The Nation



People's uprising about to reach 'critical mass'

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the people's uprising, has set January 13 as the day for a Bangkok shutdown. The momentum is in his favour.

After more than two months of leading mass demonstrations, Suthep has his sights set on toppling Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government by the end of this month. Supporters from other provinces have been arriving in the capital since before New Year, joining Bangkokians in preparing for the shutdown. Whistles will be blown by the millions as the capital is shut down to force the removal of Yingluck. We are about to witness a classic people's revolution against a government that has lost all moral and political legitimacy.

To stage a people's revolution without ripping up the Constitution, the number of people on the streets does matter. And Suthep has millions from various walks of life behind him. An unprecedented number of more than a million anti-government protesters showed up on November 24. But the record was broken again on December 9 - the day Yingluck Shinawatra caved in by declaring a House dissolution. The people now want back the rights and power they had temporarily given to the government. They do not need a military coup. Unarmed and peaceful, they can reclaim sovereignty over the country from a tyrant government that has proved to be working against the interests of the people. The learning curve will be tough. But democracy will have to be earned the hard way. If the people want to change the country, they have to take action rather than praying for a miracle.

The weeks leading up to New Year saw rumours of a military coup. In Thailand, rumours are almost always proved true. It was planned to help the government, not the Suthep-led uprising. The stakes are high. If the Yingluck government were to be toppled, it would not only wipe out the political and business interests of the Shinawatras but would also upset the geopolitical interests of the US. It is an open secret that the US has already "handcuffed" the Thai government into allowing it to revive the U-tapao military base. Thailand is an important Asian ally in Washington's campaign to contain China. Oil deals in the Gulf of Thailand are also on the table, not to mention security arrangements in the South China Sea, and the Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade area. That is why the US has openly intervened in Thai affairs by calling on the people to honour the February 2 election. The international media have also been parroting this line of pseudo-democracy, which would extend the tenure of the corrupt Shinawatra regime.

If demonstrations on January 13 can achieve a "critical mass", Bangkok will be shut down for several days. Suthep has hinted that 10 or 20 days of uprising could finish off the caretaker government. This would pave the way to ending the Thaksin regime once and for all. The people plan to fall back on Article 3 of the Constitution to declare they have taken sovereign power back from Yingluck. There are strong legal and constitutional grounds for doing so: the Yingluck government lost its morality and legitimacy by introducing an amnesty bill to whitewash corruption and those with charged with serious criminal acts. It also attempted to amend the Constitution to consolidate its power over the Senate. When the Constitutional Court ruled against that amendment, the Yingluck government and members of the ruling party publicly declared they would not accept the ruling. This blatant challenge to judicial power rendered the government obsolete.

After the people invoke their sovereign power as per Article 3 of the Constitution, they will resort to the extraordinary measures afforded by Article 7 to seek royal endorsement for the appointment of an interim prime minister and government. A people's council will then be formed to lay down foundations for comprehensive reform to end corruption and set Thailand back on the path of genuine democracy. This is how events will play out in the coming weeks. Nobody knows the outcome, but the scene could turn ugly. The certainty is that Yingluck and her supporters will not relinquish power easily.

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