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Down and Out in Thailand
They really do, do it! And they are hard at work.
Sukumvit Road, the main commercial artery of the capital, is totally blocked. ‘Protesters’ are camped in the middle of it, basically taking it over, their tents, shops and eateries are spread all over the pavement.
In most true capitalist societies it would never come to this. Local businessmen, the city administration and the government by now would be worried silly about all those huge losses – of hundreds of millions of dollars disappearing because of the irresponsible actions of the ultra-conservative minority political movement.
Would this occur in London, Paris or New York, police would have already moved in a long time ago, maybe even the army, and beat up hundreds of people, and arrested perhaps thousands.
And in Bangkok itself, it was done several years ago, and in a much more horrible way, when the Red Shirts (those who are now practically running the government after winning elections again and again) were massacred in the middle of the night, when the pro-elites, pro-feudal and pro-Western government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (born in England, and educated at Eton College and Oxford University) began using snipers to blow out people’s brains.
Were Thailand to be some sort of ‘mature capitalist society’, things would have been a bit different. Not great, not good, but different…
But Thailand is the land of rumors and long silences, of unpronounced threats. And Thailand is not capitalist, not yet, far from it. Like the Philippines and Indonesia, it is a deeply feudal society, which has never really managed to reform itself, nor to progress. Don’t be fooled by the boutiques, five star hotels and luxury restaurants. Don’t think that Bangkok’s cosmopolitan flair is something that has managed to change Thai society to its core.
Thailand has always ‘served’ those, whoever, that came. Be it the Japanese or Americans, or now the millions of foreigners that descend on the capital city for a variety of reasons.
Foreigners want their Latin American salsa clubs and traditional Indian eateries: and here they can have them and enjoy them! But there is still very little mingling between the locals and outsiders, and even when there is some contact, (at workplaces or during the ‘client/service provider exchanges’) real dialogue between the cultures is not common.
True changes, Latin American revolutions, the fight against imperialism – all these are unknown, totally foreign terms in Bangkok and in the provinces.
Here, things are mostly done because ‘they are profitable’. Thailand is very pragmatic.
It was the same during the Vietnam War, when Thai airports were converted and expanded or built from scratch, to serve their neo-colonial masters. Millions of sorties were flown against Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, spreading death and destruction all over the region. Millions of innocent men, women and children were massacred because of these airports, with Thai staff servicing them, even getting into the cockpits.
Then it was not about ‘morality’ or about what one actually believed (the West’s fight against progress or against Communism): it was absolutely simple, practical. Air force bases were ‘good business’ for the elites. And if the price had to be counted in millions of human lives, so be it! Thais have always had an enormously high opinion of themselves, of their worth. Such an opinion clearly borders on racism. Therefore, if the millions who were dying (while Thailand was getting richer) were foreigners, and especially Khmers, Vietnamese or Laotians, then what was there to worry about?
Tens of thousands of young girls, even children, were brought from the North to Pattaya and to other bases, in order to ‘service’ those foreign men, who were so busy implementing Kissinger’s dogma of using ‘all that flies against all that moves’ (read, massacring millions of civilians).
Girls were not allowed to say ‘no’, because of the structure of Thai feudal society and its medieval family structure. Here, girls in the countryside could not say ‘no’ to their fathers, who could easily decide whether their children stay at home or leave home, even whether they should go and prostitute themselves, to send money back to the family.
And the most feared and revered ‘father’ was that man whose name we cannot even mention, that’s if we want to stay out of prison.
He was born in the United States, brought back, implanted into Thailand, when the institution of the monarchy by then had almost disappeared as a real force and as an alternative. The West needed him. It generously rewarded him and lifted him up to a divine level.
From then on, it was all ‘unconditional love’, between the Western regimes of neo-colonialism and this old twisted Southeast Asian culture. A culture that helped to spread terror all over the region, a culture that burnt people alive in oil barrels (those members of its own left-wing opposition, its own progressive youth).
