Freitag, 31. Januar 2014

Bangkok unrest - before the elections

Zur deutschen Version

Bangkok Shutdown - a letdown beyond compare

In the night from Sunday to Monday, January 13, 2014 , Suthep and his PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee ) started their " Bangkok Shutdown" campaign. The goal was actually to block major traffic arteries in Bangkok, to bring life to a standstill and to create chaos (see also: -of- hopeein.html).
The pressure thus generated should force the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and create a power vacuum, which should then be filled by the non-democratically elected reform committee and later by the so-called "People's Council". This would have also prevented the elections scheduled for February 2nd.

But all the action proved to be one huge letdown for the government opponents. While each of the seven main stages of the PDRC were visited by several thousand demonstrators on the first two or three days, the number of protesters dropped rapidly over the following days and weeks. At daytime sometimes less than 20 protesters gathered in front of certain protest stages like that one at Asok intersection..

Stage at Lad Phrao intersection, 13.01.2014

In front of Asok stage, 13.01.2014

Lumpini stage, 14.01.2014

Asok, 15.01.2014

Even the feared chaos failed to materialize (aside from the permanent traffic jams because of blocked intersections). There is also no supply emergenc in the capital. Many Bangkokians had surprisingly quickly arranged themselves with the situation and lead their lives on as usual. In the meantime, a desperate PDRC tried to keep the protesters in a good mood with entertainment programs, for example with singing protest leaders and Aerobics for beginners.

Aerobic for beginners

Singing Speaker at Asok

The Democrat Party - soon history?

Thailand's largest opposition party, the Democrat Party ( DP), had, after a moment's hesitation and internal discussions, joined the anti-government protests of Suthep's PDRC (already joined by other former members of the Democrat Party). On 08 December 2013, the DP members of parliament announced that they would resign their seats. Because Thailand's legislature wouldn't have a quorum anymore Prime MinisterYingluck announced on 09 December that she would dissolve parliament and to call for snap elections which were eventually scheduled for 2nd February 2014. Since then she would take up the position as a caretaker prime minister as stated by royal decree. The Democrat Party decided on December 21st 2013 to boycott the upcoming elections.(

And this decision was probably one of the biggest mistakes in the nearly 68-year history of the Democrat Party (founded in 1946 by conservative royalists) .

In April 2006, the Democrats had already boycotted the elections after they at first had supported the demand of the PAD to set up an interim government appointed by the king in March 2006. But King Bhumibol refused to establish an unelected government in the following terms (26 April 2006): "Asking for a Royally-appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational".

Now the Democrats might face their dissolution. Because in Thailand it is a general rule that if a political party, for any reason whatsoever, does not participate twice in an election within a period of eight years, it must be resolved in accordance with the law .
Obviously it must be assumed that in December 2013 the Democrat Party was convinced that the government of Prime Minister Yingluck would collapse soon and would be quickly replaced by the reform committee or the so-called "People's Council". Therefor the elections would have been postponed indefinitely .

Whether out of ignorance, arrogance or plain and simple stupidity: this wrong decision means with some certainty the end of the Democrat Party - if not the courts, as so often in recent weeks, ignore the applicable law in this country and bow the laws in favor of the Government opponents. Regarding the violations of Thailand's Constitution and applicable law by the Constitutional Court , I would like to recommend the following link:

This error of judgment of the Constitutional Court also serves the NACC (National Anti- Corruption Commission of Thailand) as the opening pitch to proceed against the ruling Pheu Thai. On this subject, I recommend the following link:

It is obvious, that some institutions are already preparing a judicial coup in case that Suthep and his followers should fail with their protests to topple the goverment.

Violence and early voting

Unfortunately, violent attacks increased sharply (especially in Bangkok) in recent weeks. Since December more than 20 attacks were carried out with bombs and hand grenades. At least 10 people died in shootings and explosions and about 500 were injured. Among the victims were police officers as well as government opponents and supporters of the elections. 

After the bomb attack at the victory monument Sunday, 19th January.

While at the beginning the assaults most often took place late in the evening or in the early morning hours, the attacks are also occurring now in broad daylight, such as the bombings on 19 January 2014 near the Victory Monument or the murder of one of the PDRC leaders (Sutin Tharatin) on 26 January 2014 during the blockade of a polling station in Bang Na. The fact is: many people's nerves are on edge. Demagogues on all sides incite hatred and aggression. Increasingly, the situation escalates because of banalities: A plainclothes police officer refuses to be searched by a PDRC-guard, who then immediately summoned other bats to beat up the officer. The policeman tried to escape, injured one of the guards by a shot from his service weapon but was then overwhelmed by the mob and almost beaten to death. Only because of  the courageous intervention of paramedics and other protesters the policeman has escaped a lynching by the mob.

