My standard answer is: if using democracy as the measurement to judge mankind’s struggle you would probably be correct in saying this is democratic, or that is undemocratic; however, it doesn’t help you to understand the reality of what’s going on. In short, you would be theoretically correct, but specifically clueless.
Take off the democracy hat and understand that a fight is a fight; democracy has nothing to do with it. In a fight, one doesn’t say, ‘’don’t hit me in the face, it’s undemocratic.’’ No, in fact, one should expect a knee below the belt.
Saying prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra should do this or Suthep Thaugsuban should that, again you would likely be correct. But I would say, what they should do has nothing to do with it. Instead, what they must do in order to win the fight is at the centre of everything.
It’s not democratic for western democracies to shoot down the developing world’s shepherds and farmers, or carpet bomb entire cities and countrysides. (Don’t you just love the smell of napalm in the morning?). Yet they do it in the name of democracy, because a fight is a fight, and darn it, those evil goat-herders just hate freedom and democracy. So there you go.
Class struggle? Sure, if you mean between the new class of the elite and the old. Will of the people? Of course, as dictated by the two sides of the elite. The people will do what they are meant to do, follow the leaders. Say jump and they’ll ask, ‘’on who?’’
So understand Suthep, but that doesn’t mean excuse or support him. Understand that he has no qualms, no pretensions about democracy. He’s calling for a nationwide uprising to overthrow a democratically elected government.
He then wants to suspend electoral democracy, introduce reforms, ‘’eradicate’’ the Thaksin regime from Thailand, and then return to democratic elections. Asking for a royally bestowed prime minister, well that’s just for show.
Insurrection? Suthep himself would tell you, damn right this is a rebellion. So why a rebellion?
The answer is because Suthep cannot win this fight at the ballot box. On the other hand, the Thaksin Shinawatra political machine has a firm grip on the ballot box, at least in the foreseeable future. So Suthep must suspend electoral democracy, temporarily as he has said.
The near monopolisation of upcountry parliament seats, a combined 162 for the North and Isan regions, is a huge advantage for any Thaksin nominee party. At the heart of Suthep’s reform is to redraw the Thai electoral landscape, again, as it still didn’t work to the Democrats’ favour in the 2007 constitution.
If he wins, and when he brings electoral democracy back to Thailand, there would be no Thaksin nominee party, Thaksin puppet or Thaksin clone to contest. Thus, victory. A fight is a zero-sum game, and Suthep’s strategy is deliciously Machiavellian. You can’t win the game? Change the rules. With the new rules, Suthep can then claim democratic legitimacy.
But why fight in the first place? As I’ve written many times, the fight is against the monopolisation of power by the Thaksin political machine; democracy is but a mere tool to achieve this monopoly.
The world is full of regimes legitimised by democratic elections in countries that in actuality are ruled by a strongman, or an oligarch. Thailand is well familiar with this. This doesn’t mean Suthep is fighting for a noble cause.
The goal of Suthep is to replace the new group of oligarchs with the old group of oligarchs. Which oligarchy is better than the other? That depends on who you ask. The number I always cite is 15 million plus for the new oligarchy and 11 million plus for the old oligarchy, based on the July 2011 general elections.
Both sides have their share of the poor, the middle class and the upper class. At the top level however, it’s one set of billionaires versus another set of billionaires.
But why now? This is because in the near future – and it’s getting closer and closer – there will be a big change in Thailand. Both oligarch factions would want to be in the driver’s seat to make sure the change favours their position and power.
If Suthep achieves victory, the western world will have words of condemnation, but there won’t be any severing of ties or imposing of sanctions. Politicians, whether of the west, east, north or south, all give politically correct lip service, but in practical terms they all know well that democracy has nothing to do with it.
We can be a dictatorship, as we have been through many periods in the last 80 years, but as long as Thailand remains within the network of western allies and is open for business, we are still one of the boys.
In a fight, doing the right thing doesn’t mean doing the moral or democratic thing, rather the thing that will gain you victory. Death, destruction and economic setbacks are but temporary collateral damage. Just ask yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limtongkul and red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan.
Mind you, like Sondhi and Jatuporn, Suthep is but a field commander.
The big question in Thai politics always is: which way will the military sway? Or better yet, is the military united under one leadership? The fight cannot be won unless the men in green have a hand, whether in the streets or from behind the scene.
Fight to win, lose and suffer – just ask those poor shepherds, farmers and goat-herders.