Ready to topple a govt, Or not
Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit claimed the police were trying to incite violence in order to justify a crackdown, thereby stomping on a peaceful and democratic protest.
Jatuporn Prompan claimed the Pitak Siam group was trying to incite violence to provoke a police crackdown and thereby bring military intervention that would topple the Pheu Thai-led government.
Who makes more sense?
I would like democracy to be the standard measurement of all words and actions, but to cite the term "democracy" as if it is the be-all and end-all would be naive and in gross ignorance of the uglier realities of the world.
In the ugly reality, there's no surer way to achieve a goal, or lose a goal, than through _ in the words of Alex in A Clockwork Orange _ a "bit of the old ultra-violence".
Get as many people to show up as possible, provoke violent clashes with the authorities, create chaos in the streets, and then of course the military would have a reason to intervene.
I'm not saying that this is the plan of Pitak Siam. Buddha forbid, Gen Boonlert would never stoop so low. I'm only saying that it is the surest and shortest way to attain the goal of toppling the government.
But the Pheu Thai Party and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) are not going to fall into the trap so easily. Pheu Thai instructed the police to hold back the batons. UDD leaders cautioned all factions and members to stay away from the rally.
Of course, there was an incident early yesterday morning in which police fired tear gas into the crowd. There were scuffles and both sides suffered injuries. I am pretty sure the commander in charge of the incident took quite a tongue-lashing from the brass for falling into the trap, however briefly.
But that was yesterday and it was only one day.
To move a nation, to topple a government, one has to show organisation and resolve, and be willing to go the extra mile.
The UDD has the support of the savviest marketing machine in the country. Their funding comes from some of the richest people in the country. Their organisational hierarchy is made up of tried-and-true professional agitators who have the hearts and minds of their supporters. They showed the resolution to dig in and conduct running battles for two months. To this day, they can still mobilise tens of thousands if and when the call is sent out.
That is why, through ups and downs, bombings and burnings, uprisings and crackdowns, prisons and Cambodian holidays, their leaders now sit in the government.
It was perhaps too easy six years ago for another group, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). They marched a few times, and the tanks rolled in. It was relatively by-the-book for them in 2008. They stormed Government House and occupied Suvarnabhumi airport, and then the court passed the verdict to disband Thaksin's People's Power Party.
Things were indeed more difficult for the UDD in 2009 and 2010, but they found a way to win at the voting booths in 2011. Opponents can cry vote-buying all they like, but no one is going to wipe their tears. This column doesn't take sides, I'm just telling it as it is.
If Gen Boonlert and Pitak Siam want to topple the democratically elected government through any means, including by provoking violence, the question is: Do they have the organisation and the resolve to do it?
Everyone can make dumb mistakes. But surely the only plan is not just to count on Pheu Thai and the UDD to fall into the trap, is it?
Having asked that question, allow me to also point out that we should never underestimate man's abilities to go where no dumbass has gone before and forge new boundaries of dumbness.
In Thailand, there are six years in particular and 80 years in general of lessons on how to topple a government, democratically or otherwise. Study them carefully. Learn from them.
Gen Boonlert kept saying that if certain numbers were not met, he would call off the rally. In the end, he didn't. But this is hardly showing resolve; it rather seems like he was looking for a way out.
There are many ways to topple a democratically elected government.
Spread propaganda against the government, combine fact, fiction and pure imagination, shaken and stirred; launch campaign after campaign, peaceful rally after peaceful rally. Persuade and convince, manipulate and dupe as many people as possible _ in the spirit of democracy the world over, after all _ so that when the next general election rolls around in about three years, you might have enough people to vote out the present regime.
Or, if you are so impatient, you might simply march, yell and scream all day, every day, until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra can't take the aggravation any more, because aggravation causes wrinkles. She might dissolve parliament and call for a fresh round of elections.
Or, you might pressure your representatives in parliament, the men and women you have elected, to vote against the government in the censure debate. Get the majority of them to vote your way, then we might have a new government.
Or, you might gather evidence of corruption, vote-buying or other illegal activities, including alleged plots to overthrow the monarchy. Present the evidence to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
If you don't trust the DSI, go directly to the courts, the Constitution Court to be precise, and put pressure on the judicial system to pass a verdict against the government.
There are possibly other legal ways to topple a democratically elected government, but I'm no legal expert. If you want it done badly enough, there are plenty of academics and lawyers out there to tear through every letter and every loophole in the constitution and every book of laws ever written in the Kingdom of Thailand to find ways and means to bring the ruling Pheu Thai Party down.
If you have exhausted all means and still fail to topple the government, it only means one thing: democracy has decided against you. But don't be sad, the beauty of democracy is that all day, every day you can still march and pressure, collect evidence and spread propaganda. And every four years you can still vote. One day you just might win, democratically.
"But if the police bully us, I'm going to call in the soldiers!" said Gen Boonlert. Hold on now, wait a second, my dear general, you don't want to win democratically, do you?
If the police bully, or use violence against the protesters, then yes there should be justice. Conduct an investigation and bring evidence to the court. But to scream "bring in the soldiers" is rather, shall we say, undemocratic.
Saying he would love to see a military coup, suggesting Thailand should be put in a five-year freeze and threatening to unleash the might of the military _ these are the words and actions of a man who suffers from tyrannical tendencies.
This is someone who would prefer to see civil war in the streets rather than rely on the process of democracy. If I didn't know better I would say he learned this philosophy from the man in Dubai.
But as irony would have it, democracy thus far is still deciding in the favour of the man in Dubai. That's why people are getting so impatient with democracy.
Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bangkok Post columnist
Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.