Democrat dissolution or “double standards” again?

The Election Commission made a sudden move and announced that they voted 4-1 to recommend dissolving the Democrat party.

Not a lot of details are available at the moment so this is just a small conspiracy theory from me.

The elites have done it again – used the judiciary power to solve the political stalemate, hoping that reds might declare a victory and tone down their protest just like yellows did in 2008.

The “double standard” is that they might know the case is not going anywhere and their today’s decision does not mean anything.

It has to pass through the Attorney General’s Office first where it could be sent back for further investigations or consultations, then it would be passed on to the Constitutional Court. That alone could easily take half a year, and then Democrats might successfully defend themselves and it would all be for nothing.

If reds indeed decide to call it a day, they would be duped.

As for the case itself, with the available information I can’t imagine how the whole Democrat party can possibly be dissolved. So far there have been no links between the party executives and the alleged donations. I would readily agree that the money indeed was meant for electoral campaign but it didn’t go through Democrat’s official books or any kind of central authorities. It all went to the relatives of selected individual MPs.

So far there’s no evidence that party executives knew anything about the donations at all, especially the current party leadership – the secretary-general who was supposed to be responsible for these things is with another party now and the then party leader has long resigned, too.

Read the details on Bangkok Pundit, that’s the best account I’ve ever seen.

Apart from that – what law exactly they would apply in this case? Think of it for a second – the electoral law that was in place in 2004-2005 does not exist anymore. Last time it was applied was to TRT dissolution case, under the interim constitution that went out of the way to keep it in place after the coup.

PPP was tried for offenses committed when laws stemming from 2007 constitution were firmly in place, and they are stricter than the previous version. They can possibly frame the charges as offenses valid under previous laws, but how can they decide on punishment? Current law has no leeway on involvement of party executives, for example, dissolution only. When the alleged offenses were committed, on the other hand, that wasn’t the case at all.

What about the statue of limitations for electoral offenses? We are talking five years, a coup, three elections and five governments ago, under the leadership that is not there anymore! What about people who are executives now but weren’t then?

It would be interesting too see how the EC presents the case. until then we can only speculate.

Back to the conspiracy – reds are being told that Democrats are finished and they can go home, only to find out a few months later that it was all just talk.

I don’t think they will buy it, though.

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War on ammart – what’s it all about?

Ammart, the “bureacratic polity”, has been red movement primary target for a while now, possibly eclipsed only by war on “double standards”, so let’s see what it means as reds are approaching their do or die weekend of shutting down Bangkok.

Despite educating their followers on ammart evils for over a year now it’s still difficult to find any authentic red rationale behind the whole idea, at least in English. What we know about this war mostly comes from secondary sources.

What is ammart? Why it needs to be fought and defeated? What would be the means in this war? What would constitute a victory?

Let’s start with what ammart is. There’s no one accepted definition and even within the red camp there are probably differences of opinions on this. Everybody in Thailand kind of understands the concept but it’s when reds decided to fight it the vision becomes very blurry. Anyway, Jakrapob Penkair’s “state within the state” is probably as good starting point as any, also he was privy to intimate works of the government and the power distribution so his knowledge must not be purely theoretic. Here it goes, according to first New Mandala translation from his article in a red magazine:

1. Senior government civil and military officers nurtured under the patronage system of the previous authority. These officers take turns to be in power, sharing wealth and privilege. They sometimes compete and even fight among themselves.

2.Mechanism of absolute control by the state as among certain bodies and authorities such as Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC), Special Branch of Royal Thai Police, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Royal Thai Army, Thai Airways, PTT, etc.

3. Income and revenue responsible groups including both the new rich and the old establishment rich as well as development of centrifugal networks to draw either old or new capital into the center.

4. Elements of academia, in particular those who know how to control the nation-state through the process of law – as among those academics with knowledge and skill to draft a constitution and other minor laws that have a hidden agenda or clauses that allow the status quo ante powers and elite privilege to continue.

