Short Story: Valiant Undertakings

New short story! This short story was originally written or an English assignment, so it’s a bit on the short side. It’s a return to the more ‘political-thriller’ side of me. Enjoy!

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This short story was originally published at Publish Your Mind.

SHORT STORY: VALIANT UNDERTAKINGS

“We’re not ready for such a war.” I say, my voice faltering slightly. The room’s cold, and I adjust my glasses and take a deep breath. I must sound confident in front of all the ministers and generals. I’m Nolan Miles, Vice President of the country, anyway; I deserve respect.“The military isn’t in top shape, and we’ve been cutting down on military spending for years now to help the economy. There’s also no pretext or justification for us to get into war. Besides, all our neighboring countries have militaries not significantly weaker than ours…to go to war would be to put our citizens in a bloody, relentless conflict. I must advise against this idea.” Continue reading

Thailand’s March 29 Antigovernment Rally

The latest mass rally in a series of huge protest marches held by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in Bangkok was held on March 29, as called by core leader Suthep Thaugsuban. It had the objective of marching from Lumpini Park, where the protesters have set up a fortified tent city, towards Royal Plaza and back as a way of showing that people still demand for reform before elections.

The mood was very happy and festive- like previous PDRC rallies, you could hardly tell from the mood that this is was very serious protest march against a hugely corrupted government- and the original plan to move along in one column using one route was quickly scrapped. Simply too many people came for that. Instead, multiple routes had to be used, and even then some groups had to move so slowly due to too many people in front that it was joked it would take till 5 AM the next day to get to Royal Plaza. Even with that, it took three hours to walk from Lumpini Park to Pathumwan intersection. That was where I left and I walked around observing the moving crowd around the intersection that was still moving towards the Royal Plaza for a while. Anyone watching could make some obvious conclusions.

Firstly, any attempt to estimate the ‘size’ of the crowd would be very rough, at best. The government and police estimated the size of the crowd at its peak at 50,000- but then the government and police consistently downplay protester sizes. Estimates were mostly made based on the size of the crowd that braved the Bangkok heat long enough to manage to reach the Royal Plazabut the fact is that a lot of people marching did NOT reach Royal Plaza, and were only there for some parts of the march (this includes me). The people were constantly coming in and out, at different areas and times; while some were in front of Siam Paragon, others were still stuck down at Lumpini Park (as I was) due to the large numbers of people ahead. To accurately count the number of protesters would require watching the protest in all locations (and there were many) at all times and then trying to estimate based on that- which is impossible, or at least extremely difficult.

Another thing I’d like to say is 50,000 would be a very low estimate, not a high estimateAt Pathumwan, I watched the protest column (only one of them, by the way) walk on continually for nearly an hour before I left, and had started walking through since before I was there, and continued to walk on afterwards. That’s a massive amount of people. Michael Yon, an independent writer who has been covering the protests since last year, wrote:

Nobody knows [how large the turnout was]. In fact, nobody would even be able to round it to the nearest 100,000. As an example of the enormousness of the turnout, at one point the main PDRC march looped back on itself 10km distant. Imagine the PDRC march being a gigantic snake whose head looped 10km back on its tail. That is a 10km long PDRC march. And that does not include KPT’s [NSPRT] massive piece combined with Santi Asoke, or Buddha Issara out at Chaengwatthana.

Something else to consider is that at this point the number of actual protesters physically out in the rallies matter much less than, say, back in January or December when the protest movement was still needing momentum. The political game is now largely being played in the courts, with a number of cases lined up against the government that could result in the impeachment of the Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Even if the protesters do nothing other than hold small demonstrations in Lumpini Park, the impeachment of the Prime Minister could still happen due to a court ruling.

This isn’t to say that the number of protesters no longer matter, because it still does; one of the main objectives of the PDRC rally that just happened was to prove that the PDRC still has the support of the people and that protesters are still willing to come out if requested. If anything, the rally proved that the PDRC remains a force to be reckoned with, even if the number of protesters who attend the daily demonstrations in Lumpini Park have dwindled. This is also to be expected; it would be surprising for a movement that has continued on for nearly half a year to receive undiminishing interest throughout.