During the early voting there were also numerous attacks on both sides, as the opponents of the government were trying (in Bangkok they were doing extremely successful) to prevent voters from casting their ballots. They also blocked most of the polling stations in the capital. 
But the behaviour/the reactions of many voters clearly showed that Suthep and his mob, who are strongly convinced that Thailand is not ready for democracy, are wrong. In a nationwide survey, more than 80 % of all Thais have called for elections and stand by the current electoral law. Although many do not like the current government, they insist on their right to vote. 
At the Yannawa district office, for example, officials refused to open the gates for the voters after about 250 anti-government protesters prevented the election officials from opening the polling station in the early morning hours. Even after the protesters had long been gone, the polling station was not opened because the returning officer had fled and refused to return and to resume his work. Nevertheless, hundreds of voters waited for hours in front of the closed doors and insisted, unfortunately in vain, on their right to vote. Some officials showed courage and started on their own responsibility with the registration of electors present and entered their names on the electoral lists. At other places, voters crawled beneath the locked gates, climbed over walls or shouldered their way, holding their head high, through the screaming and riotous mob. These people have shown that the majority of Thais is ripe for democracy. Thailand can take a pride in these brave people whereas for Suthep and his followers I only feel disgust.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office - respect my vote!

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office - angry voters demand from the officials to do their duty.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office -voters searching for their names on the electoral lists.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office - courageous officers starting to register the voters.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office - angry voters insisting on their right to vote and show their identity cards.

26.01.2014 at Yannawa disrict office.

Donnerstag, 30. Januar 2014

Bangkoker Proteste - Vor den Wahlen

To the English version!

Bangkok Shutdown - ein Reinfall sondergleichen

In der Nacht von Sonntag auf Montag, den 13.Januar 2014, starteten Suthep und seine PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee) die Aktion "Bangkok Shutdown". Ziel war es eigentlich, die wichtigsten Hauptverkehrsadern der Stadt zu blockieren, das Leben in Bangkok zum Erliegen zu bringen und Chaos zu kreieren (siehe auch: Der dadurch erzeugte Druck sollte die Übergangsregierung von Premierministerin Yingluck Shinawatra zum Rücktritt zwingen und ein Machtvakuum schaffen, das dann durch ein sogenanntes, undemokratisches Reformkomitee bzw. einen sogenannten "Volksrat" gefüllt werden sollte. Damit hätte man zugleich die für den 2.Februar angesetzten Wahlen verhindert.

Aber die ganze Aktion erwies sich als ein einziger, riesiger Reinfall für die Regierungsgegner. Während sich in den ersten zwei, drei Tagen noch jeweils mehrere tausend Demonstranten vor den sieben Hauptbühnen der PDRC einfanden, sank die Zahl der Protestler in den folgenden Tagen und Wochen rapide. Vor einigen Bühnen (z.B.Asok) fanden sich tagsüber nicht mal mehr 20 Zuhörer ein.

Lad Phrao Bühne am 13.01.2014
Asok Bühne am 13.01.2014
Silom Bühne am 14.01.2014
Asok am 15.01.2014

Auch das befürchtete Chaos blieb aus (von dem Dauerstau wegen der gesperrten Kreuzungen einmal abgesehen). Es gibt auch keinen Versorgungsnotstand. Viele Bangkoker hatten sich überraschend schnell mit der Situation arrangiert und führen ihr Leben ganz normal weiter. Zwischenzeitlich versuchte ein verzweifeltes PDRC, die Protestler mit Unterhaltungsprogrammen bei Laune zu halten, z.B. Aerobic für Anfänger und singende Protestführer.

Aerobic für Anfänger - Sala Daeng-Kreuzung/Lumpini Park

Singender Redner auf der Asok/Sukhumvit-Bühne

Die Democrat Party - bald schon Geschichte?

