This is not going to be a scientifically correct post. I’m going to make claims from memory – I lived there till 2012, through almost the entire Thaksin regime, and some of the aftermath of that. I’ve been on google for an hour now, but I can’t find much in English – and I can’t write Thai to save my life (I can read it a bit). I hope those with good memory and the ability to take a step back from their own prejudices, can appreciate the conclusion I’ve come to. But I fear that the general mentality ‘if you’re not with me, you must be against me, and so supporting my opponent’ has spread beyond the lower educated gullible folk. This makes discussion difficult.
The troubles started when a large portion of the Thai people were fed up with Thaksin Shinawatra’s shameless pocket filling practices. A few examples:
1) A day or two after the law passed that trading on the stock market was tax free, he sold Thailand’s largest telecom company to a Singaporean company. Making this law was obviously more in his own interest than in that of the country. Also, he originally set up this company with a loan from the government – but that’s just a wry detail.
2) His government built – poorly constructed – housing estates for the poorest in the country. Great initiative, however, you could only get one if you had a (low paying) job. Because you’d have to borrow money from a special low interest system. The houses were built with public money, the lending system was privately owned by one of Thaksin’s cronies. Thus using public money to make not himself, but his cronies, richer.
3) A public auction of land wasn’t so public at all, as the wife of Thaksin wanted to buy it at about a third of the going land price.
4) A war on Drugs was launched in which some 1200 people died. Some of them were actual drug traffickers, none of them were drug lords. Some of them were political opponents of Thaksin, who got drugs planted on them.
And there is much more to go on and on about. But my point is made.
Unfortunately for Thailand, Thaksin was ousted in a military coup; this was a very bad idea from the start, because there is no way to legitimise this. It only made the blood of his supporters boil even more.
Then came a long time of struggle between the Thaksin supporters – the Reds hereafter – and the supporters of the elite, the Royal family if you wish – the Yellows hereafter.
This struggle is now presented as being a struggle between the democratic Reds, and the fascist Yellows.
The Yellows are no saints either. They support a King who’s protected by a overdone strict lesse majete law that puts mentally retarded people in jail for (accidentally) stepping on his picture. While this is indeed an insult in Thai culture, the King has the power to pardon such a person; yet he hasn’t. There is more to be said against this king, which I let you google by yourself – try to find out how he came to power, for example, or ask the Reds on twitter – as I hope to return to Thailand some day without getting arrested for violating this same law.
After the coup that ousted Thaksin, and after the 13 or so months of military regime (during which the top brass spent lots of money on new toys for the boys, proving also they are self serving crooks) the Reds were voted back into power. However, they were led by an incompetent bunch that tried to show the ability to act of their de-facto leader, but missed the point by 100 miles. A short term Yellow protest was put down with a hard hand by armed police; this crackdown was largely unprovoked, and with it the Yellows managed to get a lot of sympathy from the general population; they hadn’t deserved it.
After this crackdown, one of the coalition partners of the Reds’ government decided it was time to switch sides. Switching sides and swapping parties is common in Thailand. This switch put it into a coalition with the Yellows, which were suddenly able to form a government. The Reds cried coup, but fair is fair, they were put to the sideline by their coalition partner who wouldn’t support the violent crackdown. They were kicked out because of their own lack of restraint.
For the short time that the Yellows formed the government, corruption didn’t seize or got any less. The prime minister at the time was a good man, who wishes well for all Thai people, but lacks both the backbone and the charisma to pull it off. He was led – and misled – by his self serving deputy prime minister who filled his and his friend’s pockets with dream jobs and imaginary positions within the government. Just like Thaksin, he cared for little but himself and his own. Which of course angered the Reds.
So the Reds took to the streets. Demanding the Yellows give them back their government. The Yellows weren’t particularly eager to do so – of course, the Reds weren’t either. Having in fresh memory the sympathy the Yellows gained after a violent crackdown, the aim of the Reds leadership was from the get go to stay until bullets started flying. This became more and more evident the longer the protest lasted. Close to the end, pretty much all demands were given into; the Yellow’s government had all but folded, with the message: “Alright, when you start packing up your camp, we will do everything you’ve been asking till now.”
The response of the Reds was what resulted in a still on going terrorist charge. On the protest site’s stage, things were said along the line of ‘if they come with tanks to kick us out, we will burn every square inch of Thailand’. While it should cause grave concern among Thais to say this about their own country, that wasn’t considered the issue at the time.
That cracked the patience of a very patient man (I must admit, Yingluck has been very patient this time around too; unlike her brother, who wasn’t particularly patient). He allowed the army to do what the army was waiting to do for a long time. Had the army been trained properly, very few people would have died. The Thai army managed to kill 90.
Now the Reds had their right for sympathy – though they had to work really hard to get it: they’d had to drum up ever more demands and ignore all they were offered. And all I’m thinking, Tak Bai incident. Google it, and you’ll understand why the Thaksin regime, for which the Reds are fighting so hard, was evil.
Then the Reds got their elections, and became the government once again. All was fine, people were sick of protesting, and went back to their ordinary lives. Until the Reds government went a step too far, and tried to sneak a law through that would absolve the brother of the new Prime Minister (the brother being Thaksin, does nobody smell cronyism?) of all of his corruption crimes. This is what brought the Yellows to the streets this last time.
And where are we now? Another coup. Another senseless act to try and preserve the apparent peace, but which is causing only more underground turmoil. Once the money grabbing soldiers are gone, the whole thing will start again from the beginning.
And the fight goes on. Jatuporn leading the Reds (he, who encouraged the Reds to burn every inch of Thailand), Suthep leading the Yellows (who’s call for ‘one final battle’ has been heard more often than the final frontier in Star Trek; if you still believe him you’re naive at the very least). Both Jatuporn and Suthep do not understand the word compromise. Neither understands the true meaning of caring, or the true meaning of responsibility. If Thailand falls into a civil war, it’s the crazy inflaming speeches these guys can give. And both for an equally rotten agenda: get the leadership rich quick.
Where is the future in this?
Both Reds and Yellows are croaking ‘democracy’, by which the leadership means ‘buy the votes so we can fill our pockets’.
The Reds would be led by the Shinawatra clan, who would fill their own pockets and pretend to be nice to the poor (anyone remember the 1 million baht 1 tambon scheme? This was a loan, not a gift. How many cars bought with that money are still in the villages?).
The Yellows would be led by what’s left of the Royal family and the ever hungry old elite. They’ve proven 19 times now to condone of military coups, and to collaborate with vile military leaders.
There’s only one future I see for Thailand that’s bright. There’s only one way out of this mess that doesn’t involve another 5 decades of dancing this Red versus Yellow street dance. And that contains the following points.
– True free and fair elections; every vote counts, do away with constituencies. This makes it harder to buy votes
– A new – neither Red nor Yellow affiliated – charismatic leader that has an agenda which doesn’t involve filling rich folks’ pockets.
– For the people who are indoctrinated by either Jatuporn or Suthep to realise they’re both chasing a pipe dream, that both are painting castles in the sky for their own benefit, and let those two squabble in prison.
I pray for Thailand. I pray for the people of Thailand. And I pray for them to get the courage to look beyond the colours and see what the people in the other camp really want: uncorrupted free and fair elections. And a government that cares for the people, not some idols in either Hua Hin or Dubai. Only when that courage is gained, there’s a chance that the crappy leadership of both sides gets tossed by the people and Thailand once again gets a future.
Having the military toss the leadership is not the answer. It can never be.
Posted without re-reading. Typos should be excused.