The rallies also had two side benefits. It was a distraction that allowed a smaller protest group led by Luang Pu Buddha Issara to take over a small red-shirt protest site that has been set up in front of the National Anti-Corruption Commission office. This is particularly important, because an intimidating pro-government rally in front of the NACC could possibly sway the NACC from judging the Prime Minister’s impending rice-deal graft cases impartially.

The presence of such a large group of people also allowed the NSPRT, a PDRC-allied

A new Thai flag flies over government house

but separate protest group to easily negotiate its way into Government House to replace a Thai flag and perform religious ceremonies inside. For Westerners this would not seem particularly worthy of note, but in superstitious Thailand, this holds a lot of significance. In a country where rites and symbols in important governmental offices are seen to be a deciding factor in the fate of the country, this would almost certainly have been given some weight by the protest leaders. Thaksin, after all, is widely rumored to have ordered the bloody clashes at Government House a month ago in order to perform black magic ceremonies in his own favor, in accordance with the instructions of a Burmese fortune-teller; the police had been repulsed by the NSPRT protesters, however.

As a rally alone this protest march does not create much of a tangible political consequence. As part of a wider strategy against the government, however, it is significant in showing that support for reform before elections has not decreased, and it has allowed for other side consequences such as the taking of the NACC-front pro-government intimidation rally.

It is now time to look at what will come next. The rulings of the courts and the work of the NACC will be crucial in determining the fate of the Yingluck government, and Thaksin is now playing the same game as Suthep by bringing in his own red-shirt protesters, with a mass pro-government rally called for next Sunday. Details and even the location is still forthcoming, but the red shirts have been struggling with getting the numbers; a previous mass rally held in Ayutthaya was estimated by the police (who are widely sympathetic with the government) to only contain a couple thousand people.

With the February 2 election annulled, renewed momentum in the protest groups and numerous cases lined up on the legal front that could get the Prime Minister impeached, the Yingluck Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai government is worn down and embattled. It could still take months, but, the Yingluck government’s time is clearly running out.

-Ken

Trip to Sukhothai

I’m back from an amazing week spent on a school residential trip at Sukhothai! For any of the few readers that I have from outside Thailand, Sukhothai may not be a super-familiar IMG_0622name; situated up north, around 700 years ago it was the first capital city of Thailand.

 Last year, the trip I took was to Khao Yai national park and it was a camping trip. I enjoyed that trip, certainly, but it was completely exhausting. This trip really was different. Sukhothai is a real city and not a bunch of forests, so I didn’t lose contact with civilization like last time.

Anyway, here’s some of the most memorable parts of the trip:

1) Temples that tire you out

I’ve always been a history enthusiast, and anyone will tell you that the old capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are some of the most historically-important places in the whole country. The ruins of Sukhothai and its twin city, Srisachanalai (which today has been merged into the same province) are huge, and if anything shows the origins of the country of Thailand, this is it. Centuries ago these places were the center of power wielded by the earliest of Thai kings who founded the nation, creating the alphabet and imposing Buddhism as the state religion.

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It has to be admitted, however, that the temples were repetitive. This didn’t really occur to me when I was biking around Sukhothai Historical Park, because I also really enjoy biking, but once I got on foot for Srisachanalai- oh boy. It felt like a tape on replay. The people of Sukhothai also seemed to really enjoy making sure that anyone who came up their temples had to be exhausted. The guide kept explaining over and over again that temples had to be built up high because they also acted as places where people could watch out for enemy troops, but seriously. There was barely a temple that didn’t involve climbing up endless stone steps.

2) Crazy caves

IMG_0553I also visited Tham Lom (‘Wind Cave’), which was also amazing(ly dangerous). It felt like walking through an air-conditioned room for the first few minutes, before it somehow got almost unbearably hot and humid. Inside was completely dark, which didn’t stop us of course because we had wooden ladders that looked like they might fall apart at any moment. The cave itself wasn’t so bad.

The way out was ridiculous- there was no trail, just a bunch of stones that was lined to the sides with trees with spikes. I called it Khao Yai on steroids. Overall it was nice, however.

