The world (or at least Thailand) has strangely turned upside down. After The Economist condemned his opponents as "enemies of democracy", Thailand has a new, self-styled "Symbol of Democracy". The Nation reports:
"If we want the country run democratically, I'm the symbol of democracy," Thaksin told thousands of supporters during a campaign stop in Kanchanaburi.
This from a man who actively undermines democratic institutions, intimidates the free press and let an esimated 2000 people be executed extrajudicially on his watch. Maybe he's a living manifestation of an "illiberal democrat" as feared by Fareed Zakaria (via fringer.org):
Over the last decade, elected governments claiming to represent the people have steadily encroached on the powers and rights of other elements in society, a usurpation that is both horizontal (from other branches of the national government) and vertical (from regional and local authorities as well as private businesses and other nongovernmental groups).
I have to admit, though, that I'm still ambivalent regarding the PAD and the opposition. I'm disappointed that we are scheduled to have a sham of an election next month, as I've tried to express commenting on one of Fringer's posts. Two letters to The Economist in response their editorial on Thailand, seems a bit like two voices arguing in my head.
The first one is anti-Thaksin, pro-PAD:
SIR – Thaksin Shinawatra did not “win” the last Thai election (“Enemies of democracy”, March 4th). He bought it, just as he bought support recently when thousands of rural folk were bused into Bangkok for a pro-Thaksin rally (they received several days’ pay for their trouble). The rural poor, who have no access to unbiased information, are being cynically manipulated by a government that controls national TV and radio.
Which helps explain why the opposition demonstrations are not as undemocratic as you suggest. The protesters simply want to fix an inherently faulty system before elections take place. Although the “party list” voting system ensures that the same rich families will continue to rule Thailand, no matter what the election result, something urgently needs to be done to restore the checks and balances that have been systematically disabled by Mr Thaksin. The Constitutional Court, National Counter Corruption Commission and even the Senate have been taken over by his cronies. Are the protesters the enemies of democracy? No way. Enemies of “democracy”, yes.
Phang Nga, Thailand
The second is anti-Thaksin and pro-PAD:
SIR – Like The Economist, I am no fan of Mr Thaksin, but I recognise and support his Thai Rak Thai party’s legitimacy to govern. I accept that he has an electoral mandate and should not be removed from office based on income-tax loopholes. The opposition parties, former allies turned enemies and the like, are now joined in demanding Mr Thaksin’s resignation but without any regard for the constitution. There will come a time when the opposition Democrats and their allies will also be faced with an unrepresentative, implacable “people’s power” trying to force them out of office. Guess then who will vigorously defend their mandate based on the constitution?
Erm… I'll let you know once the two voices in my head reach an agreement. They first have to agree on a format and whether the debate will be broadcast live on TV Pool. 🙂