Thailands größte Oppositionspartei, die Democrat Party (DP), hatte sich nach kurzem Zögern und internen Diskussionen den Anti-Regierungsprotesten von Sutheps PDRC (dem weitere ehemalige Mitglieder der Democrat Party angehören) angeschlossen.  Am 08.Dezember 2013 kündigte die DP an, sie werde ihre Mandate im Parlament niederlegen. Damit wurde Thailands Legislative beschlussunfähig und PremierministerinYingluck kündigte am 09.Dezember vorgezogene Neuwahlen für den 2.Februar 2014 an. Seitdem leitet sie per königlichem Erlass als geschäftsführende Premierministerin die Übergangsregierung. Die Democrat Party beschloss am 21.Dezember 2013, die Wahlen zu boykottieren (

Und dieser Beschluss dürfte wohl einer der größten Fehler in der fast 68-jährigen Geschichte der Democrat Party gewesen sein (gegründet 1946 von konservativen Royalisten).
Bereits im April 2006 hatten die Demokraten die Wahlen boykottiert, nachdem sie im März 2006 mit der von ihnen unterstützten Forderung der PAD, eine vom König ernannte Übergangsregierung einzusetzen, gescheitert waren. König Bhumibol lehnte die Einsetzung einer nicht gewählten Regierung mit folgenden Worten ab (26 April 2006):"Asking for a Royally-appointed prime minister is undemocratic. It is, pardon me, a mess. It is irrational".

Jetzt muss die Democrat Party mit ihrer Auflösung rechnen. Denn in Thailand gilt: wenn eine Partei, aus welchen Gründen auch immer, innerhalb eines Zeitraumes von acht Jahren zweimal nicht an den Wahlen teilnimmt, muss sie dem Gesetz nach aufgelöst werden.
Offensichtlich ist man in der Democrat Party im Dezember fest davon ausgegangen, dass die jetzige Regierung nicht all-zulange durchhält und recht schnell durch das Reformkomitee bzw. den "Volksrat" ersetzt werden würde. Damit wären dann auch die Wahlen auf unbestimmte Zeit verschoben worden.

Ob aus Ignoranz, Arroganz oder schlicht und ergreifend aus Dummheit: diese Fehlentscheidung bedeutet mit einiger Sicherheit das Ende der Democrat Party - falls nicht die Gerichte, wie schon so oft in den letzten Wochen, das geltende Recht in diesem Land ignorieren und die Gesetze zugunsten der Regierungsgegner beugen. Betreffend der Verstöße gegen Thailands Verfassung und des geltenden Rechts durch das Verfassungsgericht möchte ich folgenden Link empfehlen (nur in Englisch):

Diese Fehlurteile des Verfassungsgerichtes dienen auch dem NACC (National Anti-Corruption Commission of  Thailand) als Steilvorlage, um gegen die regierende Pheu Thai vorzugehen. Zu diesem Thema empfehle ich den folgenden Link (nur in Englisch):

Man ist offensichtlich dabei, einen juristischen Putsch vorzubereiten, für den Fall, dass Suthep und seine Anhänger mit ihren Protesten scheitern sollten.

Gewalt und vorzeitige Stimmabgabe
Leider hat in den letzten Wochen die Gewalt insbesondere in Bangkok stark zugenommen. Seit Dezember wurden mehr als 20 Anschläge mit Bomben und Handgranaten verübt. Mindestens 10 Menschen kamen bei Schießereien und Explosionen um Leben und etwa 500 wurden verletzt. Unter den Opfern befinden sich sowohl Polizisten als auch Regierungsgegner und Befürworter der Wahlen.

Nachdem Bombenanschlag am Victory Monument am 19.Januar 2014.

Während am Anfang die Gewalttaten fast immer spät abends oder in den frühen Morgenstunden stattfanden, ereignen sich die Anschläge nun auch am helllichten Tage, wie z.B. die Bombenanschläge am 19.Januar 2014 in der Nähe des Victory Monuments oder die Ermordung von einem der PDRC-Anführer (Sutin Tharatin) am 26.Januar 2014 während der Blockade eines Wahllokals in Bang Na. Tatsache ist, die Nerven vieler Menschen liegen blank. Hetzer auf allen Seiten schüren Hass und Aggression, und immer öfter eskaliert die Situation wegen Banalitäten: Ein Polizist in Zivil weigert sich, sich von einem Aufpasser der Regierungsgegner untersuchen zu lassen, welcher daraufhin sofort andere Schläger herbeiruft, um dem Zivilbeamten eine Abreibung zu verpassen. Der Polizist versucht zu fliehen, verletzt einen der Aufpasser durch einen Schuss aus seiner Dienstwaffe und wird dann aber vom Mob überwältigt und fast totgeprügelt. Nur dem beherzten Eingreifen der Sanitäter und anderer Demonstranten ist es zu verdanken, dass der Polizist einem Lynchmord durch den Mob entkommen ist.