3) Brilliant homestay

This was what I’d expected to enjoy the least in the whole trip- the homestay near Srisachanalai, which was a village that was rather remote. It turned out to be surprisingly great. The food was much better than what the hotel I stayed at later could provide, and the lady who owned the house that I stayed at cooks some of the best Thai food ever in my opinion.  More on the lady- she was really nice and even carried out loudspeakers for us to use, and told us anything in the fridge we could take (and the first thing I saw in the fridge was a bottle of rum). Waking up my friends using that loudspeaker was hilarious (for me, that is).

4) Really nice Thai students

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The best part of the trip might be the community & service activities done at a local Thai school. I’m not a huge fan of these sorts of activities, but the local students there are just really sweet. They’re elementary students and when they welcome you with random aerobics and a lot of smiles, you can’t help but just smile back. Walking around with students running up to you going ‘P’KEN!!’ was really great.

Playing ‘monkey in the middle’ with them was brilliant. Something I love about young students is they’re enthusiastic about everything and it was just so fun to play with them. It was not fun when I accidentally suggested a rather inappropriate Thai song just to find out that 1) the students all know the song and 2) they want to see it performed right there. I’m not sure how pleased the teachers would’ve been with that.

Helping others really does make you feel good. We donated a total of 17,000 THB, played with the kids for a day and helped them paint their school walls. It was simply amazing. Overall, it was a great trip and it would be hard to wish for a better one. Right now I’m procrastinating, but I’ll be back to writing soon.

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Thanks for reading.

Ken

Short Story: First Love

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New short story! This one’s called First Love. It’s certainly not one of the better short stories that I’d written, and I pretty much messed up with the plot, and so in the end it was written with a “just wanna get it done” attitude. Anyway, I still think it’s decent, so enjoy!

This short story was originally published on Publish Your Mind.

SHORT STORY: FIRST LOVE

Listening to friends bitch about their lives is one thing. Listening to them bitch about their first love is quite another. It’s really easy to help people out when they’re complaining about something else, say, how they’re failing both Math and Science and English and History – at which you could simply say that 1) they might want to try something called studying or 2) they’re stupid idiots who have no use for the advancement of the human race in the future. But when people complain about their first love; oh my god.  Continue reading

Status

February Update

Hello. I haven’t written much about my writing status and things like that lately so maybe it’s time for a post on that.

My posts have been very political lately. The highly polarized, prolonged and increasingly tense conflict is becoming something that I feel must be written about. The protesters do not seem to have enough English language writers that get their side of the story across. However, I don’t mean to alienate anyone with these posts, so if you feel that way I apologize. Differing political views should be able to coexist.

In any case, I’m going to be going back to some of my fiction writing. Expect a few short stories from me, as I’ve made a promise to a friend that I’ll write at least two romances this month due to Valentine’s Day. I’m not that comfortable and experienced with love stories and such, however, and I’ve only written one, maybe two, real ‘love’ stories and for me it’s not easy. It’s still a new experience.

Next week, I’ll be cut off from the internet completely as I’ll be going on school residential trips, this year to the ancient city of Sukhothai. This means that I may not get much writing out this month at all, unless I actually try (which I will, but no guarantees). I’m expecting a pretty good time there.

On another note, over at History Republic I just started a series on the Punic Wars last week. That might be of interest for some of you, and the next installation should be out before the end of this week.

-Ken

 

As Protests Continue, Thaksin’s Power Erodes

‘I came from elections’, ‘the majority chose me’; these are some of the favorite catchphrases of Yingluck Shinawatra. Indeed, constant and predictable victory in national elections is where the Thaksin regime derives its legitimacy. Despite the fact that democracy is so much more than just voting at the election booth, the government continues to position itself as the guardian of democracy and the champions of the majority.

Meanwhile, the protests have been perceived to be dwindling in size, albeit still continuing its festive mood. (Chidlom resembles a concert stage more than a rally site). Many think that the protests have not managed to accomplish much, and is unlikely to succeed at anything further.

