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Monday, January 27, 2014

Anti-Government Protest Leader Shot in the Head While Giving a Speech in Bangkok

Posted by on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:39 AM

Last week in Bangkok, a Red (pro-government, pro-Thaksin and -Yingluck Shinawatra) leader was killed in a drive-by shooting near his home.

This weekend, a Yellow (anti-government) protest leader was shot in the head while delivering a speech. (And a British-born auto executive apparently committed an unrelated suicide.) From Al Jazeera:

Piya Utayo, a spokesman for Thailand's national police, on Sunday identified the dead man as Suthin Tharathin. "At least five other people were injured," he said...

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called elections for February 2 in an attempt to defuse protests that have dragged on since November and which have flared occasionally into violence...

Thai anti-government protesters besieged polling stations in Bangkok Sunday and forced most to close, hampering advance voting for next weekend's election and deepening doubts about whether it can go ahead.

More than two million people are registered for advance voting before the February 2 election, which was called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to try to defuse rising political tensions after weeks of mass anti-government protests.

And here is a video of the shooting (it's taken from a distance and not graphic—mostly you see people around a freeway, hear shots fired, and watch some "Red" demonstrators smashing up someone's car):

Our Man in Thailand predicts:

Whichever side gets really violent first will lose this conflict. Thailand is a country whose national ethos is keeping your cool. Literally—having a "cool/calm heart" is one of the best attributes a person can have and a "hot/angry heart" is one of the worst.

A coup cannot happen if there is no pretext for violence. The Reds have everything to lose politically with violence committed on their side. They have 51 percent of the votes and they have won every election since the 1990s.

That being said, 99 percent of the Reds are very poor and are very angry at the opposition [the Yellows], who are the educated/city-people middle class who are terrified of the alliance between the very poor and the very very rich. I think that it is fair to say that middle-class folks are much less likely to start violence en masse. Plan it, maybe, victimize others far away—the middle class is famous for this—but risk their own homes? Not so much.

And the battleground is their home: Bangkok.

In other words, the Red side has everything to lose by instigating mass violence, but may be more likely to do so because they're on Yellow turf.

But why are the educated, middle-class, anti-Thaksin, anti-corruption Yellow protesters blocking polling booths? They must realize that denying people the right to vote looks terrible to the outside world.

And what are the mechanics of this plutocrat (Red) vs. oligarch (Yellow) struggle? If it's really the richies vs. the richies, how do the middle classes (who tend to be on the streets for the Yellow side) and the rural poor (who tend towards the Red) fit into the equation? Are they all dupes, putting themselves on the line for what is essentially an internal squabble among the superrich?

OMIT pointed to this analysis, which does a better job than any other (that I've seen, anyway) of explaining what's going on:

Middle classes from Bangkok to Istanbul, from Cairo to Kiev seek to overthrow elected governments outside of the electoral cycle. Wary of majority rule, the middle class in the capital is ready to form alliances with traditional elites to disenfranchise ordinary citizens and even overthrow electoral democracy. Like their Egyptian peers, well-heeled Bangkokian protesters called for military intervention to deal with the rural masses and their “populist” masters. This anti-democratic behavior seems to contradict liberal notions of the middle class. In Seymour Martin Lipset’s modernization theory, the equation was straightforward: the more middle class, the more democracy. Alexis de Tocqueville should,however, serve as a reminder that the middle classes have always been wary of “the tyranny of the majority”.

What grievances drive the middle classes to the streets by the hundreds of thousands? What causes the contempt for the majority population, or the fierce resistance and sometimes even hatred of elected governments?

Well, obviously first and foremost the missteps and wrongdoings of these elected governments. Drunk with the power of the electoral mandate, governments tend to display arrogance of power and blatantly disregard constitutional checks and balances. Endemic corruption, nepotism and cronyism act as the lightning rod for middle class outrage.

But why do some protesters march for more democracy, while others demand less? Grievances over incompetence, lack of responsiveness of those in power and fears over social decline have driven the middle classes to the streets from Spain to Greece. Even in sleepy Stuttgart, outrage over the arrogance of power triggered clashes between riot police and Swabian housewives.

... middle classes feel like they are “being robbed” by corrupt politicians, who use their tax revenues to “buy votes” from the “greedy poor”. Or, in a more subtle language, the “uneducated rural masses are easy prey for politicians who promise them everything in an effort to get a hold of power”. From this perspective, policies delivering to local constituencies are nothing but “populism”, or another form of “vote buying” by power hungry politicians. The Thai Constitutional Court, in a seminal ruling, thus equated the very principle of elections with corruption. Consequently, time and again, the ‘yellow’ alliance of feudal elites along with the Bangkok middle class called for the disenfranchisement of the “uneducated poor” or, even more bluntly, the suspension of electoral democracy.

In other words: middle class rage in Thailand cannot only be explained by numbers alone. At the root of this middle class anger lies the fear of being crushed by an alliance between the elites and the poor.


Comments (3) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Good analysis. I've been following what's been going on in Bangkok. It's like the Tea Party run amok. It's like an exaggeration of the conservative tendency here in America of hating any measure that uses the national wealth to help the lower classes. All the wealth should flow in one direction and everyone should play by the rules that benefit the elite.

In a more general sense, it's a depiction of human greed - not fraternity, equality, etc. - and the struggle for control of limited resources. It's fear of what will happen if we don't have control.
Posted by floater on January 27, 2014 at 11:48 AM · Report this
I don't buy the analysis that claims the Red Shirts are more likely to cause violence. A lot of violence on the street greatly increases the chance that the military and/or King get involved. A military coup is almost certainly going to cancel the elections and is much more likely to end with a Yellow Shirt friendly non-democratic appointed government.
Posted by thearistaios on January 27, 2014 at 10:01 PM · Report this
From the article above, which agrees with you:

"A coup cannot happen if there is no pretext for violence. The Reds have everything to lose politically with violence committed on their side. They have 51 percent of the votes and they have won every election since the 1990s."

So read the article before posting next time
Posted by Art Young on January 27, 2014 at 11:16 PM · Report this

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