Thaksin, Giles Unpakorn's False Dawn
( Last edit 2010-06-12 )
May 2010's Giles Ji Ungpakorn VS Philip Cunningham
Debating the crisis in Thailand on Democracy now: Is Red Shirt Movement a Genuine Grassroots Struggle, or Front for Ousted Ex-PM, Billionaire Tycoon?
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Thai dissident living in exile in Britain. He was a university lecturer in Thailand before having to flee after writing a book criticizing the 2006 military coup. He is a Red Shirt supporter.
Ronayos' comment: CNN gets it wrong again if not being misinformed by Giles.
First, Giles declares himself as a Sino-British, not a Thai. As a result, he is a British living on his motherland commenting on Thailand which is not his home where he does not really know a thing about.
Second, Giles, with his book, committed a les majeste and was convicted. He jumped bail before the trial and fled to UK. He, the communist anti-royalist is just a hypocritic follower of the corrupt capitalist Thaksin Shinawatra, the master of all the evils, who also funds lots of anti-royalist campaigns in Thailand.
Philip Cunningham, freelance journalist who has covered Asia for over twenty years. He has taught at Chulalongkorn University and Doshisha University in Thailand. His writings frequently appear in the Bangkok Post.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: What the Red Shirts want is democracy, because the present government was installed by the military, and itís actually the fruit of a military coup in 2006 and various judicial coups. So, demanding fresh elections, demanding proper democratic elections is perfectly legitimate. And even though they have been occupying the center of Bangkok for two months, itís only a shopping center and a site for luxury hotels, yet the government has deployed snipers and assassination squads. And since the beginning of April, theyíve actually been responsible for sixty-seven deaths and thousands of injuries. And really, the time has come for the government to order an immediate ceasefire and for them to enter into genuine talks with the Red Shirts.
Ronayos' comment: Giles lied. What are the difference between those MPs elected into the house which had elected ex-PM Samak and ex-PM Somchai but later the majority turned to elect Abhisit to be the PM? They all came from the very same single general election, under the same rule, the 2007 Constitution which had passed the national referendum.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the latest developments, Ji, the offer of the Red Shirts to participate and the government saying no?
Ronayos' comment: Amy gets it wrong again. It is another way round. Really, you have to do some homework.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Well, the Red Shirts have made repeated offers to negotiate with the government, and the government really wants to shoot its way to a victory and to stay in power through the use of force.
Ronayos' comment: UDD leaders lost a public negotiation because of their illogical and nonsense claims similar to Giles to call for an immediate election. What would an immediate election bring to Thailand if not the chance for billionaire Thaksin to buy votes to get his puppet politicians into the majority?
GILES JI UNGPAKORN:You also have to realize that this government has brought about the worst censorship ever in Thailand. It censors all the internet, the media, in all shape and form. They even attack Facebook and everything else.
So the two things that theyíre using to stay in power are censorship and brutal force. And theyíre not prepared to actually offer the chance of the people to actually make a decision about who should run the country and in what way.
Ronayos' comment: Giles lied. Only red-shirts' casual media which have been fabricating lies and les majestic to instigate people and provoke riots are shut down. No previously longstanding newspapers have been closed, despite of being red-shirts sympathizers. PM Abhisit too generously allowed red Pua Thai party of Thaksin to carry out full two-day televised censure debate. The opposition may fabricate any smear under privileged immunity. Jatuporn Prompan, a party list MP who led the red rally was allowed free unlimited speech as well as the temporary opposition leader Chalerm Yubamroong. About ten days later, Pua-Thai party suffered a never-before heavy lost in Bangkok district councillors election dual between Democrat party and Pua-Thai party at 76 to 24 seats.
AMY GOODMAN: Philip Cunningham, I had said youíre in Japan; youíre now in Ithaca, New York. But can you give your observations on whatís happening in Thailand right now?
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Yes. You know, as a poet Gil Scott-Heron said, he famously said that "the revolution will not be televised." And itís being televised, but itís not a revolution. What we see in Thailand, I think, is a sham revolution, and I think itís something stirred up primarily by the billionaire tycoon in exile, who you mentioned. There are real grievances. There are real poor people. There are fault lines, and in sensitive areas in Thailand, which are very easy to provoke. It would sort of be like Rockefeller funding riots in the ghettos, if he had somehow been arrested and sent into exile or something like that. I mean, itís a really strange situation. Itís a hugely tragic situation. The people are dying. Theyíre dying for a billionaire tycoon in exile. It doesnít make sense.
