Hundreds of thousands of protesters, hundreds of vehicles permanently occupy intersections across Bangkok in opposition of Wall Street-backed regime.
The fourth, and largest mass mobilization yet by protesters seeking to rid Thailand of unelected dictator Thaksin Shinawatra and his proxy regime, has filled the streets of Bangkok with hundreds of thousands of protesters, turning sections of the city’s roads into walking streets, campsites, stages, and protest areas.
Images: Scenes from just a few of 8 major protest sites where permanent encampments have been made and have drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters the first day. Each encampment is surrounded by hundreds of vehicles, tons of supplies and equipment, for the permanent occupation of Bangkok’s streets until the end of Thaksin Shinawatra’s proxy regime.
The atmosphere was festive throughout the day, attracting huge numbers of people despite a campaign of threats and deadly terrorism by the regime in attempt to scare crowds away.
Protesters are demanding a series of reforms before elections are held, including the complete removal of Thaksin Shianwatra’s political machine. To understand why protests are drawing such immense, sustained crowds it would help to understand who Thaksin Shinawatra is and what he has done to Thailand.
- In the late 1990s, Thaksin was an adviser to notorious private equity firm, the Carlyle Group. He pledged to his foreign contacts that upon taking office, he would still serve as a “matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses. It would represent the first of many compromising conflicts of interest that would undermine Thailand’s sovereign under his rule.
- Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001-2006. Has since dominated the various reincarnations of his political party – and still to this day runs the country by proxy, via his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
- In 2001 he privatized Thailand’s resources and infrastructure including the nation’s oil conglomerate PTT – much to Wall Street’s delight.
- In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.
- Also in 2003, he initiated what he called a “war on drugs.” Nearly 3,000 were extrajudicially murdered in the streets over the course of just 90 days. It would later turn out that more than half of those killed had nothing to even do with the drug trade. In this act alone, Thaksin earned himself the title as worst human rights offender in Thai history, and still he was far from finished.
- In 2004, he oversaw the killing of 85 protesters in a single day during his mishandled, heavy-handed policy in the country’s troubled deep south. The atrocity is now referred to as the “Tak Bai incident.”
- Also in 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before the 2011 elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD) in Washington DC.
- Throughout his administration he was notorious for intimidating the press, and crushing dissent. According to Amnesty International, 18 human rights defenders were either assassinated or disappeared during his first term in office. Among them was human rights activist and lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. He was last seen in 2004 being arrested by police and never seen again.
- Also throughout Thaksin’s administration, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed in its report, “Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand” that the regime was guilty of financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion of the press.
- Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom House, International Crisis Group,PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR, Carlyle Group), Robert Blackwill (CFR) of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (BGR), Kobre & Kim, Bell Pottinger (and here) and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Partners (Chatham House).
- In April of 2009 gunmen would fire over 100 rounds into the vehicle of anti-Thaksin activist, protest leader, and media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul in a broad daylight assassination attempt. He was injured but survived.
- On April 10, 2010, heavily armed professional militants deployed by Thaksin Shianwatra and his “red shirt” front targeted and assassinated Colonel Romklao Thuwatham who was at the time commanding crowd control operations near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Thaksin’s “red shirts” would go on to clash with the military for weeks before ending their riot with mass city-wide looting and arson.
- In August of 2013, businessman and outspoken Thaksin opponent Ekkayuth Anchanbutr was abducted and murdered.
What Have His “Red Shirt” Followers Done?
In addition to carrying out armed insurrection in both 2009 and 2010, Thaksin’s “red shirts” have carried out a campaign of violence, terror, and intimidation designed to keep Thailand’s “silent majority,” silent for years:
Image: While the regime and its Western backers claim violence in 2010 was the result of a brutal, unprovoked military crackdown on “unarmed” protesters, in reality Thaksin Shinawatra deployed some 300 armed mercenaries onto the streets to augment his “red shirt” supporters. Weeks of gun battles involving the above pictured “men in black,” would result in 92 deaths.
- In 2008, red shirts shot/hacked to death by machetes an opposition community radio host’s father, after pro-Thaksin radio hosts mobilized supporters to surround his house and the father attempted to flee. Regime demagogue, Kanyapak Maneejak (DJ Aom), when asked about the incident during a “City Life Chiang Mai” interview, claimed, “the reds there all came following their hearts.”
- In 2009, in addition to large-scale street violence visited upon Bangkok which saw two shop keepers shot while trying to stop red shirts from looting their businesses, red shirts would violently disrupt an HIV/AIDS awareness march organized by homosexual & public health activists. “Out in Perth” reported in their article, “Chiang Mai Pride Shut Down by Protests as Police Watch On,” that organizers were locked inside a building while red shirts began throwing rocks and yelling abuse through megaphones. Police looked on until organizers decided to call off the event.
- Also in 2009, Bangkok’s English paper, “Bangkok Post” would publish a report titled, “Rak Chiang Mai 51: A pride or a disgrace for Chiang Mai?” which would describe in detail the red shirts’ methods of violence and intimidation.