5. Agreement with the superpower nations, in particular the USA in regards to protecting mutual benefits and to make sure areas of authority/interest doesn’t overlap.

That’s quite an impressive membership – senior government officials, the military, businessmen, academics, all backed up by the US. Usually the reds confine ammart to senior bureaucrats aligned with Privy Council, plus senior judges (omitted by Jakrapob). That kind of ammart consists of senior bureaucrats who use royal recognition as both means and instruments of power, reds accuse them of usurping the monarchy and using it to advance their own, undemocratic agendas.

What is interesting to note is that Jakrapob describes this network as centrifugal, ie without clear power center, and even though he used the term only in relation to drawing new businesses I think it’s safe to say that there’s no singular dominant node on this power grid, just the usual Thai senior-junior relationships when it comes to interactions. He also mentions that members often fight and compete with each other.

It’s clear that ammart doesn’t have any institutionalized structure and it appears that ammart is united only by ideology – deference to the King and, in red opinion, Prem, too.

Was Samak Sundaravej part of ammart? Surely, as one of the power nodes. People were speculating he was selected to lead PPP precisely because his loyalties were unquestioned. Maybe the rest of the ammart viewed his last years as “gone rogue” but it’s more likely that reds define ammart as being pro or anti Thaksin rather than anything else.

So, what are they going to fight? People’s feeling of hatred for Thaksin? People’s loyalty to the King? People’s respect for Prem?

Do they think they can legislate people’s ideology once they gain control of the parliament?

That leads us to how this war is going to be fought. Forcing Abhisit to dissolve the parliament is obviously only the first step. Then they will need to form a new government. What next is fuzzy, however. They will probably need to amend the constitution as executive power is seriously restricted when it comes to confronting the bureaucracy, and amendments proved to be an elusive goal even when PPP was firmly in power.

After that they will most likely start serious purges within every public institution, getting rid of suspected “ammart” and replacing them with their own loyal elements. Majority of the reds will have absolutely no control of the process, it will all be in the hands of yet another Thaksin nominee.

Now, what will the victory look like, assuming it all goes without glitch and major human rights violations? Well, we’ll have all decision making power centered on the government without any power structure to counterbalance it at all. How does that compare to ammart system with no dominant power center? Favorably?

Will it be more democratic? Perhaps only in the sense that the government will derive its legitimacy from the elections, however flawed they might be. At best it will be a dictatorship of the majority, at worst we’ll have one single dictator acting in the name of the people.

Basically, Thaksin redux.

Realistically, though, fighting against royalist ideology in Thailand is impossible, support for ammart as reds see it goes deep, far and wide across the country, they can’t purge Thailand of its dominant ideology and replace it with cult worship of someone like Thaksin, for without alternative cult figure the society will quickly return to its present state with its present heroes.

Right now we are treated to rumors of a possible collusion between PTP, BJT, and Chat Thai Pattana to nominate Sanan Kachornprasart as an alternative PM during the censure debate. Sanan is an old Democrat sec-general now under Banharn’s wing.

That just underlines red crisis of leadership – without Thaksin they have no one to offer, and even if they get Sanan it will hardly advance their case at all. He is not going to fight ammart for them, at best he could dissolve the House.

Perhaps reds should concentrate on power balance between traditional bureaucratic polity, the bureaucrats themselves, and the elected government. They could argue that 2007 constitution was a swing too far to one side and elected government must be given more powers in getting the bureaucracy to comply with electorate supported policies. That would give them a lot more traction and clearer objectives than fighting an amorphous and humongous “ammart”, and that might actually do something good for the country, too.

Traditionally defined bureaucratic polity came to exist precisely because states (not only Thailand) didn’t have well developed democratic institutions to compete for decision making power. Perhaps reds should prove they are capable to replace the bureaucrats first. So far elected officials and ministers have been mostly a source of embarrassment rather then pride and hope. So far the cabinet is the weakest link, professionally speaking, in country’s management. Suppose reds can force bureaucrats to follow orders of a nurse working as an energy minister, but what good would it do to the country?

