Very often, reports effectively blamed the Red Shirts for the killing, because they supposedly failed to accept the Thai government’s offer of elections if the protests were called off. Never mind that the government refused to say when these elections might be, or that once the protests ended it would have had no reason to follow through.
But while Iran is part of the “axis of evil”, seen as a threat by all Western powers, Thailand is a key US ally, and the military backed elite are keen supporters of corporate globalisation.
Former deputy prime minister Supachai Panitchpakdi took over the World Trade Organisation leadership from former NZ Labour leader Mike Moore, and Thailand signed a trade agreement with New Zealand in 2005, as part of efforts to keep the free trade ball rolling after WTO stalled in the early 2000s.
This deal helped facilitate Fisher & Paykel’s relocation of it’s washing machine factory to Thailand in 2007 (which resulted in the layoff of 350 workers in South Auckland).
So long as the Thai elite keep delivering the goods for Western corporations, Western governments and media have no reason to call for democracy.
Exiled Thai political scientist, socialist and Red Shirt activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn has been posting regularly on his blog about what is happening in his homeland.
by Giles Ji Ungpakorn
19 May 2010
The anger of the ordinary people has finally erupted into violence with numerous buildings being set of fire in Bangkok and the provinces. People are also trying to use any means to fight the army. There are reports that Government buildings, banks, the stock-exchange, luxury shopping malls and pro-military media are all being set on fire.
All this is totally justified.. why?
1. The Government and the army have repeatedly used armed soldiers, assassination squads, snipers and tanks to kill unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators since April. The death toll will easily reach 80 with thousands injured.
2. This state-sponsored violence against civilians was carried out in order that Abhisit's military-backed Government could stay in power and avoid elections for as long as possible. It was never elected in the first place. The Government is a product of military and judicial coups since 2006.
3. The Red Shirts have repeatedly offered talks and compromises, yet the Government has answered with bullets.
4. In a Democracy, the people should be the ultimate decision-makers, not the military, the elites and the Palace. Any demand for democratic elections is totally justified, even if it disrupts shopping centres and luxury hotels.
5. Mealy-mouthed so called non-violent groups could never bring themselves to put the blame entirely on the shoulders of the Government, the military and Royalist elites, despite the fact that the violence was from the army. They never put their weight behind the huge struggle of the UDD leadership to try to maintain a peaceful and disciplined protest. This is because these organisations supported the coup in 2006 in the first place. They allowed the Government to claim that there would be no peace until the protests stopped.
Yet now that the official protest has been drowned in blood and stopped, there will not be peace because there is no justice.
What would end the violence in Bangkok?
by Giles Ji Ungpakorn
If the military backed Government of Abhisit Vejjajia dissolved parliament, announced fresh elections and ordered a cease fire, the violence would end immediately and the Red Shirts would all go home.
In capitalist democratic countries, when there is a crisis, dissolving parliament and calling elections is a normal way to defuse serious tension. In the 1970s British Prime Minister Edward Heath called elections when faced with a massive strike wave. In 1968 the French Government called elections in the face of a crisis. The Abhisit’s Government can only cling to power by shooting civilians, announcing a state of emergency in a quarter of the country and censoring the media and the internet. If the Government wants to claim legitimacy it should submit to the wishes of the people through a general election and prove that it has legitimacy.
The UDD (Red Shirt) leadership has called for an immediate cease fire and talks with the Government. This would also end the killing and violence. Yet Abhisit has refused. Instead he and the army generals have sent snipers and assassination squads into the centre of Bangkok to kill unarmed civilians in their so-called “live firing zone”. Sixty-five people have been killed since April and nearly two thousand injured. Among the dead are paramedics, journalists and at least one ten year-old boy. The Government continues to lie about the military actions and continues to lie that the Red Shirts are “armed terrorists”. Numerous media reports from the BBC, CNN and ABC show this not to be true.
One important reason why the Government will not end the violence is that they know that they would lose an election. They were never elected in the first place and are only in power because of the army and the judiciary that have repeatedly frustrated the democratic process since the 2006 coup. The Government, the Military, the Palace, the majority of the business class, the Judiciary and the top bureaucrats are the elites. For years they have used their extra-constitutional power to exploit and repress the majority of the population. They have shot down pro-democracy demonstrators in 1973, 1976, 1992, 2009 and now in 2010.
This is a class war. But only the naive believe that class war is a simple matter of rich against the poor. The Red Shirts represent workers and small farmers. They are the people who have created the wealth in Thailand, but they have not been able to enjoy the benefits. Thailand is a very unequal society. Their hopes were raised when millionaire Taksin Shinawat’s Thai Rak Thai Government offered a universal health care scheme and pro-poor policies. They were inflamed when the elites stage a coup against this elected Government in 2006. Now they are standing firm and facing the armed might of the ruling class.
For the above reasons, the Red Shirt protest in the centre of Bangkok is legitimate, even if it disrupts the commercial life in expensive shopping centres and luxury hotels. Anyone who believes in Democracy and Social Justice should support them.
For a first hand account of the army’s attack on the protesters, read this report by German reporter Nick Nostitz:
For more in depth analysis of the situation from a left wing perspective take a look at Asia Left Observer: