The king, royalists and Thaksin
April 12, 2012
W. Scott Thompson is a retired professor from the U.S. He as an op-ed at Malaysia’s New Straits Times that readers might find of some interest.
He begins with reference to Bill Klausner, one of his old friends and an anthropologist who has spent 56 years living in Thailand, with impeccable connections, not least int the royal establishment. He has long been an interpreter of things Thai for foreigners.
Thompson reckons he’s not red or yellow, and “understands” the “grievances of the Reds,” mentioning that his wife is from the Northeast, apparently suggestive of “understanding.” His other understanding is apparently:
the creation that the Thai elite are responsible for: a modern but different player in international politics that has elicited a particular form of respect, for its patience, economic miracle, smiles, ability to manoeuvre gracefully but successfully in politics, for presenting a unique personality in world affairs.
That is an “interesting” perspective not least because it gives all credit for Thailand’s successes to the elite, completely ignoring the work and sacrifices of the average people, whose labor has built industry, tourism, and everything that makes life comfortable for the elite.
Not yellow or red, Klausner laments the end of “civility and graciousness” and “traditionally polite discourse…”. We wonder where Klausner has been residing for most of his 50 years in Thailand? Does he mean the civility and politeness of the military when they repeatedly massacre people? Does he mean the civility and politeness of state officials and the police who squeeze the people of bribes and through other forms of corruption? Does he mean the civility and politeness of the elite as they force people of their land?
Thompson then cites Thitinan Pongsudhirak:
I can now say with some sadness and measured conclusiveness that the royalist establishment has lost the battle, although the winner is as yet unclear. It now depends on whether/when/ how/under-what-conditions they throw in the towel. Resistance will breed more turmoil.
We’re not sure why Thitinan is “sad,” but we think he is right.
Thompson is more concerned, however, by what he sees as the rise and rise of Thaksin Shinawatra:
He’s busy placing his people in every agency and ministry, and his political hacks visit him wherever abroad he’s staying (often Dubai) to get his guidance…. In fact, he’s more of a raging bull right now, feeling not without reason that he’s been cheated out of his rightful job, for which he was overwhelmingly elected.
Thompson notes that Thaksin’s “opponents” that:
his return means the end of democracy. His Mussolini-like bullying may bring benefits to the masses, but at the end of the day, even they will no longer have any say in whether he ever leaves office.
Of course, this is not at all clear, but Thompson appears to believe it too, with no evidence supporting the claim. He could have pointed to Thaksin’s previous attempts to control debate, but he doesn’t.
Interestingly, like Klausner’s elitist view, for a moment Thompson seems to believe that the deals are all about the elite:
The king is still alive, almost well. Twenty years ago, he could summon the leaders of two sides fighting it out with many casualties and in they went, prostrating themselves, and pledged to stop the carnage…. Now, … they won’t [come], which is why the palace has been so quiet. It would hardly enhance the throne’s majesty for it to be ignored when trying to be relevant.
But maybe he also sees the popular challenge, when he refers to the royal funeral of Princess Bejraratana:
Millions of dollars were spent on it and the temple. Very few people whom I talked to knew what it was about, who she was, or in fact cared.
The king is still venerated … [b]ut there’s going to be a “a long twilight”, to use Thitinan’s phrase, during his decline and the emergence of a new order, with no one except Thaksin clear about what to do.
PPT isn’t sure Thaksin knows what to do either. There seems no script despite all the claims of deals and so on. Thompson continues:
“Stopping him” is not a programme. The opposition has only a negative agenda, and all of them, from the politicians to the very top, are seen as compromised….
Of course, it would be convenient were he to disappear from the scene, and there are some who hope they can accomplish just that. It’s wishful thinking; he’s well-guarded and not stupid.
We can only wonder who he’s been talking with. Yet more assassination plots against Thaksin? Who might be thinking this way?
Thompson suggests that the way out for the elite is this:
About the only good solution that is faintly possible is if the “opposition” — from Democrat Party to the palace itself — realised its hopeless position and negotiated a long-term deal, in which they gave up much of their privilege, yielded full power to Thaksin’s people, but with a backed-up and locked-in guarantee that he would not himself take the leadership, and that the palace was safe. But this more and more sounds like a fairy tale.
It seems that the opportunity for the selfish elite to make the required historical compromise has been missed. They needed to do this many years ago, but they have been too greedy.