Perhaps reds should focus on the quality of their proposed alternatives before they decide to take down country’s governing structure once and for all.

Or, perhaps, it has nothing to do with governing at all, and the war on ammart is just a bone thrown to reds by Thaksin when he himself felt excluded. That is the simplest explanation for red fuzzy logic and elusive goals, and you know what they say about simple explanations.

“The Justice is served” – who ordered it?

Now that I’ve done with various views on what a rule of law means to different parts of Thai society it’s time to look at Thaksin’s assets verdict.

For “yellow” part of the spectrum the justice has definitely been served as they ordered, as the ruling was in accordance with what they perceive as a rule of law – the principles behind 1997 constitution, mainly accountability of politicians before independent powers – counter corruption commission and justice system.

They don’t particularly care about the amount of seized assets, they just want a spade to be called a spade first and foremost. Despite all the speculations, the court was going to rule on what was bloody obvious to everyone – Thaksin was in control of Shin all along. The yellows finally got it recognized legally. The punishment is too technical for most to have an educated opinion on so they don’t burden themselves with details. Thaksin lost some, got something left. Fair enough, being declared a crook is far more important.

For Thaksin, on the other hand, there’s no justice until he gets what he wants. He believes, and that is a widespread belief here, that any verdict must be negotiated, not issued and imposed by the court. Thus there’s no justice until the defendant agrees to the terms. It sounds ridiculous by western judicial standards but that’s how things work where Thaksin comes from. Harmony and agreements are valued above all, those disagreeing are ex-communicated and dealt with decisively. Since he is very much alive and loved by many, he doesn’t accept defeat and so demands negotiating the verdict as an equal.

For Thaksin followers the verdict is unjust until their idol says so. They would make up numbers in “Was the ruling fair?” surveys but have no opinion on their own and defer to Thaksin to do their thinking.

For newly educated red shirts the verdict is another evidence of unelected ammart tramping the will of the people. I’m not sure they believe in need for politically independent watchdogs or unelected judiciary at all, but at this point they just brand anything non-Thaksin as “ammart” and that’s the end of the discussion.

The “progressives” are in a long war against “status quo”, they don’t care about justice in this case per se, they surely admit that Thaksin was guilty but that’s not what interests them, they want to see chinks in elite armor instead, so they look for them in every sentence and every turn of the phrase in the verdict. Those who can’t battle through technicalities simply talk about collusion between the court and “network monarchy” (whatever that means in real life). They speculate about secret deals and behind the door machinations and read double meanings in HMK’s address to the newly elected judges a few weeks earlier.

Interestingly, Federico Ferrara recently called it “coordinating” rather than “manipulating”. I suspect it’s for the lack of evidence of either direct orders or the chain of command itself. I suspect “progressives” rule out the possibility of the court declaring Thaksin a crook just because he was one, rule it out as a matter of principle. There must be a network conspiracy behind it, things are not what they seem. They also ignore that the verdict was in accordance with what the elites believe should be the rule of law in this country, they believe the “network” has some other ideas in mind, ie preserving status quo. Constitutions and the laws do not matter much here. They are illegitimate as long as they appear to support the “status quo”.

The differences between the “network” and the “elites” has never been explored, btw. Do they all agree on the same things? Do they fight among each other? Is there any evidence to any of that? Doesn’t matter – they are all pro status quo, end of discussion.

Those who analyze the verdict itself predictably focus on technicalities and legal precedents, but what is interesting is that they also argue against “damage”, which they view as “if no harm done to anyone, there isn’t any damage”. This is where there’s a lot of common ground with reds and patronage based value system I described earlier, and there’s a lot of possible common ground with yellows as well, as they are a quite practical lot when it comes to honesty and corruption. I don’t think there would be massive support among the “yellows” for some subsequent lawsuits, particularly on behalf of TOT or CAT – they feel that the corrupt policies have actually benefited the country and the people so there’s no point in going after Thaksin any further, he’s got what he deserved already.

The actual PAD part of yellow end of the spectrum, a relatively small part, would probably push for more suits, but that won’t be the attitude of the mainstream.

