4 questions about Thailand’s political chaos major protests planned next week against Wall Street-backed client regime.
The current government in Thailand is the result of foreign-backing, two-failed color revolutions in 2009 and 2010, and the building of a substantial populist-based voting bloc that doubles as a bizarre “red shirt” personality cult fashioned out of Communist ideology, but built around a Wall Street-backed billionaire.
The ruling Peua Thai Party (PTP) is currently led by Yingluck Shinawatra, but only symbolically so. PTP’s campaign slogan in 2011 was literally “Thaksin thinks, Peua Thai does,” referring to the real leader of PTP, Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin is currently living in self-imposed exile, evading 2 arrest warrants and a 2 year jail sentence for corruption. In true third-world nepotist style, he has been ruling for several years by proxy through a menagerie of siblings, cousins and relatives-in-law.
After a year back in power, infighting within its ranks, growing disappointment over its policies, and suspicion over its real political objectives, it appears that the Thai establishment is preparing for its first attempt to remove the PTP regime from power. To explain the background of this political crisis, and the greater geopolitical implications for both Asia and the Pacific, four questions have been asked and answered.
Image: As mentioned in a myriad of foreign media publications, Thaksin’s proxy party ran with the
slogan, “Thaksin thinks, Peua Thai does.” As Peua Thai faces charges
that a convicted criminal was directly involved in their election
campaign, many of the exhibits used against them in court will be of
their own design and impossible to deny.
1. Who Really Leads Thailand’s Current Government?
Thaksin had been prime minister from 2001-2006. Long before Thaksin Shinwatra would become prime minister in Thailand,
he was already working his way up the Wall Street-London ladder of
opportunity, while simultaneously working his way up in Thai politics.
He was appointed by the Carlyle Group as an adviser
while holding public office, and attempted to use his connections to
boost his political image. Thanong Khanthong of Thailand’s English
newspaper “the Nation,” wrote in 2001:
“In April 1998, while Thailand was still mired in a deep economic morass,
Thaksin tried to use his American connections to boost his political image
just as he was forming his Thai Rak Thai Party. He invited Bush senior
to visit Bangkok and his home, saying his own mission was to act as a
“national matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses.
In March, he also played host to James Baker III, the US secretary of
state in the senior Bush administration, on his sojourn in Thailand.”
Upon becoming prime minister in 2001, Thaksin would begin paying back
the support he received from his Western sponsors. In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.
Also in 2003, starting in February and over the course of 3 months, some 2,800
people (approximately 30 a day) would be extra-judicially murdered in
the cities and countrysides of Thailand as part of Thaksin’s “War on Drugs.”
Accused of being “drug dealers,” victims were systematically exterminated
based on “hit lists” compiled by police given carte blanche by Thaksin.
It would later be determined by official investigations that over half
of those killed had nothing to do with the drug trade in any way. Human
Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves.”
Image: “The Thai Gov’ts War on Drugs: Dead Wrong. Stop the
Murder of Thai Drug Users.” During Thaksin Shinwatra’s 2003 “War on
Drugs” it wasn’t only drug users who were brutally, extra-judicially
murdered in the streets, but over 50% of the 2,800 killed during the
course of 3 months, were completely innocent, involved in no way with
either drug use or trade.
In 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council
who just before last year’s 2011elections that saw Thaksin’s sister
Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD).
The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes banking houses Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed
Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck,
Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, as well as
Thaksin would remain in office until September of 2006. On the
eve of the military coup that ousted him from power, Thaksin was
literally standing before the Fortune 500-funded Council on Foreign Relations giving a progress report in New York City.
Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been
represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms
including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom House, International Crisis Group, PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR), Robert Blackwill of Barbour Griffith Rogers (CFR), Kobre Kim, and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam Peroff (Chatham House).
Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam Peroff, would also simultaneously
represent Thaksin’s “red shirt” UDD movement, and was present for the
inaugural meeting of the so-called “academic” Nitirat group,
attended mostly by pro-Thaksin red shirts (who literally wore their red
shirts to the meeting). Additional support for Thaksin and his UDD
street-front is provided by the US State Department via National
Endowment for Democracy-funded “NGO” Prachatai.
