Reds back from the maquis?

It appears that most so-called “softer head” (หัวอ่อน) hard-core leaders on the run since last year are returning back home accepting a new compact with the amaat regime which they took a stand against since events following 19 September 2006. This compact was enabled through the “electoral” UDD group, involving no doubt some interesting conversations with various stakeholders both at home and, importantly, abroad, and of course certain higher powers.

The masses, many of whom were starting to become awakened/ “eyes opened” since 13 October 2008, may feel a little let down right now and asking themselves what was all the suffering and the loss of life for in April and May 2010? In particular, the red shirt protests starting on 12 March 2010 gave the masses a (Gramscian) sense of “theoretical consciousness”; of being creators of new kind of Siamese historical and institutional values around a discourse on democracy. No one can go back. All the while the UDD acting leader/s moved between the bimonthly stages in the capital and in trying to secure the release of the three “Truth Today” (“ความจริงวันนี้”) core activists and the four other red shirt leaders. The core leaders initially (and in retrospect naively) thought that by surrendering they would be immediately released on bail!

UDD, which claims to be a mass social movement, entered into de facto support for the current regime’s electoral program established under specified terms and conditions imposed on them. This may be a strategy with hidden ramifications. UDD needs to think about two scenarios:

1. Phue Thai Party are able to win the elections, as one would expect given the numbers (if the elections are fair) and, not dissimilar to Nepal, successfully change the puppet government but not change the regime – that is the entrenched dominant elite system and the 2007 constitution. This is a repeat of recent post-electoral events some years back where a certain elected government won (twice), but could not actually govern because the amaat regime would not allow that to happen!

2. Phue Thai Party lose the elections and thus red shirts aligned so closely with Phue Thai Party’s fate also lose their foundation and legitimacy among devotees at home and abroad (all the eggs placed in one basket). Playing a political game where the rules are controlled entirely by others carries risks.

This means UDD must talk to other red shirt groups who are seeking a direct democracy revolutionary route. These groups in turn should take up Nuttawut’s offer to the masses for talking, made on stage on Saturday 12 March. UDD need a fallback position with the election route they have chosen. It is clear that it will not be a win-win as something has to give. They are of course playing a game with the same regime which they have so ardently fought against over the past five years. It may start to look a little like a post-October 1976 affair; when the Prime Ministerial Order No 66/23 was issued four years later as many liberal activists and former CPT members returned from the maquis having been conferred amnesty and co-opted into the bosom of the nation-state; some remaining (metaphorically speaking) under Prem’s teat; then of course going on to become modern defenders of the amaat regime that swept them out the back door in the first place: So much for seeking regime change! Many of these individuals became the hardcore of the yellow-shirts.

There are some elements among the red shirts, such as the new western alliance groups and many existing and new configurations now calling themselves “Red Free People” (แดงเสรีชน, that is, they are not attached to any mass movement/UDD) emerging from the confusion; situated both inside and outside the country. These red shirts are unambiguously on the democratic revolutionary route and they are not willing to concede quite so agreeably to what they see as a hopelessly corrupted system of law and governance. They now focus their demonstrations on a single issue: Article 112 of the Criminal Code used as a political tool by the regime. They also hope that UDD will work with them, or at least that they do not obstruct them. In fact it is clear UDD will not touch 112.

Did the UDD’s core leaders have any choice? It would seem, if vigorous backroom discussions are anything to go by, that they were forced into a compact with the regime as a condition of their release; or under subtle coercion and possibly some not-so-subtle intimidation directed against them and their families. Never forget that there is always the unscrupulous judiciary and so-called “independent” state bodies that can deal the cards anyway-anyhow; and a military machinery poised anxiously in the metropolis waiting to make its move. All these amaat institutions are ever happy to manipulate an outcome if things don’t go according to plans.

Many red shirts may find it easier simply to go along with UDD’s electoral direction and wait for the outcome. At that point, if this is not to the liking of the masses because of elite electoral shenanigans, as told to me, people who are already networked can rise-up and take matters into their own hands. As we saw Saturday 12 March, red shirts from the many interest groups, central and regional, may continue to join together on the streets and not have to rely on a situation where a single mass “stage” dominates other smaller specific interest groups. All these groups have both a general and a specific audience. Meanwhile let’s keep in mind the sacrifices of some who are victims of political skulduggery and remain in prison under 112 or in exile simply because they actually have a real political consciousness and an ideology based on freedom, equality and rights that cannot be comprised. In the end, I guess the choice lies with the masses and their leaders as to which route they want to take; assuming of course that they want to see regime change and democracy established in this lifetime.

(revised by the author as of 13 March 2011, 4.50 pm)

Dr Jim Taylor
Senior Lecturer in Anthropology,
Discipline of Anthropology & Development Studies
School of Social Sciences,
The University of Adelaide
AUSTRALIA

Comments

Never forget that there is

Never forget that there is always the unscrupulous judiciary and so-called “independent” state bodies that can deal the cards anyway-anyhow; and a military poised in the metropolis waiting to make their inevitable move; all these institutions of the amaat are ever happy to manipulate an outcome if things don’t go according to plans that are made in nicely furnished gentlemen’s Bangkok residences.

See The dark night of democracy, by Voranai Vanijaka.

My assumption is that the red shirts are making a bee line for the polls hoping to defeat the coalition, hoping for a majority government under Puea Thai, the only opposition extant.