The government needs to protect TOT and CAT at any cost, it needs TOT contributions to the state budget, so it would probably be happy to litigate if there are enough financial incentives.

For the government the party had only just began.

And so it will roll on, mainstream Thais will be happy and proud of their justice system, Thaksin will be fuming, his fans will be lamenting, red shirts will be plotting a government overthrow, progressives will argue against status quo while things will stay more or less the same.

Eventually the notion that politicians should be held accountable not only before voters but before laws, too, will settle in. Complaining about double standards to save politicians from justice will not get them anywhere. Should Abhisit manage to form the ruling coalition after next elections the elite version of “rule of law” will only be cemented. Should PTP form the coalition, it will find going by the old, patronage based rules very tough and would rather spend energy to comply rather than fight the elite laws.

The process is irreversible and there are no viable alternatives. Eat that or go hungry, you were not there when elites were doing ordering.

Oh, and there are reds who claim 1997 as “people constitution” but refuse to accept its principles when they go against their current agenda. What they get now is not what they expected the justice would taste like.

Rule of Law – what does it mean?

I feel I need to go back to this SOAS presentation by Peter Leyland before saying anything about Thaksin’s court verdict or anything else.

Imo, this quote goes straight to the heart of the matter:

…the rule of law is not the question of having the rule, but adhering to the rule and recognising it…

At this point it’s obvious that all major players in local politics have very very different views on what the rule of law is and what adhering to the rule of law actually means. Typical example – the coup makers said it was a coup for democracy. Discuss…

Let’s see, however, where these differing views are coming from.

First, the middle classes, elites, intelligentsia, pro-democracy coup makers, yellows, Democrats, mainstream media, The Nation, Bangkok Post etc. I admit that I’m in this group for the purpose of this discussion.

For them the “rule of law” meant principles of 1997 Constitution as it addressed their inspirations after 1992 Suchinda’s fiasco and disillusionment with money/rural politics as captured in Anek’s “Tale of two democracies”.

They expected politicians to be educated and capable (qualities they value in their circles), they expected politicians to represent people and be dedicated to national interests (as they see them), they also expected politicians to be honest, with strict rules against electoral cheating, enriching themselves, or working for special interests.

“Honesty” in those parts of Thai society has a rather interesting meaning – you are honest as long as you don’t get caught and publicly embarrassed, what people don’t know doesn’t hurt them. Same attitudes as towards sex industry or maintaining mia nois – be very discreet and you should be a fine, upstanding and moral member of the society.

So, these parts of Thai society thought that 1997 paper would provide them with all these clean and dedicated public servants they can held accountable to the electorate.

Well, they got the rule, but this is where “adhere and recognize” part comes in.

Actual politicians had very different ideas. Though at the time they were described and dismissed as old style dinosaurs, they were very much alive and kicking, and hungry. They saw politics as a way to power that they couldn’t reach by traditional means within traditional hierarchy – connections, education, manners, service, achievements, all that didn’t matter much during elections in rural areas that held keys to Bangkok.

Eventually “professional political parties” were born – lean, mean, designed to win. They realized the opportunities before 1997 constitution came into effect and they didn’t share any of its inspirations. Thaksin and his TRT took it to the whole new level, at least one step ahead of constitutional writers. Direct vote buying was out, selling themselves was in. Do whatever is necessary to win voter’s loyalty, feed and clothe them, sweet talk them and make generous promises, give some money if necessary. There was full support from HQs in Bangkok with “populist programs” to show that TRT really cared. Then they actually delivered.

Wasn’t it just grand? Wasn’t it just perfect democracy – leaders who were loved and who kept their promises?

Not according to Bangkok intelligentsia.

Let’s see what “rule of law” meant to these politicians – they surely have their own set of rules, otherwise their political machine would grind to a halt as they’d squabble and distrust each other.