Auch während der vorzeitigen Stimmabgabe (vergleichbar mit der Briefwahl) kam es zu zahlreichen Übergriffen auf beiden Seiten, als die Regierungsgegner versuchten (extrem erfolgreich waren sie dabei in Bangkok), Wähler an der Stimmabgabe zu hindern oder Wahllokale zu blockieren. Aber das Verhalten vieler Wähler hat deutlich gezeigt, dass Suthep und sein Mob mit der Behauptung, Thailand sei nicht reif für die Demokratie, falsch liegen. Bei einer Umfrage haben sich mehr als 80% aller Thais für Wahlen und das geltende Wahlrecht ausgesprochen. Auch wenn viele die jetzige Regierung nicht mögen, wollen sie sich ihr Wahlrecht von niemanden nehmen lassen. Das Yannawa Bezirksamt, zum Beispiel, weigerte sich, die Tore für die Wähler zu öffnen, nachdem ca. 250 Regierungsgegner die Wahlhelfer in den frühen Morgenstunden am Eröffnen des Wahllokals gehindert hatten. Auch nachdem die Demonstranten längst abgezogen waren, wurde das Wahlbüro nicht geöffnet, da der Wahlleiter geflohen war und sich weigerte, seine Arbeit wieder aufzunehmen. Trotzdem warteten hunderte von Wählern für Stunden vor den verschlossenen Türen und forderten, wenn leider auch vergeblich, ihr Recht zu wählen ein. Einige Beamte zeigten Zivilcourage und begannen auf eigene Faust mit der Registrierung der anwesenden Wähler und der Eintragung in die Wahllisten. An anderen Orten schlängelten sich Wähler unter den verschlossenen Toren durch, kletterten über Mauern oder bahnten sich hocherhobenen Hauptes einen Weg durch den schreienden und pöbelnden Mob. Diese Menschen haben gezeigt, dass die Mehrheit der Thailänder reif ist für die Demokratie. Auf diese Menschen kann Thailand stolz sein, während man für Suthep und seine Gefolgschaft nur noch Ekel empfinden kann.

District Office Yannawa, 26.Januar 2014

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014 - Respektiert meine Stimme!

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014 - Wähler suchen ihre Namen in den öffentlich aushängenden Wahllisten

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014 - wütende Wähler verlangen Einlass ins Wahllokal

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014 - Wähler stehen mit ihrem Namen für das Wahlrecht ein.

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014 - couragierte Beamte beginnen auf eigene Verantwortung mit der Registrierung der Wähler.

Bezirksamt Yannawa, 26.01.2014

Mittwoch, 29. Januar 2014

One year after the verdict against Somyot.../ein Jahr nach dem Urteil gegen Somyot...

23.January 2013, Somyot arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.

by Nicola Glass (Bangkok-based German freelance foreign correspondent)

It had been exactly a year ago when I had attended a court session along with several of my media colleagues. On 23 January 2013 Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was found guilty of violating Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, also known as the lèse-majesté-law, by publishing two articles that were deemed insulting to the royal family. Both articles were written by another author under a pseudonym. Somyot was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In addition, he was also handed a one-year-sentence for a separate defamation case.

Somyot is a prominent labour activist, human rights defender and editor in Thailand, spending his whole life supporting workers' rights and helping to establish democratic trade unionism in Thailand. He is also an outspoken critic who has denounced military coups and political injustice. He has become one of the victims of Thailand's controversial lèse-majesté-law, the most draconian of its kind in the world, which curbs freedom of expression and causes Thailand-based journalists to exercise self-censorship (as I have mentioned in a recent blog post
– except for those very few journalists who are indeed braver than the usual mainstream. The lives of those who were put behind bars or being charged of allegedly breaching 112 and of their families and friends have been put upside down.

Anyway, Thailand´s human rights record is abysmal. No government, including the current caretaker administration, has ever taken a serious stance against the widespread human rights violations. I would like to recommend the following link:

Heute vor exakt einem Jahr haben eine Reihe von KollegInnen und ich einer Gerichtsverhandlung beigewohnt. An jenem 23. Januar 2013 wurde Somyot Prueksakasemsuk für schuldig befunden, den Paragrafen 112 des thailändischen Strafgesetzbuches verletzt zu haben, das Gesetz gegen Majestätsbeleidigung. Er habe zwei Artikel in einem Magazin veröffentlicht, deren Inhalte als Beleidigung der königlichen Familie angesehen würden, befanden die Richter. Beide Artikel waren nachweislich von einem anderen Autoren (unter Pseudonym) geschrieben worden. Somyot wurde zu einer Haftstrafe von 10 Jahren verurteilt. Ausserdem muss er aufgrund eines weiteren Schuldspruchs wegen angeblicher Verleumdung noch ein zusätzliches Jahr im Gefängnis verbüßen.

