Photo: Participants in TAHR’s recent academic seminar on “Thailand’s Future & ICC/CICC” taken on January 26, 2014, Bellflower, CA
Thai Alliance for Human Rights (TAHR)
1268 Grant Avenue, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94133 Website: http://thai-ahr.org
Subject: Help! Thailand at the risk of becoming a failed state with a civil war
Attention: International Friends of Thailand, Governments, Ambassadors, and Human Rights Defenders:
The Thai Alliance for Human Rights, which is a non-governmental, non-profit, and politically non-partisan organization registered with the State of California, U.S.A. on June 28, 2012, condemns all forms of violence, undemocratic acts, and violations of the universal human rights in Thailand as a result of its unresolved and worsening political conflicts that began before the 2006 coup d’etat. We would like to invite you to consider our statement and join us in pressuring all the rights abusers so that all parties seek open dialogues, adopt non-violent means, respect all universal human rights, and observe all democratic principles.
Before pinpointing who to blame in the extended and escalating political conflicts and violence triggered by the 2006 coup d’etat, let’s consider whether the following description of Thai politics is agreeable. After the revolution in 1932 to eliminate the absolute monarchy regime and establish democracy, the elites and royalists fought back and managed to take back power from the revolution members and drastically changed the Thai constitution 15 years later so that the Thai monarch would become more revered, untouched, and more powerful. King Bhumibol, who ascended the throne on May 5, 1950, has endorsed the following coup d’etats:
November 29, 1951: Military overthrows 1949 constitution and reverts to 1932 constitution
September 21, 1957: Sarit Thanarat overthrows Plaek Pibulsongkram
October 20, 1958: Sarit Thanarat overthrows Thanom Kittikachorn
November 18, 1971: Thanom Kittikachorn overthrows his own parliament
October 6, 1976: Sangad Chaloryu overthrows Seni Pramoj
October 20, 1977: Kriangsak Chomanan overthrows Tanin Kraivixien
February 24, 1991: Sunthorn Kongsompong overthrows Chatichai Choonhavan
September 19, 2006: Sonthi Boonyaratglin overthrows Thaksin Shinawatra
Since the 1950 coronation, Thailand has sadly witnessed the following massacres:
Name/Date/ Location/ Deaths/ Injuries
1973 Thai student uprising
October 14, 1973
Over 800 injuries
Thammasat University massacre
October 6, 1976
May 17, 1992
Hundreds of injuries
(plus many disappearances,and over 3,500 arrests)
April 28, 2004
Excessive use of power made in contradiction of orders from the Minister of Defense!
October 25, 2004,
Tak Bai, Narathiwat
2010 Thai military crackdown
April to May 2010,
After each of these massacres, victims did not find their justices, and royal amnesty was usually granted. And interestingly, after all these political incidents and violent episodes, royally trusted figures rose to power, and the amended or rewritten constitutions became less democratic, increasing the monarch’s strength and creating elements that hinder democratic progress. Through these manipulative and structurally subtle developments, however, Thais have been made to believe they are ruled under “democracy”; so, they have also learned to adopt words associated with democracy, such as voting rights, people’s power, elections, distribution of wealth, people as recipients of national benefits, and so on.
What we see now and during the past eight years may be summed up as a class struggle or the clash between the status quo, or the royalists and elites’ attempt to enforce their cleverly established and monarchy-centered elements of authorities and the democratic citizens who challenge the status quo. The Thaksin Shinawatra’s phenomenon only proves that the latter know their power, too, and they have elected the party that promises and delivers the most benefits and hope. Because Thaksin became the most powerful threat to the status quo in the last decade as the political parties under his directorship (two were dissolved and the Peua Thai Party is now under threat) won popular votes from the grassroots despite all the odds presented by the royalist and elitist forces. Thaksin’s supporters, the Redshirts, may have been inspired by his charisma and ability to deliver the promised benefits, but, having realized that the forces ganging up against the Thaksin camp are the conservative royalists and minority elites trying to monopolize “democratic” power and keep the wealth among them, truly democratic citizens now demand only democratic means and reject the opposite. Now is when the two poles are colliding.
The Thai status quo has used all its collaborative elements, namely the classically woven loyalty to the monarch, the influential Privy Council members, palace-connected armies, the royalist and conservative political party- the Democrat, the royalist government officials, palace-allied business giants, royalist citizens, and now the judicial bodies added to the 1997 constitution and further empowered in the 2007 constitution. What is happening now is already acknowledged by many Thais and some internal media as a “silenced coup” orchestrated by the elements above. After the army coup d’etat in 2006 that resulted in an appointed royal government, the Constitutional Court and other “independent” judicial bodies have lavishly exercised their authorities. Resisting political parties have been dissolved while the Democrat Party, even with evident proofs of guilt, has been well guarded. When the Redshirts rose up against the “undemocratically” powered government of Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2009 and 2010, the royal armies closely connected to the royal family were employed to brutally murder unarmed protesters on the ground that they had to use firearms because “men in black” had attacked them. After losing the subsequent election in 2011, the Democrat as a main opposition party has done virtually everything inside the parliament to stop any attempt by the Yingluck government and the parliament to amend the undemocratic elements in the 2007 constitution and to deliver the promised policies to the people. The goal of the status quo has been clear since 2011– that the Yingluck government must be stopped before it could implement all the plans to modernize the country and to successfully carry out its populous projects. Thus, the Democrat’s actions of creating dilemmas in the parliament, destroying the legitimacy of the Yingluck administration and the parliament, and resigning to force an end to the parliament were just the beginning. The Democrat Party taking the agendas further to the street under the name the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) should not be regarded as single plot of its own without orchestrated efforts by its allies under many names but with familiar faces.