I’d dare to say that their rules are rooted entirely in a patronage system. You are supposed to show deference to those above you and you should look after and protect those below. Don’t take more than is allowed by those above and spread gratitude generously to those below. Keep everybody satisfied and don’t rock the boat, thus the society will live in harmony and happiness.

It’s easy to see that all those 1997 inspired institutions like independent senate or counter corruption commission made absolutely no sense to this social group. By their rules there’s no such thing as corruption in the first place. Since all relationships are personal, for any transgression to be registered it must be offensive to someone personally, not to so some abstract “public interest” or let alone an anti-corruption body that is not even a part of their system.

There was zero tolerance for separation of powers, too. All powers needed to be co-opted into the same system and made work under the same rules. There was no place for the opposition either. The only purpose of having the opposition was to make the government look better.

The thing was that Thaksin managed to fully implement this system while outwardly adhering to the constitution but not to its principles. Bangkok intelligentsia was outraged. They had “UN is not my father and democracy is not my goal” proclamations, they had “my government will work for those who vote for me” policy statements that went completely against their fundamental beliefs, their fundamental democratic principles.

On corruption – as I said, the “yellow” side is pretty liberal when it comes to honesty, they didn’t really mind Thaksin helping AIS or Ipstar, what ticked them off, however, was the brassiness of it. One thing is to quietly take some money for yourself, it’s quite another to come out and say you need thieves to run the country and you need fraudsters to run the election commission.

They couldn’t accept taking natural human weaknesses and making them into new standards of governing. That’s not what they expected of their shiny new, 1997 inspired political system. Suddenly there was a gap in values that was growing wider and wider, see Thai Thai Thaksin for more on this.

Then the country had April elections, and that’s when another social group made themselves heard. I’ll call them “progressives”. For them it wasn’t Thaksin’s trying to solve his personal problems by dissolving the parliament, it was Democrat boycott that was offensive.

Their, “progressive” set of values and their rules and meaning of law was something different from the previous two groups. For them democracy is a naturally occurring phenomenon, what was said in 1997 constitution was not an ideal or a standard to strive for, it was something they assumed was already provided and included in the deal. Democracy is too big and important for them to become a victim of abuse, and nothing whatsoever could tarnish the value of elections. The “rules” is what the majority decides via elections, not what intelligentsia thought about some ten years earlier. If majority wants Thaksin, so be it – that’s “democracy”.

Thaksin, of course, loved it, Bangkok intelligentsia didn’t. PAD talked about checks and balances, rule of law etc. Progressives ignored all these things and simply said – elections decide everything, if Thaksin is “bad”, it’s voters job to oust him, not intelligentsia’s, and if their “checks and balances” system can’t help they should just shut up and vote for someone else. In a democracy voters are the ultimate judge, they said. Urban minority has no right to demand resignation of an elected Prime Minister, the country belongs to everybody, not just Bangkokians.

So here we have another set of values – rule of majority that tramps all other legal or moral principles.

This group grew significantly after the coup, which was clearly against their valued will of the majority.

To the “yellow” group, however, will of majority in a country like Thailand does not guarantee justice or fairness in any shape or form. They said Thaksin had to be removed to upheld the values of 1997 constitution, values that hold true regardless of what the majority thinks. They’ve managed to transfer these values to 2007 version, actually strengthening independent bodies, separation of powers, and demanding more accountability from the politicians. In their view 1997 constitution lives on.

Progressives are not going to accept this “military” constitution no matter what it says, however.

Nothing short of a reversal of a nearly four year old coup and prosecution of the coup makers is going to satisfy them. In reality there are very very few of them, anyone responsible for doing anything in this country realizes that it’s just not going to happen no matter what, but the progressives have aligned themselves with the red shirts, relatively new arrival on the scene.

Red replaced original black as a color of protest as thousands of Thaksin supporters breathed a new life in a dying anti-coup movement. So, what are the rules and values of Thaksin fans? Even though by now they have been “educated” of their rights and demands and ammart and double standards and so on, I’d still say they just miss good old times under Thaksin. Allegations of corruption are meaningless to them as they belong to the same, Thaksin built political system, though it doesn’t mean they don’t know what corruption is – they just don’t think it’s bad unless it affects you, me, or them personally. They don’t believe in its absolute, abstract evil.

