Last week I put together a brief post highlighting academic opinion on the unfolding Thai crisis. Today I have a more up-to-date summary of the wide-range of scholarly perspectives reported around the world. As always, if New Mandala readers have other relevant snippets they would like to see featured please don’t hesitate to add them as comments.
“It is alarming that intellectuals, academics, media, lawyers, and human rights activists have abandoned the principles, and become militants who want victory at all costs and no matter what. They pander to unlawful disobedience. They hate Thaksin to the point of being partial, inconsiderate, discriminatory, mindless, and destructive to anyone standing in the way.
Threats made by people on their side are patriotic acts, aggression is freedom of expression according to the constitution, and carrying weapons is non-violence, all combining to constitute ‘some flaws’, quite acceptable. But when people on the other side do wrong, that would be utterly intolerable.”
– From Professor Thongchai Winichakul, University Wisconsin — Madison, extracted from “A simple and straightforward solution.”, Prachatai, translated by Ponglert Pongwanan, 7 September 2008. This is a translation of an article from 4 September 2008.
“Now our country is on the brink of a sheer cliff, with the ‘general uprising’ of the anti-government crowd. This is the same point where we reached on the eve of Oct 14, 1973, and May 17, 1992, and we are plunging further. We have reached this point today because of all the minor and major mistakes, deliberately and accidentally, done by people on both sides. Just a little further on, flames would erupt, and blood would be spilled once again.”
-Dr. Kasian Techapira, Thammasat University, extracted from “Kasian Techapira on the PAD’s ‘general uprising’”, translated by Ponglert Pongwanan, Prachatai, 5 September 2008. This article was published here in Thai on 29 August 2008.
“This way of trying to overthrow the government will create turmoil…If the PAD gets its way, it will do far-reaching damage to our democratic system.”
“My natural sympathies in the current context lie with liberal and democratic political outcomes, but I do not think PAD’s strategy will lead to that, in part sections have disavowed such an outcome with talk of ‘functional democracy’. Nor do I think the Samak government can lay claim to liberal inclinations. I think both sides are now intent on taking Thailand down a road in accord with limited notions of representative democracy. Thaksin was building a hegemonic party system and moving towards competitive authoritarianism on the basis of a strong electoral support. A victory for pro-Thaksin forces may well see a resumption of that project. Elements of the Democrat Party were trying to build a very circumscribed liberal democracy, or polyarchy, that preserved the power of the capitalist elite and the monarchy, and which was willing to compromise with the corporate interests of the military. These contenders are historic forces, and when they clash they do not lie down in the face of moral censure. At the moment I think the task is to explain how it all came to this.”
– Dr. Michael Connors in comments published on his blog, Sovereign Myth, following a very interesting interview with Bloomberg. The full interview and comments are available here: “Playing with the rules of the game: states of emergency”, 2 September 2008.
“You would normally expect the military to at least go through the motions of saying, ‘I support the government’…Samak, despite the fact that he is prime minister and defense minister, hasn’t been able so far to order either the police or the military to do whatever it is he wants…And that’s certainly interesting, to say the least…Who knows how long Samak is going to be in power? People like Anupong have to be aware of the constantly changing nature of the political order and they have to position themselves.”
“Those on the streets are not the main protagonists in this struggle. The real players are working behind the scenes. On some level, the PAD is receiving moral support from the monarchical network yet the monarchy itself remains sniffy about street protests and sceptical about the real motives of the PAD leadership. Newin Chidchob is rumoured to be coordinating events from a suite at the luxury Pullman Hotel; many senior police officers are personally loyal to him.
Meanwhile Thaksin is holed up in his Surrey mansion and has applied for political asylum in the UK. He is another potential beneficiary: the newly declared state of emergency in Bangkok may strengthen his claim that he should not be sent home just yet.”
“The way that would lead Thai society out of the current political violence is to restore normalcy to society first…No one can be above the law and the country has to be restored to normalcy…The emergency decree is a law that limited people’s rights to associate and rights to political expression and may give an opportunity for the authorities to violate the rights of the people.”
– Prajak Kongkiriti, Thammasat University, quoted in Subhatra Bhumiprabhas, “New group of scholars campaign for peaceful politics”, The Nation, 8 September 2008.