It was a culture that had been massacring its own students, shooting them on the streets, or in the murky waters of the river near the Thammasat University in Bangkok. It was a culture that ‘survived’ several military coups with no major soul-searching afterwards, and with almost no criticism coming from abroad. This culture ruling over a country with a higher per capita homicide rate than the United States; but dubbed by the mainstream Western media and Western propagandists as ‘The Land Of smiles”.
This, one of the most feudal systems in Asia, was glorified as a democracy, while the man at the top (one of the richest monarchs in the world), was only described by the disciplined Western press as a ‘revered’ demi-god, and, a ruler ‘loved by his people’.
So what is really happening now in Bangkok?
It is simple, but it is not supposed to be spoken about.
Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Thai Prime Minister, a business tycoon of Chinese origin, committed the most unforgivable crime in the eyes of the Thai elites: Some years back he actually attempted to convert Thailand from a backward feudal nation, into some sort of a modern capitalist state.
Which, under the circumstances, was actually an attempt to move his nation forward.
Mr. Shinawatra was not an angel, and when he was in power, I criticised him on several occasions. He ‘cleaned’ the Bangkok streets of homeless people, moving them to the suburbs. He was brutal towards the Muslim minority in the South. He was a real business tycoon.
But, he did some things, unimaginable anywhere in the region, except in Singapore and to some extent, Malaysia.
He introduced universal health care, virtually free, and excellent. He reformed education dramatically and so well that many of my friends, left-wing educators, were actually deeply impressed. He began housing the poor.
The elites in Bangkok hated this. The majority of them are not just after profits. They need to feel exceptional. They need ‘respect’. They need admiration and fear. They need weak, prostrated people; they need their feet to be kissed. They need to feel that the majority of the nation exists only in order to please them.
While Mr. Shinawatra knew that Thailand can only compete on the world stage and succeed, if its people are well fed, are healthy, educated and enjoying at least some of the basic privileges that are taken for granted in places like Singapore, Japan and Korea.
But the elites felt that if the ‘plebs’ got all those privileges, the gap between them would shrink, an unimaginable and most horrifying outcome!
And so they forced Mr. Shinawatra out from office, from Thailand, and in the end, they massacred those that demanded his return.
The Red Shirts they shot at actually consisted of individuals and movements as far apart as the Communists, and the moderate, pragmatic business folks. There were maids, peasants, as well as technicians and engineers in their ranks.
The massacres resolved nothing.
Soon it became obvious that the Reds represented the majority of Thais. Pro-Shinawatra and pro-reform forces kept winning election after election, democratically.
Then, a charismatic Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, became the Prime Minister, following the 2011 general election.
The elites and the army, as well as the ‘revered father’, could not allow this course of action. People deciding the fate of the nation is something insane, even monstrous to them. And they are not hiding their thoughts; it is all in the open.
And here we are. Sukumvit Street blocked, every major intersection converted into a dormitory for the demonstrators. There are speeches and concerts. And there are also thousands of thugs, ‘controlling’ traffic and access to public places.
The iconic Bangkok Art and Cultural Center is closed down. No wonder, culture is dangerous. When the Red Shirts occupied this area in 2010, BACC was wide open.
Two days ago, ‘protesters’ blocked people from voting in a pre-election round. Photos showed one man, a potential voter, being almost strangled to death.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the elections would take place on February 2nd. Protesters have declared that they will boycott them, and do all they can to disrupt them.
One speaker after another is declaring that ‘Thailand is not ready for democracy’, and suggesting that the country should first be governed by technocrats. “Otherwise the present government will keep winning”. And that is, of course, ‘unacceptable’.
It is clear that the present government is going to win again. Of course it will. People are not cattle. They know perfectly well that they have had all those feudal elites, ‘up to here’.
To show the real state of marasmus in which Thailand exists, the army is sending messages that the possibility of yet another coup, should not be excluded.