Somyot ist ein weithin bekannter Kämpfer für die Rechte der Arbeiter, Menschenrechtsaktivist und Redakteur in Thailand. Sein ganzes Leben lang hat er sich für den Aufbau demokratischer Gewerkschaften eingesetzt. Zudem ist er ein entschiedener Kritiker von Militärputschen und gehört zu jenen, die politisches Unrecht offen verurteilen. Auch er wurde Opfer des umstrittenen Gesetzes gegen Majestätsbeleidigung (Paragraf 112), des wohl drakonischsten seiner Art in der Welt. Es beschneidet die Redefreiheit und bewegt die in Thailand arbeitenden Journalisten zur Selbstzensur (wie ich bereits in einem früheren Blogeintrag erwähnt habe:
- mit Ausnahme der handvoll JournalistInnen, die tatsächlich mutiger sind als der übliche Mainstream. Das Leben derjenigen, die ins Gefängnis geworfen oder 
wegen angeblicher Verletzung des Paragrafen 112 angeklagt wurden sowie das ihrer Familien und Freunde, wurde auf den Kopf gestellt.

Ohnehin ist die Lage der Menschenrechte in Thailand miserabel. Keine einzige Regierung, einschließlich der derzeitigen Übergangsregierung, hat sich jemals ernsthaft darum bemüht, die weit verbreiteten Menschenrechtsverletzungen in den Griff zu bekommen. Diesbezüglich empfehle ich diesen Link:

Somyot leaving the Criminal Court after the verdict.

Regarding the ongoing political crisis, I guess, Thailand´s future looks bleak. One has to keep asking why Suthep and his "whistle mobbers" – a movement that aggressively rejects democratic process, that swore to oust a democratically elected government, and that violates the rights of the people to vote - are being treated as if they were a legitimate challenge?

I would also like to point out, that there are more and more questions coming up about the future of Thai society. It is absolutely necessary to remind people - as my distinguished Thai colleague Pravit Rojanaphruk wrote - that “we also need to try harder to look at the bigger picture”.

Suthep's "Whistle Mobbers"

Wenn man die andauernde politische Krise betrachtet, dann sieht die Zukunft Thailands meiner Meinung nach düster aus. Man stellt sich ständig die Frage, warum Suthep und seine Protestbewegung  - eine Bewegung, die in aggressiver Weise den demokratischen Prozess ablehnt, die sich geschworen hat, eine demokratisch gewählte Regierung aus dem Amt zu jagen und die das Wahlrecht der Menschen verletzt - wie eine legale Herausforderung angesehen und behandelt werden?

Was die Zukunft der thailändischen Gesellschaft betrifft, so wirft diese mit jedem Tag immer mehr Fragen auf. Die Menschen müssten unbedingt daran erinnert werden - wie mein hervorragender thailändischer Kollege Pravit Rojanaphruk schrieb - dass "wir uns mehr anstrengen müssen, das Gesamtbild im Auge zu haben".

Anti-government protester at Victory Monument.

Related links:



Montag, 13. Januar 2014

Bangkok unrest 2013/14 - a spark of hope/ein kleiner Funken der Hoffnung

PDRC-supporter/-Unterstützer at Pathumwan

Related Links:

Since weeks we only hear hatemongers from all sides here in Bangkok. And even if you think they can't even sink lower, believe me - they can. Sudchai Boonchai, leader of  "Thaksin’s Friends Group" (an almost unknown movement) called on pro-government supporters to abduct Prayuth Chan-ocha's twin daughters, dead or alive, just to punish the Commander-In-Chief of the Royal Thai Army. There is absolutely no justification for such an barbaric act.

And what could we hear from the PDRC stage? A university professor called on the PDRC-supporters to sexually assault interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra.

Seit einigen Wochen hören wir hier in Bangkok nur hasserfüllte Reden aus den verfeindeten politischen Lagern. Und wenn man denkt, tiefer können sie nicht mehr sinken taucht plötzlich jemand auf, der das Gegenteil beweist.
Sudachai Boonchai, von der nahezu unbekannten "Thaksin's Friends Group" forderte die Regierungsanhänger auf, General Prayuth Chan-ochas Zwillingstöchter zu entführen, tot oder lebendig. Und nur, um den Oberkommandierenden der Royal Thai Army zu bestrafen! Es gibt absolut keine Rechtfertigung für einen derartig barbarischen Akt.

