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Mob Rule Tramples Democracy


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Mob rule tramples democracy in Thailand


Smiling protesters hide a grim reality of propaganda and murderous violence


Chandler Vandergrift, Special to Times Colonist

Published: Thursday, December 11, 2008


Last week, Thailand's worsening political crisis seemed to ease due to two key issues being resolved.


The Constitutional Court dissolved the controversial, yet democratically elected, Somchai Wongsawat government. This, in turn, caused protesters to end their weeklong siege of Bangkok's international airport. After months of growing violence, calm has returned to Bangkok.


Yet calm is likely to be fleeting at best. This is because the protesters, rallying under the People's Alliance for Democracy flag, have proved not only to be a challenge to the government but have threatened the country's democratic institutions.

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To be fair to PAD, the country's institutions were already weakened several years ago by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin's party, Thai Rak Thai, and its latest incarnation, the People's Power Party, shrewdly manipulated the country's democratic institutions in the quest for power. The electoral process, judiciary, police, media -- even the seemingly untouchable palace -- were all tarnished in the political fray culminating with the military's surprising coup d'etat in September 2006.


But where Thaksin compromised state institutions, PAD leaders have succeeded in destroying them.


Not far behind the facade of smiling cheering protesters is a sophisticated propaganda machine that has whipped up followers into murderous frenzy by inciting right-wing ultranationalist rhetoric to attack government institutions and any media voices critical of its campaign of violence.


But most worrying is PAD's well-armed and organized militia.


PAD militia members have been running amok in Bangkok seizing and looting government buildings -- even occupying Government House, the Canadian equivalent of seizing Rideau Hall or 24 Sussex Drive, detaining and beating citizens and police, blockading roads, intimidating the press, and being involved in vicious running gun battles across the city.


Gone virtually unchallenged by state institutions, the PAD militia has operated with relative impunity. The judiciary and the police are still smarting from violent PAD encounters. The army also ignored orders from the government to rein in the militia, proving that Thailand's armed forces conduct their affairs with autonomy and self-interest rather than from orders from the prime minister's office.


But most worrying is the PAD assault on democracy itself. PAD leaders, who claim a uniform distaste for any sitting government, are also united in their contempt for Thailand's rural poor. They argue that rural Thais are too ignorant and too easily bribed to be trusted with democracy. The People's Alliance for Democracy holds as one of its primary tenets the removal of voting rights for rural Thai people. If PAD leaders get their way, millions of rural poor, already economically disenfranchised, will also be democratically disenfranchised.


This week, as politicians jockey for a new government and the airport slowly reopens, there is optimism that the crisis has passed. This optimism is ill conceived.


The deep fissures that lie at the root of this recent crisis remain while democratic institutions have been destroyed. Without these institutions, Thailand's deep-seated political conflicts will again erupt into violence and a bloody return of mob rule espousing their politics with boots and fists on the streets of Bangkok.


Chandler Vandergrift is a Calgary native working in Bangkok. He is a graduate student working on a master's in conflict analysis and management at Royal Roads University.



© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008

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Like if I was going to believe what a western university student passing his master in BKK is writting....(many uni students in the west are already not bright at all..)


His analysis might partly be correct but once more this is a one-sided critic...


He seems to forget the reasons why PAD emerged and as much as PAD are thugs, the UDD is its counterparts.


There are so many flaws in his analysis which turns more into an argumentation....


I thought unis all over the world taught their students to be objective, especially when they "publish" something


Never heard of this uni by the way -> I suppose he could always find work with Mr T or the GOP later or FOX maybe...

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  • 7 months later...
....(many uni students in the west are already not bright at all..)


This might be considered universal. But as seen in the Western standards, this vacancy of attention and connections might often be reflected from the faculty as most dissertate fron an ethnocentric prsence. Very common. Certainly as such matters apply to the social sciences. The convention and establishment isn't curious, so why pass such traits on to their prodigal wannabes. A cynic might even pass general ignorance on as a societal one.....

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<< Without these institutions, Thailand's deep-seated political conflicts will again erupt into violence and a bloody return of mob rule espousing their politics with boots and fists on the streets of Bangkok.. >>


When did that happen? :hmmm:



Mai phen lai. Doesn't really know the subject matter nor history. There is a wealth of subjective/objective material available. Sounds as if theis lad has bought the 'intitutional' story - hook, line, and sinker. Romanticism can often distract from reality. I've been known to convey this manner myself.

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