Monday, April 13, 2009
So, finally, a death....
It had to happen ... someone finally died in the riots. Is it the glorious martyr the red shirts have been looking for since this morning, when they went to the hospital to fetch the body of their noble comrade felled in the struggle, only to discover that person alive and well? Alas, no; it appears to be someone they themselves shot ... a fellow member of the proletariat who had the temerity to not want a bunch of thugs hanging around their neighborhood. It must be pretty annoying for them: a senseless tragedy to be sure, but one they cannot even exploit?
Though doubtless there will be propaganda on all sides, I tend to believe that this version of the story is true since we see the relatives of the slain person on TV asking the government's advice on whether they will be able to sue the organizers of the protest for compensatory and punitive damages.
I've finally been catching the international coverage of all this. Though of course it concentrates on the sensationalistic aspects of it all, CNN's coverage has gradually become more balanced over the course of the day and towards evening Jim Clancy started actually trying to squeeze real answers out of Thaksin, questions which he squirmingly dodged. Alas, giving Thaksin such a platform allowed him to propagate a number of jaw-droppingly untrue statements. Still, it was good that CNN showed the Thai army only firing into the air while the protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and set buses on fire as the pictures accompanying Thaksin's statement that these red shirts were fighting only with their bare hands. This was more eloquent even than Clancy's haranguing.
Mild-mannered, intellectual and thoroughly European in his world view, Abhisit is not a very effective poster boy for Fascism, I'm afraid. Though I was doubtful it would work, I'm beginning to think that he might actually get away with being reasonable. That would be a landmark in Thai politics. I think that what triggered the red shirt riots is perfectly clear: Abhisit's fragile coalition was actually starting to work. Things were actually improving. Thailand was about to like the democrat party. If the Thaksinites didn't act now, they might not be able to get a mob up in a couple of months ... especially since the Abhisit regime was continuing and even expanding its investment in the provinces of the pro-Thaksin heartland. The country was even starting to smell like a democracy. Just as it did, very briefly, in 1973-6.
Now all this progress has gone to shit.
A clip has been circulating from one of Thaksin's phone-ins. In it, he appears to accidentally let slip the fact that the protesters were each paid 500 baht. Oddly enough, my maid says they were only paying people 200. Well, you can buy a mob, even a very big mob, but you can't buy democracy.