Und was hören wir im Gegenzug von der Bühne der Regierungsgegner? Hier fordert ein Universitätsprofessor vor laufender Kamera die Anänger der PDRC zu sexuellen Übergriffen gegen Interims-Premierministerin Yingluck Shinwatra auf.

The number of attacks (with guns and so-called ping pong bombs or hand grenades) around anti-government protest camps is constantly rising. More and more people are getting injured ore killed almost on a daily basis now.

Die Zeiträume zwischen gewalttätigen Auseinandersetzungen (mit Schusswaffen und sogenannten selbstgemachten Ping-Pong-Bomben) in Nähe der Camps der Regierungsgegner werden immer kürzer. Die Zahl der Toten und verletzten steigt nahezu täglich.

Pathumwan near/nahe MBK

And finally the PDRC started their "Bangkok Shut Down" operation. One day earlier than announced. In the early evening hours of Sunday, January the 12th, anti-government protesters started to close the first intersections at Lad Phrao, Pathumwan, Chaeng Watthana, Ratchaprasong and Victory Monument. From the early morning hours to late evening the same day we could observe hundreds of thousands of Thais crossing the Rama 9-bridge and leaving the city. 

Am Sonntag, den 12. Januar, begann die PDRC schließlich mit ihrer Operation "Bangkok Shut Down". Einen Tag früher als angekündigt! In den frühen Abendstunden besetzten Regierungsgegner die Kreuzungen Lad Phrao, Pathumwan, Chaeng Watthana, Ratchaprasong und Victory Monument und sperrten sie für den Straßenverkehr.
Ebenfalls am Sonntag konnten wir von morgens bis in die Abendstunden den Exodus von hunderttausenden von Thais beobachten, die die Stadt über die Rama 9-Brücke in Richtung Süden verließen.

Rama 9-bridge/-Brücke - 12.01.2014 - 12.00am


The different Bangkok - das andere Bangkok


On Friday evening around 1.000 peaceful pro-democracy and pro-election protesters of the "RESPECT MY VOTE"-movement gathered at the Cultural Arts Centre opposite the MBK/National Stadium BTS-Station (and several other places in Bangkok and Thailand). They called on all political sides to restrain from violence, demanded from the PDRC to respect democratic rules, defended the basic democratic principle of "One Man - One Vote" and asked all political parties to go on with the elections, scheduled for February 2nd. Instead of hate speeches they exercised a symbolic ballot, lit candles and sang John Lennon's song "Imagine". 

Am Freitagabend versammelten sich ca. 1.000 Anhänger der pro-demokratischen "Respect My Vote"-Bewegung am Bangkok Cultural Arts Centre (und an anderen Orten in Bangkok und Thailand), um für die Wahlen am 2.Februar und für ihr Wahlrecht zu demonstrieren. Sie forderten alle Konfliktparteien auf, auf Gewalt zu verzichten, sich an die demokratischen Spielregeln zu halten. Sie bejahen das demokratische Grundprinzip "Ein Wähler - eine Stimme" und forderten alle Gruppen auf, die Wahlen abzuhalten und sie nicht zu verhindern. Anstatt Hassreden zu halten, hielten eine symbolische Abstimmung ab zugunsten der für den 2.Februar angesetzten Wahlen., zündeten Kerzen an und sangen John Lennons "Imagine".

Video: Symbolic cast of ballots by participants of the "Respect My Vote"-rally

Short impression form the "Respect My Vote"-gathering, January 10th 2014.

Sadly, this counter movement started their pro-democracy gatherings much too late and was to small in numbers to have a greater impact on the current political situation. But nonetheless it showed, there are still many people here in Bangkok and Thailand, who believe in human equality, human rights and democracy. I really enjoyed this relaxed, peaceful and pleasant event, it gave me hope for a better Thailand.

Leider hat sich diese Gegenbewegung zu spät formiert und die Anzahl ihrer Anhänger ist noch zu klein, um einen wirklichen Einfluß auf die derzeitige politische Situation zu haben. Aber nichtsdestotrotz zeigte diese Veranstaltung, dass es sowohl in Bangkok als auch in Thailand immer noch viele Menschen gibt, die an die Gleichheit der Menschen, an Menschenrechte und Demokratie glauben und bereit sind, sich dafür einzusetzen. Ich habe diese entspannte, friedliche  und erfreuliche Veranstaltung genossen und sie gibt mir Hoffnung auf ein besseres Thailand.

