The Nation


Letters to the Editor

Just don't leave him alone with his cronies!

Re: "Thaksin should not overlook the PAD lesson,' The Nation, yesterday.

Thaksin didn't overlook the PAD message, Avudh Panananda, he tried to crush it, as simple as that. Because the PAD message was speaking directly to the minority who saw through Thaksin's populism, whether they were conservative or not.

Winning elections never gives a majority the right to trample on a minority in a democracy, what is more permission to rewrite the laws, wedge-open the loopholes, and appoint ones own family to all the high places - it happens, of course it does, but in a mature democracy there are checks and balances that make it extremely difficult. Under Thaksin those checks and balances were systematically dismantled, and there's a whole lot more still to come if he gets his way. Which is why he hires expensive foreign lawyers to lobby corporations and influence the media, and of course why he sends his beautiful sister out to read those carefully prepared speeches at polite gatherings all over the world.

A demagogue like Thaksin understands very well that there is always a self-justifying, steamroller element in a majority, and particularly a big one, and one way he exploits it is by trying to make it look and feel good. Alternative thinking is always a minority activity, because it means you've been able to get away, think about things, and come back a new person. Thaksin knows that only a handful of Thais have the opportunity to do that, and while he's got the chance he's attempting to make all his opponents look old-fashioned and selfish, an out-of-touch "elite". Of course some of his opponents are from the older generation, but in my experience very few young people with any education admire him at all, or share his values.

America is a great place to start on the whole tricky subject of popular dictatorship because it has done so relatively well to contain it for 200 years now. And one of the ways it has done this is by having a Constitution that is set up so that it's almost impossible to change anything - you can, but it takes an awful lot of dialogue and patience. Indeed, the whole US administrative process with its iron-clad checks and balances, including the filibuster, don't forget, makes change very, very slow, and even issues that should be settled quickly for the sake of humanity can get stalled. And I mean guns even more than healthcare or the environment!

The present crisis in Thailand is about what the country wants to be. The majority think they are supporting a push for justice and equal opportunity when they support Thaksin Shinawatra, which is his official message, of course, and that of his lobbyist and his sister, but so did the Germans in the 1920s and 30s when they supported Hitler. The German people were rebelling against the crushing burden of debt and reparations that had crippled them after World War I, and they sincerely believed that Adolf Hitler would bring them a better life.

That's why the minority matters in Thailand today, and why protests must be allowed to happen. Furthermore, the situation is hotting up so fast because time is running out for Thaksin Shinawatra - he knows that the balance of power is shifting against him because an alternative minority is growing up and beginning to think for itself. Thaksin is on the edge of being left alone up at the top with his cronies - which he doesn't mind at all, needless to say, but he’s got to have all the reins of power in his hands first if he’s to stay there!

And that is the worry.

Lung Kip

Chiang Mai

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