Does Thailand need democracy, the kind of socialism that Ji has been working for? Yes, I think that would be fine. But it has to be peaceful, and the Red Shirts are not peaceful.
AMY GOODMAN: Ji.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Well, itís nonsense to say that the Red Shirts arenít peaceful. Theyíve actually been very, very disciplined and try to maintain a peaceful demonstration in the face of the government, which actually brings armed soldiers and tanks onto the streets. Any government that tries to disperse a peaceful demonstration using armed tanks, guns, and so on, and kills sixty-five people, I think needs to be condemned.
Ronayos' comment: Giles lied. CNN admits that there were rifles-armed UDD guards as they were stealthily captured on VDOs.
Moreover, tanks have never been used by Abhisit's government to disperse any rallies. They are APCs (armoured personels carrier) which were not armed. Most of red-shirts rallier killed by the soldiers were armed with grenade launchers, rifles or pistols and posing inevitable serious physical dangers to others or to the officers. However, most of those killed were during their attack against the cordon troops, at Bon Kai and Sarasin road.
How about Thaksin's massacre of over 80 civilian muslims at Kru Se and Tak Bai? How about over 2,600 cut-off murders during Thaksin's war on drugs? Was Giles so mad at that like what he is so bothered with PM Abhisit?
GILES JI UNGPAKORN:But Iím afraid Philip is misinformed about the Red Shirts. I mean, Thaksin Shinawatraóand Iím no supporter of him; I never voted for him and have always criticized his abuse of human rightsóThaksin Shinawatra was incapable of organizing the Red Shirts. The Red Shirts were organized by former leaders of Thai Rak Thai, and they developed into a grassroots movement. They collect money in their own communities. They run community radio stations. They have different groups.
If you go to any Red Shirt protest, you can see the signs up of the different groups, and you can hear people making donations on the stage and so on. And theyíre not dying for Thaksin Shinawatra. Theyíre not stupid peasants, ignorant peasants who donít know what theyíre doing. Theyíre actually very well-informed small farmers and urban workers who are incensed by the fact that their democratic rights have been robbed and that this is part of the system that allows such inequality of wealth in Thailand.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: I think one thing Ji and I absolutely agree on is that itís never right to use an army to suppress the people. I think itís an extremely blunt instrument. Itís crazy. Itís bloody. Itís violent. And thatís wrong. And I completely agree with Ji that the army should not be involved in this.
Ronayos' comment: The military would not have to be bothered if the police does their work properly or have not been spoiled by Thaksin's bribery.
However, Ji and I used to live on the same street in Bangkok. We taught at the same university. But we really disagree on our analysis of the Red Shirts. I believe the Red Shirts are a fascist movement. I believe the poverty is real. The need, the hunger, for a systemic change, a kind of change in Thailand, is there. Itís in the air.
But there is nothing about the Red ShirtsóI listen to them every day. I monitor their broadcasts. Iím doing a media study of that. And they insult foreigners. They insult gays. They engage in ridiculous ad hominem attacks. They are playing to the crowd. Itís kind of like a cross betweenówith Thaksin. And they sing songs in dedication to Thaksin. I mean, itís sort of like, you know, Mussolini or something like that. Some people compare Thaksin to Berlusconi. I think itís a little more like Mussolini. They sing for Thaksin. It is fascism, and it is a shame, because these people are hijacking the poor people, hijacking the genuine grievances of the poor, to serve a billionaire in exile so he can get back to Thailand and get his money back.
AMY GOODMAN: Ji.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Well, I donít think that Philip Cunningham really understands the definition of "fascism." Itís easy to bandy it about. Fascists donít demand democracy. Fascists donít have differences of opinion. Yes, there are elements of the Red Shirts who are rough and ready, and some of them are anti-gay, and some of them talk in terms of being anti-foreign, but the majority donít do that. The majority actually try to give differences of opinion. And this is not an armed group. The fascists are the middle-class peoples who arenít for democracy, the Yellow Shirts. They are the people who want an end to democratic rights for the poor and so on. And I think thatís just a really outrageous slander on the Red Shirts.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Well, Ji, youíre so naive. I just canít believe it.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you saying that?
