Asia Sentinel, Written by A. Lin Neumann
Thursday, 20 May 2010
The wellsprings of disaster stem from 2006
Whatever drives the Red Shirt movement in Thailand – ideals, anger,
money or all three – the worst civil unrest in a generation has made the
folly of the 2006 coup to bring down Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra's government all the more evident. The blood of the last
weeks is on the hands of the many cheerleaders for that coup, the
royalist supporters of it and the military itself.
mistake here. I firmly believe that Thaksin is a venal and corrupt
figure. His manipulation of the system for his own political ends and
his cynical use of the poor to fuel his ambitions had little to do with
altruism and everything to do with power. But the cure, if the coup
could any longer be called a cure, was far worse than the disease.
continuing mayhem might have been temporarily stalled by the actions of
the military this week to finally clear the streets of red-shirt
protesters, but nothing has been resolved. Thaksin is still stirring the
pot from abroad, doubtless using his millions in a bid to bend the
movement he created to his advantage. The military's reputation for
brutality is again ensured as it often has been in the past. Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, a good and decent man by most accounts, is
likely irretrievably wounded by the government's inept handling of a
crisis that it allowed to spiral out of control before it finally moved.
The red-shirt leaders themselves failed to accept compromise when it
was within reach.
And there is King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
82-year-old monarch is awake and functioning – or even alive – his
inaction is unforgivable. The fact that he did not move to sort out this
mess before the burning and sacking of central Bangkok by angry mobs
and combat troops, has shamed the monarchy – perhaps beyond repair. Is
he held captive by his privy council? Are medieval forces at work in
darkened halls trying to control a world they can no longer comprehend?
Of what use is a monarch who cannot help his people?
And what of
those people? Surely most people in Bangkok are furious that these
northeastern activists disrupted their lives, trashed their gleaming
metropolis, burned their neighborhoods and caused an enormous burden.
there are the followers of the red-shirt movement, many of them no
doubt sincere in their rage. They have seen the governments they vote
for dismissed and overthrown by forces they no longer trust. Fed by the
propaganda of the Thaksin machine and betrayed by the violent
provocateurs in their own midst, their disaffection will only grow.
threat Thaksin posed to the royalist satraps of Thailand in 2006, their
move against him has brought the country into far more peril than one
can imagine his government causing. With Bangkok continuing to burn and
the unrest spreading north, Thailand finds itself with no institution
around which public trust could rally. The prime minister, police,
military and the monarchy are all tarnished and in disrepute. This is
what the elites did by manipulating the system to their ends in 2006.
nobody can know where this will end. That Thailand's suffering and
disarray may be only just starting seems all too likely.
Lin Neumann is one of the founders of Asia Sentinel. He is the editor of
the Jakarta Globe.