Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thailand's urban elite is fighting a rearguard action against democracy

Sondhi Limthongkul, a Thai tycoon, who is the "People's Alliance for Democracy" de facto leader, says that "Representative democracy is not suitable for Thailand.”

Sondhi Limthongkul

The "People's Alliance for Demo
cracy" had brought down an elected government. Their broader demands are Thailand's directly elected parliament to be replaced by a legislative body that is 70 per cent appointed.

People's Alliance for Democracy, the orchestrator of the airport sieges, continues to demand that most parliamentarians are appointed according to profession and social group, rather than elected by universal suffrage.

Ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra told an estimated 50,000 people through his pre-recorded video address that, “At the moment the army is interfering... Those people who interfere in forming the government must stop and allow political parties to sort out the issues by themselves.”

Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup two years ago and is now in exile abroad, also pledged loyalty to the monarchy, said that democratic systems should be allowed to function and the will of the majority heeded.
Former human rights commissioner and democracy activist Jaran Ditta-apichai said: “We are not fighting for a person or group or party; we are fighting for democracy.”

The dramatic event had their origins from Thaksin Shinawatra's election as the Prime Minister seven years ago. All the while Thailand's peasant majority had unconditionally voted for the rural allies of the urban privileged. But Thaksin, never in Thai political landscape, won their overwhelming support by pledging the likes of cheap loans and improved healthcare for the rural poor.

Thaksin Shinawatra

The middle classes and urban elite recognized that it had a serious threat to their traditional special position and political supremacy, thus organized a series of the so called undemocratic street protests movement which detrimental to the freedom of democracy that led in September 2006 to a military coup.

The 2006 Thailand coup d'état took place on Tuesday 19 September 2006, when the Royal Thai Army staged a coup d'état against the elected government of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which caused him to flee the country. The coup d'état, which was Thailand's first non-constitutional change of government in fifteen years, followed a year-long political crisis involving Thaksin, his allies and political opponents.

The Army allowed a return to democracy last year, only for the People's Power Party, a proxy for Thaksin's disbanded party, to win a majority of seats and form a coalition Government. Subsequently, Samak Sundaravej's term as Prime Minister was ended by the Constitutional Court for the less-than-heinous offence of continuing to host a TV cooking show.

Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, had been forced from office by Constitutional court rulings that banned the Prime Minister from politics for five years has merely delivered a lull in hostilities.

Nonetheless, the ruling coalition is still intact, and is expected to switch to a new "shell" party to form a new government that remains dominated by pro-Thaksin politicians.

This will further infuriate the People's Alliance for their way of Democracy. The judiciary has proved itself no friend of the rural poor.

The urban elite's ultimate aim, however, is to force the abandonment of the one-person, one-vote system. It claims Thailand's rural majority is too poorly educated and too susceptible to vote-buying to responsibly choose its representatives.

The landslide majorities for pro-Thaksin politicians speak volumes of the peasants' preference but was accused of occurring some buying of votes.

Undeniably, the urban elite group is clearly politically motivated, publicly demonstrated a new way of fighting a rearguard action against democracy and their intent is appears questionable and anti-democratic.

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