With progressives shaping most of their ideology they learned to believe in value of the voice of the majority first and foremost. They reject any independent bodies as agents of the elites, they don’t see them as protectors of any kind of principles. I suspect they don’t believe these principles even exist as they’ve been taught that it’s the ammart trying to exert control over the will of the people. They don’t see the value, or the need, for the opposition, it has been grouped with ammart and destined for destruction. They believe the current governing coalition is based on ammart’s coercion rather than free will and assume that its members will happily join them should they “win” the elections, and by “win” they mean get more votes than Democrats, not to win over 50%.

To end “double standards” and restore the “rule of law” they want to overthrow the government and purge the independent bodies, judiciary and media of all ammart influence.

There are other, marginal groups in red movement, too, like republicans, communists, anti-royalists, and outright lunatics, but I don’t think they deserve any serious attention, they just hitching on the wagon and have very little influence.

So here we are – yellows with their 1997 legacy, Thaksin and politicians with their patronage based rules, progressives with their believe in the will of the majority, and red shirts with love for Thaksin and hatred of the elites.

There is simply no way all of these groups can agree on a particular version of the “rule of law” and willingly adhere to it.

The “yellow” offered solution is to enforce their set, hoping that it would eventually convince progressives and newly enlightened rural folks as offering almost exactly what they want. Meanwhile Abhisit is trying to convey to the politicians that these rules are not as bad as they look and old days of raping and pillaging are over.

So far it seems to be working, except some red hardliners are digging deeper and deeper and become more and more radicalized, and politicians still feeling uneasy about diminished possibilities. On the other hand there no other plausible alternatives. Perhaps after the election some new deal would present itself, but that is going to be a long wait as Democrats are only consolidating their power, not losing it.

Thaksin and Elites

Time and time again Thaksin blames elites for all his troubles, this theme is also prevalent in practically all political discussions following Thai coup in “progressive” circles.

Where does this come from?

When he was in power he was as “elite” as they come and so were all his friends. They were the richest people in the country, governing with practically free hand, real movers and shakers. Why do seemingly reasonable people fall for this Thaksin fighting against elite nonsense?

To be fair, Thaksin himself eventually limited the definition of “elites” to the bare core, to a couple of members of the Privy Council. But then again, there’s nothing “elite” about Surayud, a son of a communist rebel killed by government forces. He is far better example of a local boy who made it big through hard work and dedication than Thaksin himself. What entrenched “elite” interests would Surayud try to protect?

What Thaksin is really fighting against is Prem’s “network monarchy”, a term introduced by Duncan McCargo about a decade ago to describe Thai particular situation. McCargo himself spent nearly a full page explaining how his views are radically different from many previous studies in the field, but let’s assume that he is not really an “odd one out” and that “network monarchy” has a lot of merit to it.

Thaksin’s main idea is that Prem was against him because Thaksin was getting very popular and so threatened Prem and his network grip on power. This idea has been picked up unconditionally and expanded to include all “Bangkok elites” by great numbers of “free thinkers” here. The “elites” are responsible for everything that is wrong in the country, they intentionally keep masses poor and brainwashed while indulging themselves in all kinds of luxuries.

First of all, Bangkok elites do not milk the poor and neither do people in that alleged network, they never really get a chance, there are local politicians and local businessmen to do that, this simple fact is totally missing in most discussions on the topic. Elites don’t even run the country – they might have their own interests in well-established businesses but they are not the ones running the government and making all decisions (let’s leave bureaucrats out of it for now).

Besides, the whole “blame elite” game existed long before Thaksin, and in that context Thaksin and his government were the embodiment of those “evil” elites, with his subversion of education reform and media manipulation completing the picture.

Back to Prem – he was displeased with Thaksin over several issues over the years and he has seen his power being chipped away little by little, but if we look at actual cases then “progressives” siding with Thaksin in those spats would look very suspicious if not outright deluded.