In my last post, Towards Reform: Thailand’s Protests, I analyzed the undemocratic attitude of the Thaksin regime, its incompetence and corruption and the need for reforms for elections. Thaksin himself, as stated by BusinessWeek, is more of an elected autocrat than a champion of democracy. That, however, is simply where I stand on the issue. Here, I look into why Thaksin’s hold on power is gradually slipping. The protests have not accomplished nothing.

Dwindling ‘Majority’

Yingluck was desperate for an election. Her government has suffered its share of indignities; to restore her legitimacy as a government, she needs a new election, to show the local and international community that she still has the popular mandate to continue ruling.

Only a few days before, Yingluck and Thaksin got what they were waiting for. Thailand held a general election- although it is less ‘general’ than one might think. Only around 47% of eligible voters participated in the election, and numerous provinces, mostly in the South, held no elections at all. Parliament would not be able to convene, certainly; it would take numerous by-elections for the 95% quorum to be made. In some provinces, like Nakhon Sri Thammarat, as little as 0.11% of voters casted a vote. 

Both sides made advances towards their goals. Yingluck and Thaksin got the election they wanted, and  her party is bound to win even more seats in Parliament when it manages to convene (the Democrats, the main opposition, had boycotted the election). The protesters, on the other hand, have disrupted the elections enough to make sure that Parliament will not be convened in the foreseeable future, thus ensuring that no new government can be formed.

At a glance, it seems like this is a political stalemate and it will continue. Take a closer look, however, and many things will be noticed.

Firstly- the claim that the Pheu Thai party continues to be the ‘majority’ is quickly becoming challenged. The 47% statistic for percentage of voters is small in comparison to the 2011 elections, where 73% casted a ballot.

In addition, many people chose not to adhere to Suthep’s call for not voting at all- but instead chose to ‘vote no’: to say they have used their voting rights, but wish to give no party their vote. 28% of the ballot cards counted were either spoiled ballots or ‘no’ votes.

Pheu Thai could have, the support of, at most, less than 28% of eligible voters. 

This is a serious problem for Thaksin. His sister derives his legitimacy for himself through large majorities showing up to vote for him at the election booth. The statement that Pheu Thai still has a large majority may prove to be very debatable indeed. Perhaps ‘I came from elections’ and ‘I have the support of the majority’ can no longer even be Yingluck’s catchphrases. 

An Election for Nothing

Yingluck placing her ballot (in the wrong box).

The elections may also prove to become nullified or may never be completed. As it stands, the elections are incomplete and it will require by-elections in several areas, especially in the South where support for the protest movement is strong. Yet it would be difficult to finish the elections in these areas. Why would the government expect people who so strongly opposed the polls to come out and vote in another election? The 95% quorum required for Parliament to convene won’t be able to be reached.

Secondly, even if the government manages to miraculously shove away all its problems and get a 95% quorum, the elections could possibly be nullified by the judiciary. Many possible illegal acts that breached the constitution were observed. For example, the holding of the election on multiple dates, the releasing of election results despite the fact that the elections were not even over; many reasons for why the election may not lead to anything. If these points are confirmed, then a court could rule to have the entire election results declared invalid. (This happened before in an election where Thaksin was the sole competitor and had to bribe smaller parties into joining).

The most likely scenario is that Yingluck will continue to be the head of a caretaker administration, with very limited powers. It is for this exact reason that the government is weak.

Angry Farmers and Probing Courts

Yingluck’s government is a lame duck government. Its power are limited and its ability to govern is incomplete. And I suspect that Thaksin would be frustrated at his miscalculation, months ago, that the protests would melt away once Parliament was dissolved. Instead, the protests have only grown stronger while the government has become a caretaker administration and limited its power for nothing.

And new players enter the scene. The rice pledging scheme has ended disastrously, and the tons of rice sitting in Thai warehouses cannot be sold for they have to be priced so expensively. But the farmers had already pledged their rice. They await money. No money is to be found. It is for this reason that the farmers, previously the base support of the government, have erupted into protests.

(Slightly off topic, but the rice purchase agreement made between China and Thailand that was so promoted by the government turned out to be nonexistent. It is unlikely that the rice will be able to sold).

