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Democracy crisis shakes Thailand

This article is over 15 years, 6 months old
The occupation of Bangkok’s airports is part of an attempt to overthrow the government, writes Giles Ji Ungpakorn of Turn Left in Thailand
Issue 2130

As Socialist Worker went to press the two airports in Thailand’s capital Bangkok were still closed – occupied by thugs from the misnamed People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The PAD has been demanding that the elected government resigns.

Its activists were celebrating on Tuesday of this week at a ruling from the country’s constitutional court.

This dissolved the ruling party and banned prime minister Somchai Wongsawat from office over electoral fraud.

This escalates the crisis, but it is too early to predict what the outcome will be.

The court decision was no great surprise as the judiciary is sympathetic to the PAD. The opposition hope that an authoritarian “national government” will now be set up.


This is despite the fact that support for the government has been proven again and again in a series of elections since 2005.

The heart of the PAD is fascist. It is ultra-royalist and ultra-nationalist. The party has a mass base among the disaffected middle class.

Its leaders have a fascist-style armed guard. They have turned to strange superstitious rites in order to raise morale.

Its supporters wear royal yellow shirts. They had been occupying Government House for over a month before moving on to occupy the airports.

Since late October a mass pro-democracy Red Shirt movement has been built under the leadership of government MPs.

Thousands of people have joined Red Shirt street demonstrations against the PAD occupations.

This movement is contradictory. On the one hand it is progressive in protecting democracy and the rights of the poor.

On the other hand it is backward as it idolises former populist prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

For the past three years – and especially since the September 2006 military coup – Thai society has been in crisis.

On one side are the ruling People’s Power Party, along with Thaksin and his former party Thai Rak Thai.

On the other are authoritarian royalists, comprising of the PAD, along with elements of the military and judiciary that supported the coup and the Democrat Party.

Meanwhile, thousands are losing their jobs in the tourist industry, not to mention the effects of the world economic crisis. The majority of the population are very angry with the PAD and the elites.

The PAD has serious backing in the establishment. How else could its thugs manage to seize and hold the airports?

Thai airports are controlled by the military. It is obvious that the military have quietly supported the PAD’s actions.

The PAD have powerful backing from the army. They are supported by Queen Sirikit, the courts, the mainstream media and most university academics.

According to mainstream commentators, King Bhumibol is the most powerful person in Thailand. Yet, throughout the three year political crisis, he has never attempted to diffuse the problem.

Many Thais believe he supports the PAD, but it is more likely that the monarch has always been too weak to intervene in any crisis and just goes with the flow.

Back at the beginning of October, PAD thugs surrounded parliament to prevent the prime minister from making a policy speech.

When the police used tear gas to try to disperse them, they were roundly condemned by the Thai media and most middle class intellectuals.

Meanwhile, the PAD are armed with guns, bombs, knives and wooden batons and have constantly broken the law with no comeback.

Recently PAD thugs shot at taxi drivers who were trying to defend their pro-democracy community radio station.

The opposition has a total contempt for the Thai electorate and the poor.

They are angry that the Thai people voted for a government that gave the poor universal healthcare and other benefits.

They want to turn the clock back to a dictatorship, which they call “the new order”. They have constantly demanded that the military stage another coup if they are unable to achieve the “national government”.

It is clear that the PAD, the military, the Democrat Party and the conservative establishment would rather see total chaos in Thailand than allow any real democracy to function.

The anti-government groups are extreme neoliberals with little grasp about how to deal with the economic crisis or how to stimulate the economy.

Apart from opposing welfare, they have attacked the Keynesian policies of the previous Thaksin government.


Last week the army chief and various academics called for the government to resign so that new elections could be called.

Yet the anti-government groups have never respected results of free and fair elections, falsely claiming that the ignorant poor were “bought off” by the ruling party.

The army chief should also be sacked for opposing a democratically elected government.

We, in Turn Left, have joined the demonstrations. We are with the pro-democracy Red Shirts, while refusing to support Thaksin, who has a record of human rights abuses.

We condemn the PAD and those advocating a dictatorship.

Watch this site for updates.

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a supporter of the Turn Left group in Thailand.


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