For all accusations against Thai military, Prem has overseen its peaceful decoupling from politics after 1992, and under his watch the military started to modernize, promoting meritocracy and downsizing the “generals department”. It all culminated during Surauyd’s reign that was abruptly cut by Thaksin. Prem wasn’t even informed when Thaksin removed Surayud and installed his cousin instead.
How’s that for politicizing the military?

Thaksin wanted his cousin Chaisit to get hands on military run Channel 5, taking control of it and listing it on stock exchange. That met with a strong resistance and Chaisit led a mini war on Channel 5 board, firing one director after another. In the meantime the govt had a daily program there extolling the virtues of Thaksin initiated projects. They usually only cover the activities of the royal family, not currying flavors with the government of the day.

In the end Chaisit wasn’t able to achieve anything and Thaksin removed him after only a year, replacing him with another favorite, Pravit, current Defence Minister.

I don’t know what Prem thought of Channel 5 shenanigans, perhaps he was more offended by “official” reason for Syrayud’s removal – disagreement over dealing with Burma and drug traffickers. Surayud took a tough stand and approved of engaging UWSA in sporadic combat, while Thaksin reversed his earlier chest pounding and decided to fight the drugs inside Thailand instead.

Either way, Surayud was immediately appointed to Privy Council.

Then came the South.

Thaksin dismantled SPBAC, the joint military/local leaders body that was credited with keeping peace in three provinces after previous upsurge in violence. decades ago. That was a blow to Prem’s network there, and SPBAC chief was again promptly appointed to Privy Council. Several months later violence erupted. At some point I recall Thaksin blamed former SPBAC members for fueling the violence but I can’t find any sources now. As situation worsened, Thaksin heavy handed approach was again at odds with what Prem promoted in his speeches on the South. Thaksin never acknowlded any wrongdoings there and he never acknowledged any legitimate grievances that muslims might have while Prem begged for understanding and inclusion (not autonomy or dual language, though).

If there was traditional Thai state at fault there, Thaksin was the face of it, not the “elites” and Prem.

Later on there was another “elite” attempt at solving the problems, headed by Anand. Thaksin again dismissed him in the end. He dismissed even his own appointee Chaturon’s views, but let’s stick to “elites”.

My point being that whatever beed Prem and “elites” might have had with Thaksin, it was all based on issues, and the “elites” were in the right – more progressive, more understanding, more caring. Those were the days when Thaksin also denounced the UN and democracy in general.

It’s absolute, unfounded nonsense that he was opposed for improving lives of Isanese and the poor.

I agree with “I was being popular” charge only in so far as he tried to use it in his final fight with Prem.

Again, look at how the situation developed. Shin sale triggered massive protests, I suspect Prem, or some other elites, approved of Thaksin’s snap elections plan, but then it backfired when Democrats and others boycotted it (so much for elites pulling the strings of Democrat puppets). Regardless, the high “no vote” count was enough to force Thaksin to visit HM the King in Hua Hin and later that evening Thaksin publicly resigned, on TV, with tears in his eyes.

How could anyone accuse “elites” of fighting for self-preservation then? Nobody did, it was bloody obvious that who advised Thaksin to step down did it following strong and massive public discontent.

That would have been the end of it, except six weeks later Thaksin came back with the vengeance. He unceremoniously went back on his word, presumably given in Hua Hin, then he gathered top bureaucrats and government officials and declared a war on Prem. Several days later Prem gave his famous “government is a jokey” speech, and it all went downhill from there.

That’s when “the elites fight me because I’m too popular” idea was planted in public minds. Prior to that PAD supporters were the enemies, for being urban and educated, not the elites and unconstitutional powers and invisible hands. War on elites was never part of Thaksin’s lexicon then, but now it’s the only way he describes his enemies, completely ignoring people’s protests that unsettled his administration in the first place.

Commentators and observers who picked up on Thaksin’s new agenda and ignore the not so distant history are just being gullible, and that’s all I can say about them for the moment.