This is not an exaggeration. Experience shows that the types of systemic changes and regimes that follow such movements, although they may not describe themselves as fascist, have fascist qualities. Indeed, successive dictatorships in Thailand’s modern history appreciated, expressed and used many fascist symbols and policies, and the residue of these can be found in the language and behaviour of the alliance leaders today.

If these events are allowed to continue, and it is self-evident that they are being allowed, they will effectively undo everything that was done to build a culture of democratic rights and participation in public life in Thailand during the 1990s. The damage that they are now in a position to effect will surpass anything of that caused by the ousted government of Thaksin Shinawatra, and could even provoke a greater disaster than the 2006 coup and scrapping of the 1997 Constitution. Whatever institutional and legal gains were made in the last decade or two will be undone.

Already, the criminal justice system of Thailand has been reduced to an utter joke, its agencies and personnel either unable or unwilling to intervene effectively to protect public property and people’s lives, or even prosecute wrongdoers. That the security forces can carry out coups on the whimsy of generals and engage in battles over trifles with those of neighbouring countries but not responsibly protect the Government House or international airport is sheer farce. That government agencies have been forced to negotiate and cut their losses rather than insist that the law be enforced is dangerous folly. And that the senior judiciary, which through a succession of highly politicised judgments has played a major part in contributing to the current mess has nothing useful to contribute when lives are at stake and the country is in greatest need of intelligent guidance is altogether shameful.

Peaceful protest is not only a part of democratic process; it is integral to it. But the rallies and blockades in Bangkok of recent days, weeks and months have not been peaceful. Nor can they properly be called protests at all, as they are not merely demonstrations of a wish, but acts aimed at achieving goals at all costs. And the costs to Thailand have already been very high. They will get higher, and be felt in terms of the lives and liberties of all people in the country if they are not brought to an end. All people in Thailand have a right to oppose this ultra-conservative project for state dominance at their expense.

The Asian Human Rights Commission especially takes this opportunity to call for far greater global attention on events in Thailand, which have passed for these few months without any discernible reaction from international bodies, especially the United Nations. Having vacillated on the 2006 coup the world community cannot afford to this time let things just go on without some meaningful intervention. If Thailand slips further backwards it will be to the detriment not only of its own millions but the entire region. At a time that repressive anti-democratic forces are either making comebacks or strengthening their positions almost everywhere, Thailand cannot afford to be lost.

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission


November 26, 2008 -- The recent unfolding of events in Thailand are highly disturbing, and there are risks that the political contradictions might evolve in an increasingly violent direction. The opposition movement People's Alliance for Democracy, a misnomer in the light of its attempts to overthrow a democratically elected government, has developed paramilitary structures.

During Tuesday was a group of taxi drivers were fired at in Bangkok by PAD, as they defend a pro-democracy radio station during a PAD attack. The police remain passive as PAD mobs go on attacking their opponents. PAD is trying to whip up a chauvinistic atmosphere, and there are serious reasons to worry about widespread repression in case they would succeed in overthrowing the incumbent government.

Even more worrying are the indications that the protests might be used to legitimize a military take-over.

It is of great importance to governments, international organizations and people's movements around the world clearly stated that a derailing of democracy in Thailand won’t be accepted. Swedish arms exports to Thailand should be unthinkable during the current unrest. The Swedish Government should put the negotiations on the sale of six Jas Gripen fighter jets to Thailand on hold on ice until democracy and respect for human rights can be guaranteed in the country.

Hans Linde Member of Parliament, Sweden, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Swedish Parliament