Bangkok Post’s People of the Year: Thailand’s mass uprising — The Bangkok Post has named the 2013 Thai uprising its People of the Year, saying the spirit of the uprising, the will to mass together, and the force for change it engendered earned it the distinction.
Thailand’s premier English-language daily newspaper said that discontent was “the first necessity for progress”, and it was discontent that led hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets of Bangkok two months ago to protest against an amnesty law that would have absolved all crimes and corruption cases since 2006 without any clear justifiable reasons, in the eyes of the protesters.
Not only did they view as a “flagrant abuse of power by a majority of democratically elected representatives” the passing of a law “that would have rendered the justice process meaningless”, but the fact that they did it at 4:20am in the morning added fuel to the fire, noted the Bangkok Post article explaining why it chose the uprising for this year’s distinction.
The uprising was almost spontaneous, and grew into hundreds of thousands within weeks, forcing the government to backtrack and kill the bill by telling the Senate to reject it, said the article.
The phenomenon has raised hopes that there will be no more “politics as usual” in Thailand, it said.
But the Bangkok Post says it still remains to be seen whether the newly emerged force of white-collar working-class people and business entrepreneurs, a movement born out of discontent, will grow into a positive movement bringing about political progress.
It also notes that the “great mass of people” movement (“muan maha prachachon” in Thai) is not without its flaws.
The movement that started as an uprising against the amnesty bill soon grew under the leadership of Suthep Thaugsuban and morphed into a demonstration to overthrown the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the so-called “Thaksin regime” – the term they use to refer to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s influence on Thai politics, and more loosely to the “tyranny of the majority”, said the Bangkok Post.
Especially questionable is whether the movement is for a “less-flawed democracy”, as many protesters claim, or just for “less democracy”, as Mr. Suthep’s demand for an unelected “people’s council” to reform the country seems to suggest.
The Bangkok Post article quotes political analyst Chris Baker, who chronicled the rise of the central figure in Thailand’s political turmoil over the past decade in his books, including Thaksin: the Business of Politics in Thailand, as saying the movement has been clear on its rejection of the one-person, one-vote basic principle of political equality.
“Some supporters have clearly said they think Bangkok people should have more weight in the elections than non-Bangkok people. This is important. We outside observers now know what this movement stands for,” said Mr. Baker.
Indeed, many observers wonder just what kind of “reforms” Suthep Thaugsuban has in mind that would result in the pro-Thaksin, pro-red shirt masses, who clearly outnumber the anti-Thaksin portion of the population, no longer winning the elections, considering the fact that they have won all five since 2001, and none have even been very close.
The Bangkok Post also quotes Thammasat political scientist Kasian Tejapira, who argues that what is currently going on with the anti-government protest movement in Bangkok is not different from a coup. It’s just being done with masses of people rather than military tanks and weapons.
“The muan maha prachachon is a capitalist movement that will lead to the tyranny of the minority,” said Mr Kasian.