Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Two Sides of Thailand

First read:

"Former Left-Right Alliance against Globalization and America

Thongchai Winichakul
28 July 2008

Almost all Thai rightists I interviewed for my recent research perceived that the threats to Thailand today are capitalism and America. Even lifelong anti-communist ‘Phor’, an alias used for this research, who has tenaciously held the idea of national security being under threat from two strands of communism, sees that Thailand has to be cautious of the CIA interfering and agitating groups of Thai people to the point of being a threat to security. Of course, they were well aware that the threats from capitalism and America are not one and the same as the communist threat.

The rightists’ discourse of capitalist threat obviously differs from the leftists’ Maoist anti-capitalist discourse of 30 years ago. These rightists speak pretty much the same anti-neo-liberalism and anti-globalization language which Thai intellectuals and activists have adopted since after Oct 6, 1976.

Although all the interviews were done years after the 1997 economic crisis, the pain caused by the capitalist crisis was still alive in their memories. Their discourse on the cause of the crisis turned out to be nationalist and against ‘farang’ or western capitalism, pointing to western capitalist giants led by the US bullying emergent smaller capitalist nations. For the ease of digestion and propagation, it was made a story of conspiracy among a handful of global political and financial figures, often including George Soros in particular. The ‘Washington Consensus’ was understood simply as a plot by western capitalist neo-conservatives to destroy smaller states. With the calamity besetting Thai nationalist capital which had eagerly embraced globalization over a decade earlier, globalization has become undesirable. Their discourse against western capitalism was therefore not of a socialist bent, but was outright nationalist, against those ugly farangs abusing decent Thais.

Most of the interviews were done during the years of Thaksin administration which was seen as representing the evil western capitalism, subsequently labelled as ‘vicious or immoral capital’. The exasperation against Thaksin and globalization and the global anti-American sentiment fed into one another. Among the rightists I interviewed then, only one person liked the Thaksin government, and the rest were suspicious of Thaksin because he was pushing the agenda of globalization.


Now read the AmeriKan MSM's coverage:

"State of emergency flouted in Thailand; Thousands stand firm at protest site" by Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press | September 3, 2008

BANGKOK - Thailand's embattled leader struggled to keep the peace and his grip on power yesterday after declaring a state of emergency that was openly flouted by thousands of antigovernment protesters in the capital.

While Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej sought to tamp down newly violent unrest pitting largely prosperous urban forces against the country's impoverished rural majority, he also was hit by an electoral commission finding that could disband his party and bar him from politics.

Samak said he had no choice but to impose emergency rule in Bangkok after a week of political tensions exploded into overnight rioting and street fighting between his supporters and opponents that left one person dead and dozens injured.

His decree gives the military the right to restore order, allows authorities to suspend civil liberties, bans public gatherings of more than five people and bars the media from reporting news that "causes panic."

Samak and the army chief, General Anupong Paochinda, both said authorities viewed emergency rule as a last resort and stressed they wanted to avoid violence.

"I did it to solve the problems of the country," Samak said in a televised news conference at a military headquarters in Bangkok. "I had no other choice. The softest means available was an emergency decree to end the situation using the law."

At a separate news conference, Anupong said that if troops are ordered into Bangkok's streets, they will be armed only with riot shields and batons.

"If the military has to get involved, it will not use force and will be on the people's side," Anupong said. He dismissed speculation the army was positioning itself to seize power again, less than two years after a 2006 coup.

Type in "Thailand" to my blog search and see that (hate to say it, but) I told you so!!!

Tensions remained high as thousands of protesters who are demanding Samak's resignation defied the ban on assembly by staying camped out at the prime minister's official compound, which they seized seven days earlier.

As a precaution, City Hall ordered 435 public schools closed for three days, while some international private schools opted to shut for a week. The United States and other nations warned their citizens of the danger of violence in the capital.