It seems the world is whipping the democracy horse yet again. Getting on their soap boxes to rant and rave on something of which they have meagre understanding. I refer to “History Repeats Itself” by W. Scott Thompson, International Herald Tribune, 1 December 2008, and “Thai Royalists’ Efforts To Undermine Thaksin Are In Vain”, an editorial in The Washington Post, 5 December 2008.
“Democracy”, in its more modern form, is held to be the Westminster system or the American presidential one. For the first, look at Ireland, a country still divided by English democracy, and Scotland, given token self-rule under English democracy. And America, where representative governments are blatantly elected by big business. Look again at their efforts at promoting “democracy” in South America. Unfortunately, the defence of “democracy” is enshrined in the American credo. That it why they cry foul when ever it suits them and turn a blind eye to versions of democracy a la Putin.
Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand never were and are not now democracies. The elections are a sham and a mere process to tip the hat to USAID and security concerns, as well as allowing entre to some of the more exclusive global clubs.
Where is the journalist or academic putting pen to paper on what is essentially different about Thai-style democracy, or even if the country needs it. Why is it a forgone conclusion that Thailand must have democracy? How good is the record for this form of government in Thailand? Is Thailand really the nation state that it purports to be? Would it not be better to focus on the systems of government in Laos, Vietnam and Burma and insist with equal vigor that these be supplanted by “democracy”? To suggest that the election in Thailand was “fair” is ludicrous – there has never in the history of this country been a “fair” election. A journalist or academic worth his salt would expose how “influence” reaches to the village level in Thailand and how this is manipulated at the top. But then that would be admitting failure of the American dream wouldn’t it?
At the end of World War 2, Britain sought to punish Thailand and its Field Marshall Prime Minister. America, for commercial and other interests insisted on being hands-off. This allowed the continuation of military rule, instead of nipping it in the bud. At the same time at Potsdam, the Americans agreed Europe needed a strong France, and promptly handed them back Indochina. How many US lives did that end up costing? And when Vietnam warmed up, America needed to exert its influence on Thailand and continued to prop up the generals. Of course this had to be given a gloss of “democracy” to satisfy public and world opinion. The Americans are directly responsible for perpetuating military rule and influence in Thai politics and now cry foul when poor old Thaksin is given the flip by the same generals.
There is a current discussion amongst academics as to whether or not Hun Sen is good for Cambodia. While the jury is still out and there are a number of negatives, he kills less of his own people than the Khmer Rouge did and the relative stability is resulting in some improvements, such as education.
Could not similar arguments be put forward for the present monarchy in Thailand? Despite several negatives, is the royal system really so bad? Does it do untold damage to the Thai people?
I suggest it unwise to clamour for change for change’s sake. Even the mirage remains very murky. The English press in Bangkok is full of well meaning Letters to the Editor, many of them from Australia, and ruing the dangers to democracy caused by the reds, the yellows, the full spectrum of political parties and even the monarchy itself. Democracy is not in danger in Thailand. You have to have something before you can consider it to be in danger and Thailand never has. And I would beg every such well intended Australian to first ask themselves, “Who is the head of the Australian Army?” His counterpart in Thailand is a name that is on everyone’s lips.
The International Herald Tribune article states that Thaksin was a police general. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1987. Whatever happened to journalistic accuracy?