Ake Auttagorn

Donnerstag, 9. Januar 2014

What lies ahead for Thailand? – An analysis by Nicola Glass

Protesters entering the government district/Dusit area.

What lies ahead for Thailand? – Reflections on the deepening political crisis

A guest contribution by Nicola Glass, Bangkok-based German journalist

The last couple of weeks had been exhausting and deeply disturbing – yet, we have to expect more violence to come. Observing the situation on the streets many times, one has to ask why is that, that the PDRC, its self-proclaimed leader Suthep Thaugsuban, and his whistle mobbers, who are trying to topple the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, are being treated as if they were a legitimate challenge? How is it possible that Suthep, a former deputy prime minister and ex-MP of the Democrat Party, who is facing an arrest warrant for insurrection, was allowed, along with his supporters, to seize government offices, to incite deadly violence, to attack and intimidate media workers?

Millions of people, who, in fact, represent the majority of the Thai voters, strongly disagree with the ideas and actions of the PDRC-led movement, which several political observers called "fascist". Millions of ordinary people pointed out that they wanted to see elections to take place on 2nd February, and to express their political views via the ballot box. Many people, among them critical academics and journalists, have repeatedly raised their voices against political violence and have taken a stance against Suthep and his followers, warning that the methods of the PDRC and its vision of the establishment of an unelected “people´s council”, which would be only serving the interests of a comparatively small conservative elite, are tantamount to an attempted coup that could lead to civil war.

Why is that, then, that Suthep, the PDRC-movement, and the (clearly misnamed) “Democrat Party” that is heavily involved in the street protests and only represents a minority of the Thai people, have managed to come this far without being held accountable for their actions? One is wondering about that since we have seen a changing political landscape and a growing political awareness of broad parts of the Thai population, particularly during these years after the military coup in 2006 that toppled then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck´s brother. However, the power struggle is far from over, with the anti-Thaksin-camp adopting increasingly violent measures.

Recalling the past two months, it was disturbing to see that Suthep - who is also facing murder charges for his role in the brutal military crackdown on pro-Thaksin demonstrators, the "Red Shirts", in spring 2010 – has managed to exploit the deep flaws in the Thai political system. Although Thailand is officially considered a democracy and constitutional monarchy, the years after the military coup in 2006 have shown that a conservative, royalist, ultra-nationalistic and wealthy minority network - out of greed for power and out of fear of losing benefice and privileges – have started repeated attempts to deprive the majority of the Thai electorate, in particular Thaksin´s supporters living in the poor regions of the North and Northeast, and also as migrant workers in the capital, of their political rights. 

Suthep Thaugsuban

Thailand´s conservative elite is claiming that former Prime Minister Thaksin came to power by vote-buying, and is regarding the farmers in the North and Northeast and migrant workers in Bangkok as “too stupid”, and therefore, unworthy to vote. However, that´s not the entire picture: The author of this blog post has also met several people of middle class-background during the last couple of years, who had listened attentively to the speeches during Red Shirt rallies, pointing out that they were not necessarily supporters of Thaksin or the Red Shirts, but would nevertheless support the idea of democratic elections and despise military coups. Suthep´s call for an unelected “people´s council/people´s assembly” and a new political system, however, is nothing else than an attempt to grab complete power, that would eventually boil down to put an end to the democratic principle of “One man, one vote”.

When people speak of flaws in the Thai system, we have to point out that we live in a country in which the courts and so-called “independent” bodies are generally regarded as political tools and where justice is not being served. For instance, the Constitutional Court ruled just recently, that Suthep and his supporters did not violate article 68 of the constitution, explaining that the PDRC-led movement is just expressing its political opinion: “The court ruled that under the Constitution, the PDRC's protest rallies were an exercise in freedom of assembly and there were no grounds to suggest they were organised with the intention to overthrow a democratically elected government.”

Adding even more complications to the ongoing political crisis, the National Anti Corruption Commission (NACC) has decided on 7th January “to press charges against 308 ex-MP´s and senators accused of misconduct in connection with the charter amendment on making the senate fully elected”.

