Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thailand Votes July 3, 2011

You may or may not be aware of the election in Thailand tomorrow; I’m guessing most of you knew it was coming up sometime soon. I realize some details have gotten into the mainstream western media, but I don’t know how much, or how much you have followed it.

This is my second attempt at writing this post. I’m scrapping most of the first. And I’m not going to pretend my analysis will really add much to the dialogue. For starters I didn’t quit my 17-year career with Reuters to research all of the Wikileaks cables related to Thailand and self publish a 4 part story worthy of getting myself banned from entering the country/arrested upon arrival. And I’m not going to comment on that story, because I don’t really fancy 3-15 in Thai prison or deportation, even if I am a ‘relative nobody.’ But that’s part of the problem here. You can’t really fully comprehend Thai politics, because you can’t fully talk about it without fear of reprisal.

We can discuss the red shirts and the yellow shirts, and after so much conflict their various splinter groups. We can discuss rural vs rich, pro vs anti Thaksin, Puea Thai vs Democrat, so on and so forth. But we can’t discuss the real elephant in the room. The elephant that is, hopefully, farther off than tomorrow’s election.

People have asked me if I’m worried about the election results tomorrow. And in some ways, I am. If the Puea Thai party wins (the most up to date version of the Red Shirts), Yingluck Shinawatra will become Thailand’s first female prime minister. And, as Thaksin, the deposed former Prime Minister, is her older brother and still the presumed leader of this party even from Dubai, she may pave the way for his amnesty and return to Thailand. And the mere possibility of this outcome could spur a coup. To many Thais, Thaksin is like that toxic ex-boyfriend you just can’t fully exorcise. And yes, he’s often called ‘Toxic.’ Everyone has THAT ex. You know the one. Do you want to let him back into your life, your country? That’s what I thought. That’s how much of the country feels about a Puea Thai victory. You mean you’re going to let HIM come back? Over my dead body!

But the other portion sees it differently, because the alternative, the ruling Democrat party and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, has seen so much go wrong under it’s parliament mandated (not elected) rule. And after more than 13 months, nothing has been done about the 90+ red shirt deaths at Rajaprasong intersection last spring besides cold denial they happened.

The Democrats said, “don’t burn our city again,” and “no one died here,” as they rallied last Thursday adjacent to the spot where those people did, in fact, die.

And at this point, the Yellow Shirts have become so disenfranchised they’ve simply campaigned for people to vote “No,” and not elect any of the parties running! What exactly would said ‘No’ vote mean? That’s open to as much speculation as any of this mess.

And while I think most Thai and farang alike don’t necessarily want Bangkok to burn again, the fact that in either major outcome there may not be justice for those 90 people may be the spark that ignites the next event.
If the Democrats win and still fail to demand the inquiry results be made public, the red shirts will be angered and take to the streets. Or if the Puea Thai wins, pardons their de-facto leader Thaksin and everyone else – they’re also likely to have to pardon whoever is deemed responsible for those deaths, thereby preventing justice from being served, the yellow shirts and Democratic supporters will protest in the streets against Thaksin, along with many red shirts who will feel betrayed that their fallen comrades do not get peace.

In many ways, it may not matter who wins in the election tomorrow. If justice is not served for those 90 deaths, If Thaksin is pardoned, if the army disagrees with the results, or if the ‘invisible hand’ that we can’t discuss wants things to be different, things will go differently than voted upon. And really, this is the tip of the iceberg, this is only the most recent years’ wounds in a string of events that runs much longer and deeper.

But, am I worried? Well, I’m definitely not going shopping at Central World in the near future, the mega mall that was half burned down adjacent to the intersection where the protests and deaths occurred. I’m not getting too attached to any evening plans I make in case events around the city make travel around town unfavorable. And I’m going grocery shopping tomorrow. If things really get bad, school will be cancelled, and I’ll go hit a beach south of here until things cool down.

But really, I’m not terribly worried about a coup or more protests. Really truly, it’s the elephant in the room that worries me much more. I don’t think we have to worry about that one yet. Time will tell. If you would like to know more about why I’m playing mum, check out Thailand’s Lèse majesté laws, or check out the journalist I alluded to.

In the meantime, let’s hope this 4th of July, the day after the election, doesn’t have the wrong kind of fireworks.

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