Whatever you think about the politics or academic analysis of Giles Ungpakorn you have to admire his courage in fronting the first protest against the coup. Bangkok Pundit has a very useful summary of his recent (pre-coup) statements about the political situation in Thailand. And an interesting statement by Giles can be found here. I can’t resist just one quote from it:
The Thaksin government and the Thai Rak Thai Party enjoy significant support from the urban and rural poor. This is because it is the first government in decades which seeks to improve welfare and the incomes of the poor. The government introduced a universal health care system and other measures to stimulate the economy at grass roots level, all of which were attacked by neo-liberal academics and opposition parties. Of course, these “populist” policies were not paid for by progressive taxation of the rich. The government also pushed ahead with privatisation and neo-liberal Free-trade agreements. This government has also committed gross human rights abuses in the Muslim South and in its “war on drugs”.
Rather than calling for an anti-government movement which goes beyond Thaksin’s populism in order to create real income equality and a welfare state, the conservative section of the anti-government movement sees ordinary people who support Thaksin as ignorant, stupid and easily bought by the government. Thaksin has thrown down the gauntlet by dissolving parliament and calling a snap election in early April. He calls this “returning power to the people” in marked contrast to the royalists. The opposition parties have announced a boycott of the election because they know they will lose. Thaksin has responded to this by saying that if more than 50% of those who vote, register an abstention (which is possible on Thai ballot papers), he will step down. But the conservative opposition has dismissed this, claiming that much of the electorate are badly educated.