  1. If they lose then just keep on keeping on, with a greater degree of freedom within their own organization with the polls behind them. The government has already stacked the deck against any opposition, as you point out above, and it will get worse. If a majority of Thais vote in the present Regime the smallest number will continue to reap the least profit on Thai land and Thai labor. But people sometimes do stupid things at the polls, things that are not at all in their own interest. As an American, I know that only too well. Prepare for the next election, develop a more radical and structured platform, wait for a majority finally to be beaten down enough that they are forced to actually effect change themselves.
  2. If they win, whoopee, the decline is arrested! Now the struggle begins in earnest amongst all factions, those within the red shirts included. Democratic politics! The people work to develop radical and structured reform, to actually effect change themselves. To make possible the greatest profit for the largest number on Thai land and labor.
  3. If they win but their win is nulled by yet another overt coup, or if they lose due to outrageous ballot box stuffing/crooked ballot counting/double dealing by the EC... if the Regime makes it clear that there is no way forward for as long as it can hold power... well can it be other than civil war time in that event? With The Regime playing Gaddafi.

Even the plutocrats and non-military reactionaries ought to be rooting for number 2, in my estimation. A rising tide lifts all boats. Yachts as well as dinghies.

"If they win, whoopee, the

"If they win, whoopee, the decline is arrested! Now the struggle begins in earnest amongst all factions, those within the red shirts included. Democratic politics! ".

Hmmm. Not sure about this JFL, I think there's a degree of wishful thinking here, though I agree it's an attractive bit of wishful thinking.

The elites being what they are, if PT should win, the real struggle only just commences, and the war merely shifts focus to another theatre. The elites in Thailand are very experienced in white-anting legitimate governments whose views do not coincide with their own, and the real pillars of Thailand (Bureaucracy, Judiciary and Military) have enough wannabes (vide your own blog entry about those who love billionaires) to support those who have already skimmed their cream from the Thai milk churn and wish for ever more plunder. Of course, the wannabes are the elites cannon fodder in the same way that the peasants are PTT's cannon fodder, however both sides wish to make it appear that it ain't so, so the victims keep rolling themselves in. Lots of people wanting to travel to Shangri-La and come home with gold and riches, its a bankable part of the Thai psyche (Kii-lohp, Kii-itcha).

The network monarchy has developed this structure over several decades, and it serves the boss just fine, so I am frankly very gloomy about the future in Thailand, and suspect what whichever way you cut the pie, civil war will be the outcome.

By the way, I understand from the news reports that Abhisit reports the King's health being just fine. Of course the castrati in the Thai media won't ask the obvious, but doesn't this rather beg the question "if his healh is so good, then why has he been in hospital for more than a year?"

And finally, here's a link for those hopeless dullards who think I shouldn't say that that laziness, corruption and dishonesty are widespread Thai traits. Theres just way too much evidence not to think that really… Anyway, read it and weep, these people couldn't lie straight in bed.

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2011/03/13/national/Missing-arms-not-stolen-30150735.html

my sense when the redshirt

my sense when the redshirt leaders surrendered from the Rajaprasong state to the police was that they:

believed they would be safer with the police than if they were captured or killed by the incoming soldiers

and that the people at the rally were not responding to their calls for them to disperse and needed to be convinced otherwise they also would be in danger

I dont know whether the leaders would have expected bail or not but am sure they did not expect the soldiers to frame the reds by burning the buildings and creating the appearance of reds violence

as it turns out most of the reds dispersed as soon as the leaders surrendered and it was only the few that believed when the government suggested Wat Pathum as a safe place and were shot at by the soldiers

"believed they would be safer

"believed they would be safer with the police than if they were captured or killed by the incoming soldiers"

From what I recall, the witness statement prepared by Amsterdam, included the statement that an order to assassinate the leadership had been approved by Abhisit and issued to troops. The leadership were allegedly informed of this and gave themselves up to police in order to evade the expected assassination teams.

I really do wish I could be comfortable that this is not true, but the Abhsit government )and previous governments as well, including the Thaksin government) have shown themselves to be plentifully capable of just such an act while bleating their supposed law-abiding and democratic credentials.

Of course, were I to suggest that Thais have been stupid and gullible for a very long time in accepting this caricature of democracy, then I suppose some not-very-smart limp-wristed liberal will wring his hands and call me bigoted or something.

Makes you want to cry sometimes, what people will believe because it suits them.

The masses will chose the

The masses will chose the stop112 route. The regime knows it, the UDD knows it.

There are some elements among

There are some elements among the red shirts, such as the new western alliance groups and many existing and new configurations now calling themselves “Red Free People” (แดงเสรีชน, that is, they are not attached to any mass movement/UDD) emerging from the confusion; situated both inside and outside the country. These red shirts are unambiguously on the democratic revolutionary route and they are not willing to concede quite so agreeably to what they see as a hopelessly corrupted system of law and governance. They now focus their demonstrations on a single issue: Article 112 of the Criminal Code used as a political tool by the regime. They also hope that UDD will work with them, or at least that they do not obstruct them. In fact it is clear UDD will not touch 112.

Article 112 is now the line in the sand. A laser like focus on this single issue is the way to go.

In my personal opinion,

In my personal opinion, humble and illinformed, anything short of deletion of Section II of the constitution, freeing of all prisoners, quartering of the military and distribution of royal funds to the people is, well, a compromise with people with evil intentions. Maybe that's why I'm no politician.