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for these farmers. For months they have had no income; money promised to them from the government is not coming, despite multiple promises and dates which have all turned out to be a series of lies. Now, however, the farmers are simply broke. Government efforts to secure loans to pay these farmers have resulted in failure, mostly because 1) as a caretaker government they cannot accumulate more debt that will burden the next administration and  2) no local bank is crazy enough to trust the government and let them borrow money.

While many of the farmers still hold separate rallies, blocking roads leading to the provinces, some have joined the main PDRC protests. A house cannot stand without a strong base. Similarly a democratic government will not be able to rule unless it holds the favor of the people. If not even the rural rice farmers, the traditional supporters of the Shinawatras, will remain on their side, it is not known who will.

This alone will probably not force the government to leave. The judiciary, however, may represent a hope for the protesters. The same rice pledging program is leading to probes from the National Anti-Corruption Commission that may lead to the impeachment of the Prime Minister. Thailand’s courts have been reputed for interventionist actions in the past years, forcing the resignation of multiple Thaksin-backed Prime Ministers. Even a military coup cannot be ruled out.

Protests and Officials

The protests themselves, which caused the dissolution of Parliament months ago, have not ran out of steam. Although during the weekdays the rally sites are virtually empty, the nights and weekends still see an influx of protesters into the new walking street created around Siam. The (partial) Bangkok Shutdown campaign continues.

Indeed, it seems like many influential government officials are in support of the PDRC. Government officials from many ministries, such as the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Public Health, have seen people as senior as permanent secretaries give speeches on the PDRC stage with Suthep.

Add everything together, and Thaksin’s grip on power seems to be dangerously slippery. To say that because protest numbers are dwindling means that the government must be having the upper hand would be misleading. 

Thaksin’s Options

Considering that Thaksin cannot resolve the problems he has in his base of voters, the farmers, because his sister only runs a caretaker government, and the elections which will legitimize him will most likely amount to nothing but a waste of state funds, Thaksin does not have many options left.

He could try to forcibly break the protests, but the CMPO (Center for Maintaining Peace and Order, responsible for enforcing emergency law) has proven to be hilariously weak. Its chief, caretaker labour minister Chalerm Yubamrung, was, very symbolically, refused a handshake from the army’s Commander in Chief; without the army the police would be hard-pressed to do much.

Thaksin could even try to create as much violence as possible. One of his lackeys, Ko

Koh Tee

Tee, a leader of the red shirts, said:

I want there to be lots of violence to put an end to all this. I’m bored with speeches. It’s time to clean the country, to get rid of the elite, all of them.

-Ko Tee, Red shirt leader

Not very long afterwards violence erupted at Lak Si, on the day before the elections. (The police were quick to point their finger at the protesters, but the army later came out to clarify that bullets were shot from both sides). Thaksin could try to escalate the situation with greater violence. What that would lead to is anyone’s guess, although it is more likely that an outbreak of violence would lead to a military coup and not a crackdown on the protesters.

he protests may continue for much longer, and final victory for the protesters is still not certain. Overall, however, there are only so many cards left that Thaksin can play. His power is clearly collapsing. If the protesters are festive, perhaps they have good reason to be so.

Supporting the PDRC

I believe that nothing is to be gained from standing ‘in the middle’. Obviously neither side are willing to compromise. Those on social networks have termed the people who call for ‘peace’ and ‘compromise’ the ‘loke suay‘ group- ‘utopian’, ‘beautiful world’. I would not go as far as to criticize these views, but it is also clear that neither side is willing to compromise. Thaksin has his own self-serving agenda. Suthep will also not negotiate for anything lesser than the resignation of Yingluck.

I cannot pretend to support every move made by the PDRC. The blocking of elections in some areas were depriving others of their basic rights and its plans for ‘reform’ are also still very vague. But supporting ‘no one’ would not eradicate the influence of Thaksin from the country. Now that Thaksin’s power is beginning to be eroded through the efforts of the PDRC, I see nothing wrong with giving it support so that it does succeed, cleansing the country of the damaging influence of Thaksin Shinawatra and his cronies that has plagued the country for over a decade, once and for all.

-Ken

Towards Reform: Thailand’s Protests

January 13 protests: one of seven rally sites.

