Road to victory is red
Two years after the bloody crackdown on May 19, 2010, Thaksin Shinawatra is on the road to victory, one that is paved by blood, death and political intrigue, engineered by both sides of the political divide and the finishing line has little to do with democracy.
The Thai political landscape since the September 2006 coup has been shaped by intrigue and injustice, more so than usual. In February, 2010, the red shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) once again gathered. They demanded a general election. They had every democratic right to do so.
What followed was a two-month siege of Bangkok, but a peaceful, democratic protest soon flirted with the extremes. One step into the extreme always leads to another more extreme step and eventually open rebellion.
Painting then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's residence red with human blood was stepping into the extreme. But extremes are required otherwise a demonstration is likely to go unnoticed. Holding concerts in Sanam Luang would not have achieved any political aims.
Storming the Thaicom satellite station was also an extreme act, but government troops had shut down the red shirt People's Channel. An extreme situation required an extreme measure.
The illegal occupation of Ratchaprasong district caused, according to reports, as many as 100,000 people to be out of work, and many to go bankrupt. The irony is that the movement for democracy trampled on the basic human rights of others. But even in this, sympathetic observers can empathise and reason that an extreme situation required an extreme measure.
However, extreme measures would eventually be met with extreme reactions.
At Phan Fah Bridge, troops clashed with protesters. Twenty-five people were killed and more than 800 injured, five of whom were members of security forces. Extreme measures went beyond acceptable bounds, and both sides were guilty.
By May 3, 2010, Mr Abhisit proposed to dissolve parliament in September and hold an election on Nov 14, if the protesters were willing to stand down. The UDD had achieved its objective. Extreme measures worked out for them. They got what they came for. UDD leaders announced their acceptance of the terms. They told Thailand and the world they were setting a date for disbanding their demonstration.
Then they changed their minds.
Some argued the reason was that UDD leaders didn't want to face criminal charges against them. Some argued that UDD leaders wanted government and army leaders to face criminal charges also. Some argued that Thaksin made the call because given the public mood a November election might not go in his favour. Some argued that Mr Abhisit was lying.
In any case, democracy was sacrificed, whether due to fear of criminal charges, a vendetta against the government and army leaders, personal political interests, or mistrust. And the red shirts supported their leaders in ignoring democracy. The irony of it.
The struggle was evidently less about democracy, and more about personalities.
So it was a stalemate, senseless and aimless. Meanwhile, Bangkok was fast disintegrating into a state of anarchy; every day bullets were exchanged and bombs . Instead of democracy, there was anarchy. Law and order must be restored. The law must be swift, severe and certain, otherwise there is anarchy. In Thailand, the law is often slow, soft and uncertain, except when it concerns lese majeste. Hence, criminals enjoy trampling on the law in a country often called lawless, even without this red uprising.
Facing anarchy and an open rebellion, the government asked the UDD leadership to send home the civilians before government troops moved in to make arrests. Nobody wished to go home. Government troops moved in on May 19 to arrest law breakers. The UDD resisted with violence, a bloody and unfortunate crackdown ensued at the hands of the authorities; Bangkok and provincial city halls burned at the hands of red shirts.
Two years and 91 dead bodies later, the UDD still believe they have the right to break laws and resist arrest without repercussions, a democratic movement continuing to display anarchist behaviour, believing they are above the law. Inciters of violence and people who break the law must be punished, but instead their leaders sit in parliament.
Under the emergency decree, government troops are not legally liable for their actions. But the law must also be just, or it is not democratic. An emergency decree should not excuse wanton violence. Justice must be served. Those found to have used excessive violence must be punished, but none are. The mysterious men in black should be identified and brought to justice, but none will be.
True justice is the same for both sides; swift, severe and certain. Instead, we have two children on the playground, arguing, ''You respect the law first!'' ''No, you first!'' ''No, you first!'' ''No, I won't if you don't!'' ''Well then, I won't either!''
Consequently, two years and 91 dead bodies later, the law continues to be slow, soft and uncertain, except where lese majeste is concerned. Instead the hate is swift, severe and certainly perpetuating, with cries of injustice screamed and acts of injustice committed by both sides of the political divide. The irony of it.
The death and destruction was unfortunate and tragic. It could have and should have all been avoided. But that didn't happen. Justice must be served, but that is not going to happen either. The DSI might have linked 25 deaths to the military, but that is stating the obvious, understating it in fact. The question is, will anyone put the handcuffs on the generals? The DSI's findings were just for show. It is this hatred that helps keep the UDD going strong, in their actions and in the streets. This is what helped the Pheu Thai Party to victory in the July 2011 general election and helps build the red villages. It is this hatred of Thailand's traditional elites that will pave Thaksin's road to victory.
The bungles sadly and comically committed by the Yingluck Shinawatra administration don't matter. These can't compare with the cries of ''You killed 91 people'' _ never mind that those deaths also included soldiers. The approval rating of PM Yingluck is still the envy of any national leader. This struggle is not about democracy; it's about the hate for them and the love for us.
He who controls the national budget controls national destiny, and his name is Thaksin. Every region, province, town, district, village and house wants a taste of the 2.4 trillion budget bill that will be debated in parliament this coming week _ as they should, everyone is entitled.
Thaksin once famously said that those provinces that didn't vote for him should not expect anything from him. But he should be wiser now. The national budget could be used as an incentive for more of Thailand to bow to Thaksin.
The once powerful political parties/factions and their mighty overlords have all been effectively swallowed up by Pheu Thai. Red villages are mushrooming; one is even being built in Songkhla province, the southern heartland of the Democrats. Whether by accident or design, hates and the injustices are to the benefit of Thaksin _ a true opportunist knows how to capitalise, and a businessman who isn't an opportunist is a bankrupt businessman.
His sister makes for an ideal brand ambassador, to be adored, defended and championed by most red shirts. His best people _ whose political bans will be lifted at month's end _ are set to take charge, officially. UDD leaders, inciters of violence, sit in parliament. Other political parties and players have become but convenient pawns. Invasion of the stronghold of the Democrats has begun. The 2.4 trillion baht budget is a cake that everyone wants to taste.
By this time next year, our PM could very well be someone holding a Montenegro passport. Many would argue that this is the unavoidable next step in the evolution of Thai politics _ one extreme leading to another. Bumpy it will be and unless there's a U-turn ahead somewhere, this is the road to victory. This is not about right or wrong, this is about who plays the better game, and has more luck on their side.
Of one thing we can be sure; the law will be swifter, severer and more certain under Thaksin, if his past record as prime minister is anything to go by. As far as justice is concerned however, we would have to go by his human rights record.
Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bangkok Post columnist
Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.