2. How Did Thaksin Shinawatra Get Back into Power?
Almost as soon as Thaksin was ousted from power in 2006, both his
political party in Thailand and his Western backers abroad began a
campaign to demonize and destroy the Thai establishment. Kenneth
Adelman, working under Edelman created the “USA for Innovation” front to slander the prevailing Thai establishment after ousting Thaksin. Adelman did this in 2007, the same year Edelman registered Thaksin Shinawatra as a lobbying client, under the guise of defending “intellectual property.”
Video: Almost satirical in nature, US Neo-Conservative Kenneth
Adelman attacks the Thai government, accusing it of “slouching toward
Burma” after his PR firm Edelman took on the ousted despot Thaksin
Shinawatra as a lobbying client in 2007.
A myriad of loaded news stories and op-eds in habitually biased
publications including the Economist, Time, and Newsweek targeted
Thailand for what was called a slide backwards from democracy – all the
while Thaksin was praised for his policies aimed at Thailand’s
The next year, elections would be held and easily won by Thaksin’s
unassailable populist-built voting bloc. The prime minister very
publicly ran as “Thaksin’s nominee” as was described in Time’s article “Thailand’s PM Proxy: Samak.”
However, both he and his successor Somchai Wongsawat (Thaksin’s
brother-in-law) would be quickly ushered out of power through a
combination of corruption charges and “counter-color revolutions” staged
by elements within Thailand’s indigenous establishment.
Beginning in 2009, Thaksin’s political front began a campaign of
increasingly violent confrontations with the prevailing Thai
establishment. During April of 2009, protests staged by Thaksin’s UDD
“red shirts” would leave widespread property damage and 2 dead by-standers gunned down
while trying defend their property from looting protesters. The Thai
military was successful at dispersing the riot without killing a single
protester. Thaksin’s political lieutenants would flee to Cambodia after
making calls for a “people’s war” that went unheeded by the vast
majority of the Thai population.
In 2010, intent on generating enough domestic and international outrage to topple the Thai establishment, some 300 covert militants
were brought in to trigger deadly violence that would last weeks,
turning parts of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok into a war zone. Over 90
people would die, including soldiers, police, innocent by-standers, as
well as protesters themselves cut down by both crossfire between
militants and soldiers, and smoke inhalation while looting buildings
fellow protesters had lit ablaze.
While the Thai military succeeded in restoring order across the city,
Thaksin and his Western backers had the momentum they needed to continue
radicalizing the UDD “red shirts” as well as turn international opinion
against Thailand – bringing us to the 2011 elections.
Running on a campaign of promising cheap houses and cars, free computers, the eradication of both flooding and droughts,
as well as guaranteed prices for rice grown by Thailand’s many rice
farmers, Peua Thai easily won yet another election – providing a perfect
example of how Western-backed client regimes are more than glad to use
populism to co-opt large segments of a targeted nation’s population, if
national leaders themselves are not willing to first (e.g. Argentina, Venezuela).
With an accused mass-murderer, convicted criminal hiding abroad to evade
multiple arrest warrants, openly running the government through his own
sister, and none of his Peua Thai campaign promises being kept after
over a year in power, Thailand’s establishment may feel the timing is
right to begin apply pressure that will ultimately oust Thaksin from
power once again – perhaps once and for all.
3. What Does the West Want With Thailand?
For over two decades the United States has expressed throughout a
library of policy papers the need to develop and implement an effective
“containment” strategy versus China. In 1997, US policy author Robert
Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution
penned, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” where he literally states (emphasis added):
The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its
allies, which constructed it. And it is poorly suited to the needs of a
Chinese dictatorship trying to maintain power at home and increase its
clout abroad. Chinese leaders chafe at the constraints on them and worry
that they must change the rules of the international system before the
international system changes them.
He would continue by saying:
The changes in the external and internal behavior of the
Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an
American strategy that might be called “integration through containment
and pressure for change.”
Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As
long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be
peacefully integrated into the international order. For China’s current
leaders, it is too risky to play by our rules — yet our unwillingness
to force them to play by our rules is too risky for the health of the
international order. The United States cannot and should not be willing
to upset the international order in the mistaken belief that
accommodation is the best way to avoid a confrontation with China.