The antigovernment protests in Thailand are massive, by any standard. It’s hard to find a protest in any other country that would equal Thailand’s current round of protests in terms of numbers. The car-filled streets of Bangkok are a distant dream, because on a protest day, they’d be swelled with protesters , blowing their whistles and clapping plastic hands. On a stage would stand a protester whose job it was to yell all day about the government. “Victory awaits us”, they’d often say. “We’re nearly there!”

Go out of the protest zones, however, and a bit of a reality check is given. The streets would be lined with election banners from the Pheu Thai Party and some affiliates, a clear sign that they’re still determined to win a snap election and remain the rulers of the country. It’s a funny saying among the protesters that the government most insistent on clinging to power requires the largest crowds with the most endurance to kick them out.

A couple of months back I wrote a post here about Thailand’s recent political history, tracing the rise of Thaksin Shinawatra and the root of the current protests, the Amnesty Bill. If you don’t know much about Thai politics, then I’d suggest you read it first. But in short- the Amnesty Bill, which would have granted amnesty to convicted criminal and ex-premier Thaksin sparked the current round of mass protests. Discontent with the ‘Thaksin regime’- a word used to describe governments affiliated with Thaksin- has been brewing ever since the days of Thaksin’s own premiership, but never has protests managed to be so large. The Amnesty Bill was truly a last straw for many people.

Suthep

Suthep Thaugsuban, a politician of the opposition Democrat Party seized the chance and resigned from his political positions to lead the mass protests. Although himself a very controversial person, he managed to gather the masses and rallied them together for protest after protest, eventually forcing Yingluck Shinawatra to yield and shelve the Amnesty Bill. He decided not to stop there, however; the protest evolved to become an antigovernment protest with the agenda of removing the government completely. A mass rally at Government House prompted Yingluck to dissolve Parliament and call for new elections, but the protesters refused to stop there, requesting for the caretaker government to step down and pave the way for an unelected ‘People’s Council’, which would rule Thailand for a period of time to implement reforms before returning power to the people and calling for new elections. ‘Reform before elections’: this became the slogan of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, the main group of protesters with Suthep as its self-appointed secretary-general.

‘Democratic’ Dictatorship: An Illegitimate Government

I’ve heard the Thaksin regime described as a ‘democratic dictatorship’- two words that barely go together, a huge oxymoron. But they are accurate. Thaksin derives his power from his ability to win at the ballot box, from where he also claims his legitimacy as a government. However, the tactics that he uses to win those votes are completely undemocratic. Buying votes off the less wealthy populace of the North and Northeast is one. Using populist policies to lure in voters is another. This is a key point. Thaksin’s populist policies are destructive, whether they be the rice buying scheme, which caused huge damage to the Thai economy, or promising ‘one tablet PC per child’, or ridiculous car policies. Not only are these ruinous for the economy, they also create a lazy attitude in the people. A lack of education in the North and Northeast is a cause for why people often fall for these lures. Thaksin also has a network of connections throughout the regions, where he can simply ask for the support of local leaders- who in turn can pressure people to vote for Thaksin. Thailand’s cultural context which emphasizes respect for elders and local leaders can be exploited easily.

Hardly a democratic way to get yourself in power. Cambodia’s de facto dictator Hun Sen wins elections time after time. I don’t see a lot of people running out to say that he’s democratic. The same should apply to Thaksin.

Next, the government has no respect for the checks and balances on its power. The judiciary should serve as a check towards the government, but the government decided to reject a ruling of the Constitutional Court on its policies on the makeup of the Thai Senate (which should in itself be another check and balance). How do you REJECT the ruling of the Court? That’s akin to saying that you reject the law. How can a government continue to claim to be legitimate when it does not accept the legitimacy of the law? 

‘Reforms Before Elections!’

Thus Thailand can actually be perceived to currently be in a political vacuum: with the government having lost its legitimacy since its rejection of the Constitutional Court’s ruling. Under the constitution, it is legal for an unelected Prime Minister to be royally endorsed in the case of a political vacuum or a crisis.

The protesters argue, and I argue, that this is such a crisis that would allow for the appointment of such a Prime Minister.