- During the most recent political crisis, red shirts have frequently surrounded the homes of opponents, threatening and intimidating them from speaking out against the regime. This includes the home of Chiang Mai’s Cultural Council president, teachers and parents of Regina Coeli College, and violently attacking a peaceful protest held at Chiang Mai University’s art museum and again during a march held several weeks later.
Why Are Elections are Currently Impossible?
The regime and its Western backers insist that the solution to the current political impasse is an election. Of course, this is impossible because the current regime is openly run by Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal and fugitive who was neither on the ballot nor even in the country during last elections, and will simply resume control of the nation after any future election in which his proxy party wins.
While Thailand is technically under the premiership of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, by his party’s own admission, Thaksin is still literally running the country. The election campaign slogan for the last general election in 2011 was literally, “Thaksin Thinks, Puea Thai Does,” Puea Thai being his political party. Forbes would report in their article, “Thaksin in Exile: Advising Sister, Digging for Gold,” that:
Regarding his behind-the-scenes role in the party and policy, he is not shy: “I am the one who thinks. Like our slogan during the campaign, Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts.”
The New York Times admitted in an early 2013 article titled, “In Thailand, Power Comes With Help From Skype,” that:
For the past year and a half, by the party’s own admission, the most important political decisions in this country of 65 million people have been made from abroad, by a former prime minister who has been in self-imposed exile since 2008 to escape corruption charges.
The country’s most famous fugitive, Thaksin Shinawatra, circles the globe in his private jet, chatting with ministers over his dozen cellphones, texting over various social media platforms and reading government documents e-mailed to him from civil servants, party officials say.
The NYT piece would also report:
“He’s the one who formulates the Pheu Thai policies,” said Noppadon Pattama, a senior official in Mr. Thaksin’s party who also serves as his personal lawyer. “Almost all the policies put forward during the last election came from him.”
Image: The New York Times openly admits that Thailand is currently run by unelected convicted criminal/fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra. Clearly any proxy government or elections in which it participates in are illegitimate by both Thai and international standards. Thaksin’s foreign ties are what have afforded him impunity regarding an otherwise cartoonish, 3rd world dictatorship.
There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2-year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy. Being unelected, Thaksin Shinawatra is by all accounts a dictator, and his “government” a regime, however cleverly they try to dress it up.
Elections in any other country featuring a convicted criminal openly running a contending party would be unacceptable – and in Thailand as well, they are equally unacceptable until after reforms that prevent such a scenario from occurring again.
While the regime and its Western backers continue to claim they represent the majority of Thai people, it should be remembered that the final tally conducted in 2011 by Thailand’s Election Commission showed that Thaksin Shinawatra’s proxy political party received 15.7 million votes out of the estimated 32.5 million voter turnout (turnout of approx. 74%). This gave Thaksin’s proxy party a mere 48% of those who cast their votes on July 3rd (not even half), and out of all eligible voters, only a 35% mandate to actually “lead” the country.
In a 2010 Asian Foundation report titled, “Survey Findings Challenge Notion of a Divided Thailand,” it was revealed that a meager 7% of Thailand’s population identify themselves as being “red,” with another 7% describing themselves as “leaning toward red.” The survey also revealed that by far, most Thais constitute what is called the “silent majority.” The survey included multiple questions that explained the leanings of this silent majority.
For instance, regarding violence that erupted when Thaksin Shinawatra attempted to seize back power in 2010 with large street mobs augmented by armed mercenaries, only 37% blamed the government, 40% squarely blamed Thaksin, 4% held both sides responsible, and the remaining 19% weren’t sure. 62% found the army (which ousted Thaksin in 2006, and restored order in Bangkok both in 2009 and 2010 after pro-Thaksin mobs turned violent) as an important independent institution that has helped safeguard and stabilize the country.
Graph: Up from 62% the year before, the public perception of the military as an important independent institution stood at 63%. Even in in the regime’s rural strongholds, support stood at 61%. The only group that did not support the military, was the regime’s tiny “red” minority, but even among them, 30% still supported the army. With only 7% of the population identifying themselves as “red,” the illusion of Thaksin Shinawatra’s popularity crumbles under statistical scrutiny.
Toward the End Game
Peaceful protesters will continue to defy the illegitimate proxy regime of Thaksin Shinawatra until it crumbles under a withering undermining of its authority, legitimacy, and operational capacity to administer the country. The regime is expected to continue its use of violence and terrorism in attempt to intimidate protesters, but its fear of spurring the military to intervene means that it most likely will never be able to muster enough force to break the growing momentum of dissent against them.
For now, protesters are well entrenched in the streets and can easily last at least 3-4 days. In 3-4 days, they will be fully prepared to stay much longer. There is a golden opportunity for the protesters to form a “shadow government” to begin administering areas they have now retaken from the regime. Administering these areas publicly and attending to the needs of businesses and residents who may be affected by the protests would further undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the current regime – who already spends much of its time hundreds of miles to the north of Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai.
As reported many times before, current anti-regime protesters are not trying to end “democracy.” They are simply trying to end the abuse of the democratic process by an overt criminal. Elections must be carried only after Thaksin Shinawatra and his entire political machine have been safely and completely dismantled.
Read other contributed articles by Tony Cartalucci here.