We should hold the line instead and work for political
change in Beijing. That means strengthening our military capabilities in
the region, improving our security ties with friends and allies, and
making clear that we will respond, with force if necessary, when China
uses military intimidation or aggression to achieve its regional
ambitions. It also means not trading with the Chinese military or doing
business with firms the military owns or operates. And it means imposing
stiff sanctions when we catch China engaging in nuclear proliferation.
Image: Figure 1. From SSI’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report
detailing a strategy of containment for China. While “democracy,”
“freedom,” and “human rights” will mask the ascension of Western aligned
client regimes into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to
nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China.
Violence in areas like Sittwe, Rakhine Myanmar, or Gwadar Baluchistan
Pakistan, are not coincidences and documented evidence indicates immense
Western backing for armed opposition groups.
This would be further expanded on in the Strategic Studies Institute’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report where specific areas of Chinese expansion were identified for disruption and containment. This included the now destabilized Baluchistan region in Pakistan where China’s Gwadar port sits, as well as the destabilized state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would reiterate this commitment to
containing China, as well as touch upon another point made by Kagan in
1997 – that Southeast Asian nations would need to be aligned with the US
against China as part of any viable containment strategy – in her 2011
op-ed in Foreign Policy titled, “The American Pacific Century.”
Leading a Thailand fully complicit with the United States and its
neo-imperial ambition to sustain another century of American hegemony
across Asia is a role Thaksin Shinawatra was groomed for decades to
fulfill, and it is precisely for this reason that so much money, time,
and effort has been poured into both propping him up, while tearing down
Thailand’s existing indigenous institutions.
4. Who is Protesting the Current Government?
Undoubtedly opposition political parties will benefit from any protest
and are most likely involved to one degree or another. Additionally,
Thai business conglomerates, Thai media moguls, and the military at the
very least tacitly approve upcoming demonstrations. Many across the
silent majority are opposed to the disruptive street demonstrations
conducted by both Thaksin and his Western backers, as well as his
opponents in Thailand and support neither political party – but find
Thaksin and the acute instability and division he has created
Image: October 28, 2012, an initial gathering of
anti-government protesters assembled in a stadium to call on PTP to step
down from power. Despite the “spring” theme of 2011-2012, the rally
failed to make any international headlines – most likely because this
movement seeks to unseat a Western client-regime, not install one.
The rank and file of the protests themselves may include political
opposition party supporters, groups aligned to media mogul Sondhi
Limthongkul’s “People’s Alliance for Democracy” (PAD), as well as many
from across the silent majority, both lower and middle working class,
who would like to see an end to Thaksin’s corrosive influence on the
country once and for all.
It remains to be seen who actually attends, and who joins later on if and when the protests expand.
Similar protests in 2007 were initiated by Sondhi’s PAD movement, but
later joined by labor unions who cooperated in closing down Thailand’s
airports in an act of noncompliance against Thaksin’s proxy government.
In 2011, major protests were anticipated from both sides pending the
results of the election, yet none materialized.
While it is claimed that there is a distinct divide between the middle
class and poor in Thailand, and that the latter fully support Thaksin
Shinawatra and his populist policies, in reality his party won the 2011
elections with a mere 32% of all eligible voters,
and failed to achieve even a popular majority of those who did bother
to vote – this even with fantastical campaign promises, rampant vote
buying, and organized transportation provided on polling day by Peua
Thai’s vast upcountry political machine.
Ultimately, the Thais who come out to protest Wall Street-proxy Thaksin
Shinawatra are not protesting him because they approve of the
alternative. On the contrary – whoever takes his and his political
machine’s place will have an equally indefensible mandate to do as they
will with the nation, its resources, and its people as Thaksin has. If
and when Thaksin and the cancerous political machine he has created with
foreign funding and expertise is excised from Thailand’s political
landscape, something entirely new will have to be put in its place if
progress it to be made.
Fortunately, the silent majority already understands this and are slowly
progressing toward various, more pragmatic alternatives, and even more
fortunately, many people on both sides of the political bickering are
beginning to realize this as well.