Thai democracy in its current form is not functioning in a democratic manner. A new election would only be followed by a repetition of Thaksin’s undemocratic tactics, which would lead to the reappointment of his sister Yingluck as Prime Minister.

The current Yingluck government is completely incompetent and corrupted. The rice buyback scheme caused Thailand to fall off its place as No. 1 in terms of rice exports; a lot of rice is currently lying in the Commerce Ministry, rotting as the government tries to find money to pay back to the farmers. (The rice is simply going to have to be priced so highly as to be completely uncompetitive because of the policy). Public companies were sold and became private companies- really serving the people there. The government also tried to borrow 2 trillion Baht- an amount equal to 50 years’ worth of the Thai GDP- for unclear purposes. To add to that long list, they amended laws that allows the government to secretly make deals with any other country (eg. regarding resources) thus meaning that the government no longer has to be answerable to the public.

In short, the Thaksin regime is turning Thailand into a mess. Allowing the government to continue in power would spell disaster for Thailand.

Progressing with the election now would in fact be a huge waste of public funds. A number of areas do not even have MPs standing for election, and some has only one candidate: even if Parliament manages to be formed, the fact that it wouldn’t have enough members to even vote for a new Prime Minister would render it useless.

Therefore, the PDRC and protesters call for a period or reform before new elections. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to sugarcoat the reforms: practically, it’s to rid the country of the influence of Thaksin and his cronies. That, I think, is good enough a goal.

Misunderstandings

This sort of protest is bound to be extremely controversial, certainly in the eyes of the international media. There’s no denying that. All other movements in other countries are usually ones requesting democracy; the one in Thailand requests an unelected government. This is a recipe for misunderstanding. I haven’t written about the protests up to this point after the Amnesty Bill, however, and I decided to do so today because of an article by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, an independent journalist who wrote an opinion piece for CNN. It is an example of such gross misunderstanding and bias that it almost screams for clarification.

First off, a lot of people describe the protests as a clash between the ‘Bangkok elite’ against the rural farmers of the Northeast. That’s an inaccurate oversimplification. The protesters come from all walks of life, whether it be motorcycle drivers to literal billionaires. A walk through the protests would allow you to hear different accents of the Thai language that is certainly not the Central dialect spoken by Bangkokians. I’ve seen the protests myself. If the protests were so overwhelmingly made up of the elite and the middle class, there wouldn’t be the people sleeping on the floor at various intersections. The less wealthy also support the reforms. The situation isn’t as complex as a ‘class war’, as described by some.

The protests have also often been called an ‘anti-democracy movement’. An understandable misconception, as protesters are themselves demanding that elections be called off and an unelected government be put in place. The protesters are not against democracy, or elections, but are demanding REFORMS that will allow for a healthier democracy. 

Looking Forward

In the CNN piece I linked, Andrew Marshall ends with the sentence “…the prognosis for Thailand is depressingly bleak”. I’d certainly say otherwise. Thaksin has been in de facto power for over a decade: a tumultuous decade of instability and an unprecedented level of disunity in Thailand’s history.

To give credit to the Amnesty Bill, it was such an open attempt at personal gain that it managed to fire up Thailand’s silent opposition, something that no previous individual has managed to do. Suthep is now akin to an adored superstar, receiving cheers and monetary donations everywhere he marches, met with his fellow protesters wearing Suthep t-shirts and holding Suthep keychains. Suthep himself may have been controversial, but his proposed ‘People’s Council’ is an infinitely preferable alternative to the Thaksin regime. (You know there’s issues when people begin to think that an unelected government would be better than an ‘elected’ one).

The spirit and motivation of the protesters still remain high. Their chances of succeeding are at the same level. Previous coups and protests have failed to permanently remove Thaksin from power, and thus his reign of corruption continues. Currently they cling on to power, and their election posters a sign of their determination and confidence that Thailand will not be taken from their grasp anytime soon. That, in my opinion, is a  ‘depressingly bleak’ future for Thailand. But the prospect of finally removing this man who has brought so much trouble from the reins of the country points towards a much brighter future.

Have reforms before new elections; Thailand’s years of turmoil need not continue much longer.

-Ken