So read well: if people vote for the existing government, there will most likely be a coup. The opposition will not accept the results, instead, suggesting openly and publicly, the abolishing of democracy. And the West is listening to this crap, and is doing nothing to encourage one of its closest allies, in fact its client state, to come back to its senses. Or more precisely, to discipline its collaborators, that fraction of Thai society, that is sucking blood from the open veins of the country.
“If the army takes over the capital, this time we will fight”, I was told by my contact in the North, who did not want to be identified. “People will descend on Bangkok. This would be one coup too many… Thais will not allow this to happen. Enough is enough!”
A manager of one of the international hotel chains operating in Bangkok, Joseph Yamdee, explained:
“I am sure that someone very big is behind all this. It is all organized so perfectly well. The guards and those who are sleeping on the streets; almost all of them are from the South. It is said that they are being paid 500 Baht per day (US$15). There is everything in place at the sites: huge electric generators, food and medical supplies.”
I asked Mr. Yamdee, what impact had Shinawatra’s reforms on his hotel chain had, on the employees, on the life of ordinary people in Thailand?
“Huge”, he replied. “The minimum wage was elevated to US$300 dollars a month. For instance, the receptionists used to make that amount in the past, and most of the receptionists belong to the middle class. We matched the wages of the cleaning ladies, to comply with the new minimum wage regulation, so suddenly everybody was making the same amount of money. Of course that was unacceptable for those who came from wealthy families… You see, it was not about receptionists making less money, but about others, those from the lower class, suddenly making the same wages.”
Mr. Thon, one of the owners of café Bake & Brew, at the Bangkok Creative Design Center, commented:
“Now everything is closing down early. We used to be open late, but now we shut down at 7pm. People are scared. I am against Shinawatra. I don’t want him to come back, although I can accept this government, the one led by his sister. But whatever I think about Shinawatra, I absolutely reject this blocking of elections, and bringing Bangkok to a full stop.”
“Shut Down Bangkok!” the slogans all around the city shout.
There is clear impunity in the air.
The army is waiting. The elites are waiting. The government is scared. One false move, and there will be a military coup.
At the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, the mood has been subdued. As always, almost nobody here would openly criticize the local elites, the Thai military or the monarchy. All three are fully allied to Western interests.
Instead of daily press conferences, the FCCT was showing, on January 27, a BBC film about the child-victims of the Syrian conflict. That was one day after ‘protesters’ blocked access to several polling stations.
Bangkok is part of this bizarre new type of ‘rebellions’, simultaneously and very suspiciously taking place all over the world: Syria, Egypt, Ukraine and Thailand – everything appears to be inter-connected.
It is definitely not a set of uprisings that are supposed to improve the lives in all those above-mentioned countries. Instead it appears that these are events sponsored from abroad and their only goal is to bring politically, religiously or economically oppressive or regressive regimes to power: Mubarak and the military in Egypt, jihadi pro-Saudi cadres in Syria, pro-business and pro-Western market fundamentalists in Ukraine and now this feudal clique in Thailand trying to survive by all means.
What is striking is how uneducated, how ignorant the Western crowd visiting this city is. European tourists pose in front of posters, admiringly grinning at the ‘protesters’. They have no clue what they are witnessing. And it appears that they have lost all interest, all curiosity about what is behind the propaganda with which they are being bombarded, day and night, from their own Western mass media.
Now Bangkok is getting ready for a showdown.
The depressing and oppressive feudal forces, all of them backed, paid and ‘educated’ by the West, are blackmailing that embryonic, fragile Thai democracy.
It is a really bizarre spectacle: A legitimate government, elected by the people, is too scared to strike back at hordes of paid thugs.
It is sickening. Once again, local elites are raping the country, in broad daylight, in front of the world. But suddenly there is nobody to say it. The local press and the international mass media are presently deep in thought, at how to package this shameful act, without insulting the sensitive Western regime and its local collaborators.
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.