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think Ji knows very well that theóyou know, if he listens to the speechesóI mean, Ji could listen to the speeches as well as I do. Itís nonsense. There is good rhetoric. Thereís good drama. This is money from a TV station from Thaksinís media people. Theyíve put together a media show. Theyíve put together a sham demonstration, a sham revolution. Itís not the real thing. I was in a Tiananmen in '89. I know what these things look like. I know what a spontaneous uprising looks like. This is not a spontaneous uprising.
What has happenedóand I will acknowledge thisóis that you've kind of had a chain reaction. You have some real spontaneous uprising now. Thailand is in a very brittle state. Itís very delicate. Itís at the kind of end of an era. And anything could happen, and this could be extremely dangerous. I just donít want to see Thailand go down a fascist road.
And the Red Shirts have proven to be armed. Theyíre shooting at soldiers with slingshots, Molotov cocktails. There are people with guns, pistols. It is not a peaceful movement. The students in Tiananmen Square never did that. There was no violence. Thereís no comparison to this. This is a bankrupt tycoon-backed Red Shirt movement. I just canít acceptóI just canít understand why Ji supports it.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Well, you canít understand, I know, because youíre not prepared to accept whatís going on. I follow the reports on the internet. Iím watching the TV there. Iíve been on Red Shirt demonstrations in Bangkok. I have friends who are in the Red Shirt movement. And the fact is that Philipís analysis, you know, that itís all being run by Thaksin and the movement is being hijacked, is an insult to the millions of Thais who are genuine Red Shirts. Itís the same old story from the academics, who believe that ordinary Thai people canít think for themselves, canít organize themselvesó
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Ji, thatís justóthatísóI cannot accept that. That is a very unfair sleight.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Itís just tható
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Just because someone disagrees with you doesnít mean they donít understand [inaudible]ó
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: How about letting me finish, Philip? How about letting me finish?
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Go ahead.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Itís the same kind of attitude that the middle class in Thailand have towards the Red Shirts, and itís their justification for why they donít believe in democracy and why they supported a coup díe tat, because they said, you know, the Red Shirts have all been bought by Thaksin and theyíre being manipulated by him into voting for himó
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Would you acknowledge that some of them have been bought, and a lot of them are not, but would you acknowledge that some of them have been bought?
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: How about letting me finish, Philip? How about letting me finish?
AMY GOODMAN: That question, Jióthat question, Ji, of whether some of them have been bought, bought off?
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: No, they havenít, actually. You donít need to buy people off, because the government, Thaksinís government, horrendous though it was in terms of human rights abuses, actually brought in a universal healthcare system. Itís actually better than the healthcare system in the United States, in terms of what the poor get. They had pro-poor policies to create jobs. They donít need to hand people money if the government actually offers and then delivers on that. People actually vote for what they want. And itís actually very, very insulting to the Thai population to claim that theyíve been hoodwinked and bought by Thaksin.
Now, the issue is, really, is how come a tycoon like Thaksin can win the hearts and minds of the poor? And the answer is that this shows that there was a vacuum on the left in Thailand, you know, ever since the Communist Party collapsed, and Thaksin was able to workó
Ronayos' comment: And Giles is very much happy about this. His communism movement chanting ideologies for the poors while the comrades can get rich by Thaksin's funding at the same time. It has never been so fun before for leftists.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Ji, this is the weakness of your analysis. I know youíve been on the left for a long time. We went to theó
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Sorry, if you could just let me finishó
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: óyou know, the stonecutter that was making the monument for Octoberó
AMY GOODMAN: Let Philip Cunningham make a statement. Go ahead, Philip Cunningham.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: And, you know, this idea thatóI just feel like youíre so hungry for the left to do something that youíre seeing a false dawn, and youíre mistaking it for the real thing. This is a false dawn; this is not the real thing.
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Sorry, but youíre not listening. Youíre speaking over me. Youíre not listening to what I say. Youíve got some dream in your head about what I believe in, and youíre starting to argue with a straw man. Iím saying that Thaksin canówas able to exploit the divisions within Thai society between the rich and the poor because the left didnít exist. And thatís how come a tycoon like Thaksin can win the hearts and minds of the poor.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: Thatís a sad statement, isnít it?
GILES JI UNGPAKORN: Well, I think the way to end the present crisis is that the government should order an immediate ceasefire and that there should be proper, genuine democratic elections.
PHILIP CUNNINGHAM: OK, I think the army should leave also. I think itís absolutely horrendous what the army is doing. Iím totally against that. But I cannot say that the Red Shirts are democratic or in the right. They are also a problem. And I think itís a police problem. They have to be arrested and taken care of.