Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thailand’s Red Shirts - Like them or hate them, they do have a point

The red shirts' protest is not as bad as the mainstream media makes it out to be, because if it is looked at from a positive perspective, one can see it as setting new standards in Thai politics - something that would be very useful for achieving true democracy.

winners should be given the right to rule the country. Yet, governments that have been given the mandate to rule by the voting public have been rare since Thailand's 1932 revolution. For instance, even though the current Democrat-led government was put in place through a majority vote from the Lower House, it was not chosen in the 2007 elections. The Democrats only got the chance to form a government after judiciary activists dissolved the People's Power Party and broke up the previous coalition.

The dissolution of a party is often an unusual situation. Historically, it only happens after a military dictatorship and this time around too, the People's Power Party was dissolved by judicial activism that followed the 2006 coup.
However, the red shirts are weakening their stance by siding with former PM Thaksin Shinawatra - who is known for his corruption and abuse of power. Yet, it can be argued that Thaksin is not the only corrupt person - many politicians supporting the current government are no better than him. Besides, with such politicians under its wing, Abhisit Vejjajiva's government cannot be as clean as it likes to present itself.

Still, the reds are not siding with Thaksin just for Thaksin himself - even though he might end up benefiting greatly from the protest - but instead are using him as an excuse to speak up against non-elected politicians delivering policy. True, vote-buying and money politics flourished during Thaksin's time, but money is not the only factor for electoral victory because other parties also use money during elections.

For instance, this government has not exactly ruled out Thaksin's populist policies - slammed by many economists as being bad for the economy - because they are powerful political tools.

Yet, these populist policies did not bring the red-attired men and women to protest on the streets of Bangkok. They are here because they want to be heard and do not want the elite to twist the mandate they give their politicians through elections. Military coups and derived legal tools are just not acceptable to them.

The red shirts are also sending a strong message about the Thai justice system's "double standards" - a very important issue that the society should stop and listen to. The protesters want the elite to get the same treatment under law like the rest of us.

The case of former premier Surayud Chulanont's holiday home on Khao Yai Thiang springs to mind as a perfect example of injustice and inequality. The Office of the Attorney-General decided to drop the case on grounds that Surayud had no intentions of encroaching on the forest reserve. Therefore, the red-shirt movement's fury over this is totally understandable.

Besides, the judiciary has also proved to be colour-coded. Take for instance the case of red-shirt member Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul, who was denied bail and is now serving time for lese majeste. In comparison, yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul, who repeated Daranee's words in public, is still walking free even though he faces the same charges because the state prosecution team is not yet ready to file his case in court.

Though this protest might not be able to achieve its goal of toppling Abhisit's government, the elite who rule this country should most certainly stop and listen. The Nation, Bangkok

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