Unending, unceasing street protests in Bangkok encouraged the military coup in 2006 and have sought the undemocratic overthrow of the government since May 25. They are led, organised, financed (in an extremely non-transparent manner) by a group called the People’s Alliance for Democracy, known by its initials PAD.
The alliance has conducted some spectacular rallies, including a couple against ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra which probably had over half a million. But since the disaster of military government and democratic elections, the PAD has turned into a fringe and somewhat extremist group, although with enough support to get regular and front-page press coverage.
Because its protest surges are frequently large and attractive to TV cameramen and newspaper photographers, they get serious press coverage. The calls for the government to resign, the lawsuits (a couple of them successful) against government malfeasance, demands for more crackdowns on politicians — all of these get a lot of media face time.
This is a shame in many ways, because the group is at its core one of the most fascist to come out of post-dictator Thailand. Because its demands against authority are so extreme and so sexy for the headline writers and editors who are tragic victims of Attention Deficit Disorder, little attention focuses on its own policies.
Many of these are frightening, not to mention despicable. PAD actually lies in emphasising that it favours overthrowing the government. In fact it favours overthrowing the system. Example: Suriyasai Katasila, a key ideologue and self-styled, humble “core member” of PAD exposed a bit of a post-democracy Thailand last June, when he wrote in PAD-connected Manager newspaper (link is in Thai)
… we have declared a new war calling for nation-building under a new political discourse. We are calling to go beyond parliamentary politics, or 4-second democracy, or the cult of using elections to determine everything.
A challenging proposal by the leaders of the PAD is the 70:30 model, where 70 percent of political officeholders will be appointed while 30 percent will be elected. This is only the starting point to spark wider discussions and debates in society.
The details or model of the new politics needs knowledgeable people, academics, educational institutions, universities and different sectors to debate a structure to go beyond the cult of elections where capital rules and the country can be bought, while the people have only the right to vote obediently.
Along with Suriyasai, other core members include the flashy, fighting Buddhist right-winger retired Major-General Chamlong Srimuang — and the actual PAD founder Sondhi Limthongkul, usually known (especially to his many enemies) as Sondhi Lim.
Sondhi is a man of many talents, one of which is running a publishing enterprise of ill fame, which lately has including the Manager (Poodjatkarn) newspaper and website. The www.manager.co.th site hosts by far the most popular and politically contentious discussion forums in the Thai language — anywhere.
All of the above is prologue getting at what should be a huge outrage by Thais everywhere. Sondhi has laid out his vision of a Thai foreign policy for when the PAD overthrows the government and takes over without an election. He focuses especially on Cambodia, because he has whipped up his lemming-like protesters into a lather of ugly, nationalistic fury at the Cambodians over the Preah Vihear temple, lately at the centre of a renewed battle with historical and nationalist and, therefore, major political importance.
The current government has supported the effort to list the temple as a Unesco Heritage Site. Sondhi and PAD took the government to court for not submitting a supporting letter to parliament — but actually for totally political purposes. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign (luckily Thailand has scads of highly qualified people for the post). There have been negotiations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and ugly threats by supernationalists on both sides.
And then there is Sondhi. His solution to the border dispute is simple: War. No joke, no kidding:
A commission must be set up to invite Cambodia to bilateral negotiations. If the dispute cannot be settled, Thailand would, temporarily adhering to the ICJ’s ruling, mobilize Thai troops, push Cambodians back from Thai territory, and formally inform Cambodia that, apart from the Preah Vihear temple, the surroundings belong to Thailand, and Thailand would pay any price to protect its sovereignty, even at the cost of war.
“We would close all 40 Thai-Cambodian border checkpoints, and ban all flights to Phnom Penh and Siam Reap from Bangkok; 70% of flights to the two destinations are from Bangkok.
And then we would order the Defense Ministry to build a naval base at Koh Kut, deploy two battleships there, together with patrol ships, build a runway for F-16 aircraft, abolish the committee which oversees demarcation of overlapping sea areas, and officially declare our own marine map.
Cambodia would be hopping mad, but we would not bother because Cambodia would not have the nerve to fight us….
Read it all. Please.
By explanation, the ICJ is the International Court of Justice, aka the World Court. In 1962, it ruled that the Preah Vihear temple is Cambodian, a ruling Thailand agreed to comply with. Grounds around the temple are disputed, according to a narrow Thai interpretation of the 1962 ruling, and this is what Sondhi would declare war for. Koh Kut is an island close to Cambodia.
This, too, is what Thailand will get if the PAD succeeds in its never-ending campaign.