Why did the Yingluck government have to resolve the parliament? Surely, it did so partly to avoid violence and because it believed it could win the resulted election. Perhaps, the PDRC had some legitimate ground for its protest, especially the rather selfish blanket amnesty bill and some corruption allegations. However, the government decided to withdraw the bill, and the allegations have not yet been properly investigated. Of course, the announced PDRC goal of parliament dissolution or Yingluck resignation was just a game. It appeared later that PDRC wanted to get rid of the Thaksin regime, the Shinawatra, and election scheme under which the Democrat Party can never win. Its goals marry perfectly with the status quo’s non- negotiable plot. To make the long story short, the PDRC is an important tool of the status quo, and therefore it must be protected, immunized from all harms, and facilitated by the royalist allies.
If you agree that the above observation or description is at least somewhat true, you may be able to understand why the following illegal, undemocratic, and rights abusive acts are possible in Thailand:
– PDRC and other allied protesters under several names have completed their actions qualified as “rebels” according to Article 68 of the 2007 constitution, but the Constitution Court has ruled that their acts are peaceful and rightful. The police have not been able to arrest Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban and core leaders despite many hard proofs for about three months now.
– PDRC guards have been found to be armed and intoxicated people with criminal histories and army officers affiliated with units involved in the 2010 massacres. Many video clips have shown their rights abusive acts against other civilians, such as verbally harassing, searching bodies, beating, destroying governmental and private properties, shooting, and many more resulting in serious injuries and an increasing number of deaths. In spite of these acts, the Thai police have been ordered not to use any weapon while on duty! The royal Thai army officers in power now, also royal guards, have been trying to protect the PDRC leaders from being arrested by the Thai police.
– PDRC leaders have on many occasions used hate speeches eliciting violent acts by its supporters, unfair or unsubstantiated accusations, insulting and rude words, dehumanizing and demonizing terms, and many abusive tactics on stages. However, they are clever enough to show the images of good-looking, fun-loving, kind and generous protesters to the domestic and international media while their guards have done so many nasty, illegal, and rights abusive things elsewhere.
– PDRC members want to avoid an election under the same scheme according to the 2007 constitution, again, under which they cannot win. They want to reform some things unclear before the next election. At least we can understand that they want to change some rules so that they could somehow win an election. Other reform schemes are vague as to who to do it, how they can be legitimately selected, what to reform, which legal grounds support the move, and so on. Therefore, PDRC has failed to elicit support from Thai citizens, resulting in efforts to shut down Bangkok and to use violence so as to pave the way for another military coup instead of an election that would legitimize the return of the Yingluck government. Given also that the Democrat Party has decided to boycott the scheduled February 2nd election whose timing is dictated by the 2007 constitution, which means that the Democrat Party will not have participated in two elections within eight years and will be subject to an automatic dissolution, the PDRC has to take more abusive and violent actions to stop or nullify the February 2nd election. Therefore, we have seen the PDRC members abusing the rights of the people during the January 26th early election by blocking gates to election booths, using whistles to irritate voters, physically pressuring and threatening registered voters, beating, harming, shooting, and forcing election officials to abandon duties.
The Thai Alliance for Human Rights has been worried about the predicted, and now seemingly inevitable, political clash in the form of fatally violent confrontations in the face of a failed state and even a resulted civil war. We do not side with any group, but we believe that all parties in Thailand must respect the principles of democracy, maintain the rule of law, adopt non-violence means, seek open dialogues, and importantly respect the universal basic rights. We have written a letter to involved parties in Thailand in December 2013, but things have not improved. We are now compiling a soon coming list of the people who take important roles in acts that violate the universal human rights at http://thai-ahr.org/rightsabusers/. These people, if you agree that the proofs are sufficient, should not be welcomed to civilized countries where human rights are strictly observed. At least denying a visa to rights abusers may be instructive to them and many others who may think they can still get by easily because of the privileges and power they enjoy in their home country. At this juncture, Thailand is at the brink of becoming a failed state and subsequent civil war. If you have been to Thailand, you should probably know very well of its potential value to the world. Please help us pressure all concerned parties so that they pursue peace, democracy, and respect for human rights using only democratic and constructive means. Importantly, Thais must return to the election booths and use this part of the democratic elements as a temporary solution before dialogues, reform efforts, and other civil acts can ensue on the path away from tragedies. We urge you to do what you can now to help Thailand.
Thank you for your kind attention and further actions.
Thai Alliance for Human Rights
Endorsed by the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors on January 31, 2014.