October 7, 2008

Conclusions: A Thaksin return can not be ruled out


Today's events in Bangkok when PAD blocked parliament and the police moved to disperse the protestors are a climax long in the making, delayed only by an uncertain balance of forces. Several outcomes are possible, none knowable: a coup could be launched from either side (even Thaksin considered a pro-government coup). Possibly, a coup could also move against both sides and enact a tough period of military rule to beat down both claimants on power in order to establish order - think Bonapartism. The government could finally mobilise a mass support base onto the streets to beat back an anti-government (Thaksin) coup. This base has so far failed to show itself other than at the ballot box and rallies of indifferent size. As always, predictions are always overtaken by reality.

What can be said is that at some point in the next week an enduring resolution to the stalemate may well emerge. Events of historic proportion are often dictated by a logic that defies transparent interest, and it is not unlikely that a number of realignments might emerge which no one can imagine. Below, I have reproduced the conclusion from an article I wrote a month ago "Four Elections and a Coup" to appear in Australian Journal of International Affairs at the end of the year. The excerpt "The King Can Do Wrong" in the last post also comes from that piece.

During the 1990s, liberal impulses emanating from within Thailand merged with the international discourse of good governance. This process was halted when Thaksin’s rise coincided with global security discourse in the wake of the ‘war on terror’ and the pressure to conform to international forms of political liberalism receded. This was a dynamic broadly reminiscent of geo-politics of the Cold War. Now, with the region and the globe entering a new phase of geo-political conflict in which China and Russia are highly assertive, and the US is in retreat, the liberal politics that have largely dictated Thai pro-western foreign policy inclination may retreat further as states in the region gravitate more decisively to China.

Thaksin’s emergent authoritarianism and political challenge to elite power centres influenced the convergence of rightist fear of disorderly electoral democracy and middle-class concern for ‘good governance’. It has left Thailand’s political system faltering under a mass of contradictions that are not easily categorised. The current trajectory of Thai politics is impossible to predict. As system level contradictions simultaneously implode, the resulting conflagration may give birth to odd formations. Alternatively, politics might return to a status quo ante of corruption, electoral mobilisation and capital capture of the state. Certainly, when all sides play with the rules of the game, the crisis will remain intractable, perhaps until a rupturing historical event provides relief. One thing, though, is certain: the future of Thai politics will be extremely uncertain, precarious and subject to momentous change once the current king’s interventionist role, on the side of conservatism, is absent. With that in mind, at the very least a Thaksin return in some form can not be ruled out.

Postscript (10th September)

On September 9, 2008, in a unanimous verdict the Constitutional Court disqualified Samak as prime minister on the relatively trivial grounds that his hosting of a television cooking show while prime minister, violated Article 267 of the constitution, relating to conflict of interest. In July, Samak had bemoaned the smothering nature of the constitution, noting, ‘In the past, it was considered an honour to join the Cabinet. Now being a minister is like having one's leg in jail already’ (The Nation, 2008). This latest development might enforce the idea – as propagated by the respective protagonists - that Thai politics is like a social laboratory pitting the ‘rule of law’ against ‘democratic majoritarianism’. In reality, venal and vested political interests mix with popular aspirations on both sides of this elite conflict. Those interests have historic roots and structural properties. They are unlikely to lie down before moral censure that demands conformity to the rule of law or submission to the ballot box. In taking politics back to year zero – establishing the rules of the game – the current Thai conflict is a reminder that most social and political orders are established by the right, first, to be dominant. Such a right necessarily involves contradiction, selectivity, and myth. Currently, that right is contested, leading to parallel contradictions, selectivities and myths.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I agree with your forecast of the up-coming outcomes.
The majority of Thais certainly do not want a coup. I believe Thaksin Shinawatra would prefer Thailand would have any coup very soon, to fit his reasoning for asylum in UK. No matter which side of the coup it will turn out benefiting Thaksin.
As a result, I predict a blood-bath massacre may take place, starting with the PM's blood bath debate and the intentional shoot-to-kill on Oct 7.

PM Somchai's children has left for UK to join Thaksin whereas Somchai keeps away from his house. Rally of Thaksin's supporter outside Bangkok is declared while an ex-poice annonce an insult on PAD by his personal army to reclaim the government house.

There have also been smears on the public media, accusing PAD of attempting sabotage on various government's buildings. Assasination of the PAD's core activists to provoke more violence from the protesters may follow. I always anticipate the worst, and have not been too much wrong.

Secondly, PAD will be rallying out to protest against the police at the head office where there can be such deadly events whereas more courts' decisively fatal verdicts upon Thaksin, Somchai and his coalition are coming out in the next two weeks. It will depend on who pull the trigger first.

Thirdly, I admire your methodically research and careful study (non-biased) into (my) Thai politics despite of the tough language barrier
as opposed to some Thais so called "academics/scholars" who despite of the native Thais pretend to be blind to the info in front of them, just to serve their political ideologies or personal benefit (or actually
their unhealed personal issues) for example, the work and the role of ASC.

Fourthly, for the past decade, there have been a lot of marketing campaign by Thaksin. Look at his numerous personal websites as well as Thaksin's army in the webboard postings, his media both under direct and indirect influence. How can we be sure of the information and interpretation of it not to be biased by such marketing campaign? And that is the same for Thai citizen. Thailand has been divided not by social classes but by different input of information. Only the same "actual facts" (not fabricate lies) on the public media will fairly conform the reasoning and thus the consensus of the nation. By this, I do not mean Thais must not nave different opinions . What I mean is majority of the Thais have long been denied their basic rights to reach the facts, and lately by Thaksin regime, the authoritarian.

Facts from PAD at