Thailand: In 2012 lèse majesté will be litmus test for democracy

[Yingluck Shinawatra tours flood-ravaged areas with army commander-in-chief General Prayut Chan-ocha.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
January 2, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In July 2011 millions of Red Shirts turned out to vote for the Pheu Thai party, headed by Yingluck Shinawatra. The party won a landslide majority despite various attempts by the military, the media and the elites to place obstacles in the path of the party's victory. The election result was a slap in the face for the military and the “party of the military” (the mis-named Democrat Party).
But the signs were bad for the Red Shirts from the beginning. The new government did nothing about the Red Shirt political prisoners and the important issue of bringing ex-prime minister Abhisit, his deputy Sutep and the military generals Prayut [army commander-in-chief Prayuth Chan-ocha] and Anupong to justice for their key roles in gunning down nearly 90 pro-democracy civilians in 2010.

Thailand's flood crisis: neoliberalism is not the answer

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
October 27, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The serious flooding in Thailand has affected millions of people. Houses, property and infrastructure have been seriously damaged. Factories and workplaces have been closed and hundreds of thousands of people have become temporarily unemployed. Agricultural land has been flooded, leading to further loss of incomes. Millions of people who are living modest lives will see their incomes and savings drastically lowered and the economy can only be dragged down. The waters are now predicted to remain high for at least a month.

Thailand: A new 'settlement' between Yingluck Shinawatra's government and the elites?

[Thai MPs elected Yingluck Shinawatra on August 5 as the country's first female prime minister.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
August 14, 2011 -- We are starting to see the results of a “new settlement” between the Pheu Thai party [led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra] and the elites, in order to “resolve” the Thai crisis in the interests of the latter. This may or may not be a formal agreement, but we are already seeing the effects.
Following the last crisis during the Cold War conflict with the Communist Party of Thailand, the elites crafted a settlement in which parliamentary democracy was tolerated so long as elections could be dominated by money politics and there was no challenge to the ruling class. Today’s “settlement” is designed to allow the Pheu Thai party to form a government and to bring its leaders, including deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra, back into the elite’s exclusive club. We must remember that previous to the 2006 crisis, Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai party were a recognised part of the ruling elites.

Thailand's election: A slap in the face for the military, Democrat Party and royalist elites

By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
July 4, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The results of Thailand's July 3 general election are a slap in the face for the dictatorship. They prove without any doubt that the majority of people have rejected the military, the Democrat Party and the royalist elites. Pheu Thai, the party closely allied to the Red Shirt movement, has won a clear majority. The result is all the more remarkable, given that the election was held under conditions of severe censorship and intimidation of the Red Shirt democracy movement by the military and the military-installed Democrat Party government of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Why socialists in Thailand call for a vote for Thaksin's Pheu Thai Party

[Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, leads the Pheu Thai.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Turn Left Thailand
June 16, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Normally, no socialist should ever call for a vote for a capitalist party in any election. To do so would risk making the kind of mistakes that the Stalinists used to make when they adopted the Popular Front strategy, building alliances with the bourgeoisie and making anti-working class concessions. But it is my opinion, that in the July 3, 2011, general election in Thailand, socialists have no choice but to call for a vote for the Pheu Thai Party [also spelled Peua Thai Party]. Pheu Thai is a thoroughly capitalist party.
The Pheu Thai Party is the descendant of the Thai Rak Thai Party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Although a party of big business, like all other Thai parties, it was democratically elected to office, with a large majority. This is because it put forward pro-poor policies such as universal health care. But this Thai Rak Thai government was overthrown by a right-wing royalist military coup in 2006 and the party was disbanded by right-wing judges.

Thailand: Lèse majesté law cannot be reformed, it must be abolished

[Thousands of Red Shirts commemorate the April-May 2010 killings of pro-democracy protesters by military forces.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
May 27, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The lèse majesté law [making it illegal to "insult" Thailand's royalty] cannot be reformed into a democratic law any more than a military dictatorship can be reformed or amended into a “democratic military dictatorship”. The lèse majesté law is fundamentally against the freedom of expression and Democracy. It cannot be reformed. It has to be abolished.

Thailand: Lèse majesté, the monarchy and the military

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Paper given to Pax et Bellum, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, University of Uppsala, Sweden
April 29, 2011 -- There is a common thread running through the political crisis in Thailand and the regional political crises that exploded earlier this year in the Middle East. In Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia and many other “developing nations”, societies had been rapidly urbanising and changing over the last 30-40 years. Yet the ruling elites and the power structures which dominatethese societies, have not changed.

Thailand: Military makes threats against pro-democracy Red Shirts

[Thousands of Red Shirts commemorate the April-May 2010 killings of pro-democracy protesters by military forces.]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Red Thai Socialist
April 12, 2011 -- One year after Thailand's military gunned down nearly 90 pro-democracy civilians in Bangkok and in the run-up to the promised first election since the 2006 coup, the military have been very active in increasing the obstacles to a free and fair election. They are seriously worried about the outcome of this election.

Thailand: Why the lese majeste law is an abomination

[Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (`Da Torpedo').]
By Giles Ji Ungpakorn
March 3, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The lese majeste law (which forbids "insulting" the monarchy) in Thailand represents a gross attack on the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and academic freedom. It is a fundamental attack on democracy carried out by the military, the palace and the elites. The practical impact is that Thailand has struggled for years to achieve a fully developed democracy, a free press and internationally accepted academic standards in our universities.