Occupy Bangkok’s quest to de-Thaksinize Thailand
Jan 23, 2014
Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City and the founder of StopImperialism.com.
As hundreds of thousands of protesters fill the streets of Bangkok demanding the ouster of the Shinawatra government, the Western media continue their one-sided portrayal of events in Thailand, misrepresenting the protests as anti-democratic.
On January 13, 2014, the largest Thai protests in decades officially came together under the banner ‘Occupy Bangkok’. Demanding an end to the regime of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, the protesters, who come from all social classes and all walks of life, have essentially brought the Bangkok metropolis to a standstill.
Filling the major boulevards and public spaces, Occupy Bangkok has come to represent more than a mere political uprising, it is a social movement aiming to rid the country of its corrupt leadership and restore some semblance of true democracy to Thailand.
Of course, the Western corporate media puts forward a very different narrative. Rather than a legitimate struggle against the current government, Occupy Bangkok is being framed as an assault on democracy by “royalists” intent upon restoring the traditional elite to power.
The disingenuousness of such an absurd narrative aside, the international media portrayal of events in Thailand is instructive, as it demonstrates unequivocally the way in which finance capital is attempting to use every weapon at its disposal to crush a burgeoning social movement.
Corporate media and the Thaksin mythology
In covering the Occupy Bangkok movement, some of the most prominent media outlets have engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign designed to portray Thaksin Shinawatra, his sister and proxy Yingluck (the present prime minister), and their supporters as “defenders of democracy.”
In a TIME magazine article from Thursday January 16, 2014 deceptively titled ‘Bangkok Shutdown: Yingluck Supporters Prepare to Fight for Democracy’ the author writes, “Thaksin-backed parties have won the last five elections based upon huge support in Thailand’s rural northeast, where populist policies are credited for bringing millions out of poverty. However, Thaksin remains anathema to royalists and the traditional elite of Bangkok and the southern provinces, who accuse him of flagrant vote-buying…The opposition wants an unelected people’s council to replace the democratically chosen legislature for a period of up to two years, in order to usher through a series of reforms designed to permanently nullify Thaksin’s power.”
The article attempts to demonize the anti-Thaksin opposition by association with ‘royalists’ and ‘traditional elite’ in order to create the illusion that, rather than a genuine social movement, the protests are counter-revolutionary and reactionary in nature. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In reality, the opposition seeks to rid itself and the country of a political machine financed and controlled from abroad. Naturally the opposition, like political opposition in any country, seeks to gain political power. However, this in no way negates the legitimacy of their grievances or of those of the masses on the streets.
One of the principal talking points in the dominant Western media narrative has been that the Thaksin/Yingluck Shinawatra government is pro-democracy because it insists upon elections in the near term as a means of “resolving the crisis.” This is an utterly laughable notion considering that, by the party’s own reckoning, it is merely the proxy of Thaksin, who runs the day-to-day operations from abroad after having fled the country rather than face corruption and abuse of power charges.