Bangkok – Assault on Democracy – Photo Special

The attempt by a small number of predominantly right-wing, conservative Bangkokians supported by the country’s second oldest political party*, the Democrat Party,¬† to suspend democracy in Thailand and install their own unelected “people’s committee” under the guise of ridding the country of the “Thaksin regime” has seen political fervour reach a level not seen since the 2010 protests by the¬†United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) aka the red-shirts, which ended with a military crackdown on protesters which saw more than 90 people including two foreign journalists killed and more than 2,000 people injured.

While some people have been quick to draw a parallel between the 2009 and 2010 red-shirt protests the difference is diametrically opposite to what is happening now.

In 2009 and 2010 the UDD were protesting for elections after the prime ministership and government were “stolen” via a simple vote of lower house MPs ‚Äì some of who crossed the floor of parliament to join with the Opposition ‚Äì after Thailand’s Constitutional Court dissolved the People’s Power Party which had won the 2007 general elections due to vote-buying by one of it’s MPs, after having earlier stripped Samak Sundaravej of the prime ministership for hosting a television cooking show.

The protests this time are about suspending the right for Thailand’s 66 million people to elect their own government as they¬† have done 26 times since the end of absolute monarchy rule in 1932 following “an almost bloodless “revolution”” on the morning of 24 June 1932 which culminated in King Prajadhipok, Rama VII, granting suffrage.

Ahead of the “uprising” King Rama VII had already began down the path of democracy and the decentralisation of power, though his plans were opposed by those in his inner circle including American Francis Bowes Sayre, Sr., a Harvard Law School graduate and a son-in-law of former US president Woodrow Wilson.

At the time the reasons given for opposing democracy and the peoples right to elect their own government were that the Thai population was politically immature and not yet ready for democracy –  the same cries that are being heard today in the concerted effort being made to kill democracy in Thailand.

The protests first began in August when the little known People‚Äôs Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot) staged a rally on the edge of Bangkok’s Lumphini Park where the red-shirts had erected a massive bamboo and tyre barricade in 2010 and the same place where Royal Thai Army (RTA) (‡∏Ň∏≠‡∏á‡∏ó‡∏±‡∏û‡∏ö‡∏Å) specialist, Major-General Khattiya Sawatdiphon (‡∏LJ∏±‡∏ï‡∏ï‡∏¥‡∏¢‡∏∞ ‡∏™‡∏߇∏±‡∏™‡∏î‡∏¥‡∏ú‡∏•), affectionately known as ‚ÄòSeh Daeng (‡πć∏™‡∏ò.‡πŇ∏î‡∏á)‚Äô or ‚Äòcommander red‚Äô, was shot dead by an unidentified sniper in 2010 against a proposed amnesty bill for political protesters the ruling Pheu Thai Party (PTP) was planning on tabling in parliament¬† .

This was followed by a token protest rally supported by the Democrat Party when the document was tabled. After passing through an examination committee the bill returned to parliament for it’s second and third reading substantially different than the originally tabled document.

Red Sunday, a red-shirt splinter group led by Sombat Boongamanong were the first to stage protests about the changes, which would have seen all people involved in political unrest including protest leaders, soldiers, and authorities from 2004 up to August 6 of this year exonerated, but excluded those charged or convicted of lèse-majesté offences arising from those protests.

Groups vehemently opposed to the return and pardoning of former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra began holding Bangkok and regional protests, while a whistle-blowing campaign in the heart of the business district by those opposed to the blanket amnesty bill along with wide-spread condemnation saw the government beat a face-losing retreat, offering up all but the souls of their future heirs in an attempt to prove sincerity, that it would not proceed with the bill either now or in the future.

However, along the way the genuine wide-spread opposition to a law that was unjust and merely continued the moral transgressions of previous Thailand governments was hijacked by well-prepared, well funded, opportunistic forces of evil who artfully channelled a peoples movement against a bad law into a peoples movement against the government.

The dissolution of parliament and the scheduling of a fresh Thailand general election on February 2, 2014 has failed to satisfy the anti-democracy protesters, led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who say that surrender of total power to run Thailand to them is the only option, with open and veiled threats having been made to the safety and future of the Shinawatra family should this not occur.

Along the way various claims, accusations and demands have been made with the common thread running through them all being that the majority of Thai people are not ready for democracy as it operates in Thailand and that overall they are to stupid to chose their own government due to rampant vote buying by political parties, primarily the ruling PTP.

Therefore democracy should be suspended in Thailand for up to 14 months to allow an unelected “people’s council” to make the necessary changes in place to rid the country of corruption and remove “the Thaksin regime”.

Various deadlines and targets have been set over the past 140 days (to date) and along the way the following photographs have been collected as part of the coverage The Establishment Post, which I currently hold the title of deputy editor and Thailand & GMS editor on, has given to these unfolding events.

Due to the nature of The Establishment Post, one that focuses on “policies, not politics – governance, not government”, many of the photos documenting these events have gone unused.

They are presented here to illustrate events as they have unfolded on each of the major days and will be added to as future events unfold. The images here were taken with a mix of photographic equipment comprising hi-res digital SLRs, a tablet, a hi-res pocket camera and our new camera in the sky #TepCam (Ed. Twitter hashtag)

For more photos, analysis, editorials and reports on the ongoing anti-democracy threat in Thailand, or Thailand business, governance orindustry matters follow The Establishment Post on Twitter at @EstabPost, read its Facebook page TheEstablishmentPost or to receive email alerts of new stories (only one mailing per day) and access to archived stories more than three months old subscribe for free here.

* Thailand first listed political party was the Khana Ratsadon (Eng: Peoples Party; Thai: คณะราษฎร) which mounted the 1932 democracy uprising that saw King Rama VII grant suffrage to the Thailand people.

**Some images have been digitally altered in order to comply with Thailand’s l√®se-majest√© laws. Clicking any photo will launch a slide show from that point in the page onwards. To view all photos on a page in a continuous slide show select the first image on the page. For website performance reasons the number of photos on any page is limited to 50.

Ends:
© John Le Fevre, 2013

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August 4, 2013 РPeople’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot) rally @ Lumphini Park

August 7, 2013 – Protest against tabling of original draft amnesty bill – about 300 protesters

October 27, 2013 – Red Sunday kick off the first protest against the blanket amnesty bill

November 5 – Protesters move to Democracy Monument to protest blanket amnesty bill

November 6 – Daily whistle blowing campaign in Silom Rd., against blanket amnesty bill

November 13 РDay 1 of a call for a 3 day national shut-down – that everyone ignored

See what happened next —>>

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John Le Fevre

Deputy editor, Thailand & GMS editor at The Establishment Post

John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 35 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and copy editor.

He is currently deputy editor and Thailand / GMS region editor for The Establishment Post

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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