For further reading I would like to recommend the link

What lies ahead for Thailand in the foreseeable future? We live in a country, in which the world´s most draconian “lèse majesté” law is being exploited in order to get rid of political opponents and silence differing voices. It is deeply disturbing to see that those, who were found guilty of breaching said article 112, were being locked up for years, while murderers and other human rights violators with powerful backing either receive lenient sentences or being granted bail or were even allowed to walk free entirely. Regarding the law of “lèse majesté”, Thailand-based journalists, including the author of this blog post, have to exercise self-censorship when covering the political situation in the country, if they don´t want to end up behind bars too.

Suthep´s PDRC movement, along with key representatives of the Democrat Party (DP), have abandoned all ethics and democratic principles. The DP, now boycotting a general election for the second time since 2006, is very well aware that it cannot gain political power by the ballot box. Instead, the anti-Thaksin-camp chose to incite violence, sabotage the elections, and call for military intervention.

The Thai armed forces, however, have initially shown reluctance to take sides and tried to present themselves as a mediator instead. Some observers assumed that the military leadership has learned its lessons from the coup in 2006, which has eventually let to the deepening political rifts in Thai society. Others explained the possibility for another coup might have diminished over the last years, because the armed forces – like the rest of Thai society – are deeply divided, and that Thailand´s political landscape had changed fundamentally. In an interview ahead of the elections in July 2011, a political analyst told the writer of this blog that staging another military coup would be met with much more resistance than in 2006, given the fact, that a strong network of Red Shirts, particularly in the provinces of the North and Northeast, would possibly fight the coup makers and all soldiers who would dare to enter their villages.

Officially, the highly politicized military claims to be staying neutral. During the last days of December, Thailand's army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, again urged both sides in the country's bitter political dispute to show restraint. However, he did not explicitly rule out the possibility of another coup that time: “That door is neither open nor closed”, Prayuth said on 27th December in response to questions from journalists as to whether a military intervention was likely. "It will be determined by the situation."

Right now it seems, the army has decided to wait and see what is going to happen next, especially in regard to the PDRC´s planned “shutdown” of Bangkok on 13th January. People might wonder, whether the military would lift a finger to support and protect the government of Yingluck Shinawatra or whether it will rather choose to sit back and watch the Thaksin-aligned government crumble as it had happened back in 2008, when the military under then-army chief Anupong Paochinda did nothing to prevent the royalist and ultra-nationalist "Yellow Shirts" of the “People´s Alliance for Democracy” (PAD) from seizing the compounds of Government House and Suvarnabhumi airport.

The sieges only ended after the Constitutional Court issued a verdict in early December 2008 that the then-ruling “People Power Party” (PPP) under then-Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat (Thaksin´s brother-in-law) and its two coalition partners had to be dissolved due to election fraud. It was obvious that the court´s decision to disband the pro-Thaksin PPP and those two other parties and to ban the executives of each party from politics for five years, was politically motivated, eventually paving the way for the military-appointed Democrat Party-led coalition government under Abhisit Vejjajiva, who became Prime Minister then, with Suthep Thaugsuban as his deputy. The impact of this political manoeuvring had resulted in political unrest in 2009 and 2010, when the "Red Shirts" took to the streets, calling the Abhisit administration "illegitimate" and demanding fresh elections. In the end, their demonstrations had been brutally crushed.

Now, it remains to be seen if history will repeat itself, and how the future of this country will look like, when another elected, Thaksin-aligned government might be toppled again. The political hatred has already added fuel to the fire and made the situation in this country, where corruption, injustice, and impunity prevail, even worse.

It is true, that no government, be it military or civilian, has ever taken a serious stance against widespread human rights violations or has ever made a serious attempt of breaching the ongoing circle of political violence and impunity. Yingluck´s ruling Puea Thai party was no exception, on the contrary: By pushing an abysmal blanket amnesty bill through parliament which would not only have allowed former Prime Minister Thaksin to return home, but would have also let those responsible for the 2010 violence off the hook, the Puea Thai party has even angered its own supporters. Having asked many Red Shirts about this move, the author of this blog received an unisonous answer: "Yes, we love Thaksin and we want him back, but not at any cost! We want to see justice first for the people who had died in the military crackdown in 2010!"

Nevertheless, Puea Thai came to power via democratic proceedings in 2011, reflecting the will of the majority of the Thai electorate. If this government will be unhinged by violent and fascist means, then Thailand´s political future will look even more bleak. It is already about to slip back into a very dark period.

A related topic (by Holger Grafen): the-anti-government-protest-in-bangkok-a-fascist-movement-?

Protesters in front of the Government House

Violence at Luk Luang

Protesters in front of the MBK.