Saturday, April 28, 2007

Naomi Wolf in The Huffington Post Via 2Bangkok: Creeping Towards Fascism with the Thai Coup as Exhibit A

Ten Step to Close Down a Free Society

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

2 Create a gulag

3 Develop a thug caste

4 Set up an internal surveillance system

5 Harass citizens' groups

6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release

7 Target key individuals

8 Control the press

9 Dissent equals treason

10 Suspend the rule of law

She is referring to the recent American experience with the Bush administration. But it is frightening that she uses the Thai coup as an example of a society that has already slipped into fascism.

Of course some of my detractors will say that a military coup and tearing up a constitution is justified if that will eliminate their political enemies. Not only that, they could care less if the military dictatorship is worse than their boogeyman, Thaksin. The hypocrites could care less that their beloved junta is corrupt, lacks accountability, and has no democratic legitimacy.

In other words, they prefer fascism to liberal democracy. Guess what? I am glad I am on the right side, morally, intellectually and philosophically.

But, of course, the hypocrites will say that a coup and tearing up the constitution is less of a crime than the alleged corruption of one politician. Which is a worse crime? Treason or alleged corruption?

Of course, my detractors will say that treason is the lesser crime, which proves to me that the other side is composed of real intellectual giants.


Anonymous said...

Well, Hitler justified fascism by saying it was neccesary to eliminate communism. We know how effective those arguments are...

hobby said...

Some definitions I have seen of 'treason' are:
- the crime of disloyalty to one's nation
- violation of allegiance toward one's country or sovereign
- a betrayal of trust or confidence
- the crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government

Fonzi: What definition of 'treason' are you using?
How is treason defined in Thailand?

It can be argued that both Thaksin and the junta have exhibited degrees of treason, but at least the junta will only be in power on a temporary basis. (Without the actions of the junta, who knows when Thaksin would have been removed ?).
You admit, and common sense required, that Thaksin had to be removed - the method used might not be acceptable in some countries, but in the context of Thailand, I still believe it was an acceptable means to an end.

That does not mean I am happy with what has happened over the last 7 months.
In my view the biggest failure of the interim government is that they have tried to be democratic and work within the law, when what was really required was a purge.
Unfortunately it's a hopeless situation in Thailand because corruption is entrenched, real power is concentrated in only a few hands, and the rural masses place their faith in the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

In this I agree with Hobby, save that a coup is never acceptable ler se, though it may be the onoly option. The fact is that the Thai is immature and as a consequence the Thai society is immature. They have no sense of social responsibility and they are chaotic. Coups are inevitable and this will not be the last ubntil they finally realise that to be an adult in the big world, one has to accept responsibility. No coup can succeed if the peoplle decide it is not right. In the present case, Sondhi (the publisher not the soldier) has made it perfectly clear the coup was a result of the Thai elite wishing to retain their feudal power. He was certainly corrupt, (he studied the Ferdinand Marcos model very well). The popularity of Thaksin among the poor majority must have terrified the buggers. They will have thought their coup was better than the increasingly likely grassroots coup I suspect.


Anonymous said...

sorry about the horrid typos in the last post. Been here too long, getting lazy and sloppy.


Fonzi said...


I think extrajudicially overthrowing the legal government constitutes treason.

Under the 1997 Constitution, coups were illegal. There was an anti-coup clause.

So, according to the law, no coup was justified, regardless of one's personal feelings for Thaksin.

As for Thaksin, he was the legal prime minister.

Nobody ever challenged the legality of his government.

The last election was overturned, but Thaksin was the legal prime minister and there was an election scheduled for October.

There were many ways that Thaksin could have been removed: elections, corruption commission, recall, impeachment, resignation.

In Sondhi's interview in the Asia Times, he admitted there was a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the Thaksin government

That is called treason. You can't get any clearer than that.

Also, I think it is racist to say that in the "context of Thailand" a coup is acceptable.

In the 90's, Thais as a democratic polity, said no more coups.

I don't think the situation is hopeless if there is a commitment to the law. And it is intellectually inconsistent to argue that an illegal coup is justified because Thaksin broke the law.

Do you seriously want to live in this kind of world?


You have a point, but I think part of the problem is that the feudal elites have not allowed Thais to democratically development. There is a lot of evidence to prove that this has been intentional.

I agree that a certain infantilization of the Thai populace has occurred which has stunted personal and political responsibility.

But every country and every people have the ability to transform.

I don't think the situation is hopeless if the people are allowed to grow within the parameters of a liberal democratic system.

As I have pointed out many times in this blog, unless the Thai media and Thai academy get on the liberal democratic bandwagon, democracy won't occur, which is why I hold them responsible for the current situation. I am convinced if the media and the academy had been doing their jobs all these years, many of the current problems could have been averted.

So, the problem isn't that Thais are lazy, stupid and apathetic, the problem is that Thais lack a system that promotes democratic education and a fidelity to the law.

Unknown said...

Would it be valuable for anybody to have broadcast or cable Thai news shows subtitled in English, and then syndicated in a video podcast shortly after airtime?

hobby said...

Fonzi said:"In Sondhi's interview in the Asia Times, he admitted there was a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the Thaksin government"

Are you sure?
I'm not normally a fan of Sondhi, bit the following does not sound anything like the admission you claim he made:

Shawn Crispin to Sondhi:
Did you know the coup was coming?

"I swear to God I didn't. Not at all. I was planning a major rally because I saw Thaksin had left the country for so long. Thaksin changed his plan to come back earlier, so I decided to change the rally by informing all the PAD [People's Alliance for Democracy] members to move ahead a couple of days. So we agreed to do it on [September 20].

On the night of the 19th, I was staying at my home, washing myself, doing meditation, praying to the Lord Buddha, and I was just about ready to let go of everything to be ready for tomorrow, my last battle. Then all of a sudden at 8:30 or 9 the coup happened. Interestingly enough, the news of the coup was widely known at around noon, but I didn't know anything about it. I learned about it through the news."

....I always had people calling me: "Khun Sondhi, could you move things a little bit forward, have a little confrontation, let us see a little blood?"

Were these military people making the calls?

"[Nods]. Or [Prime Minister] Surayud Chulanont ... I said no".

So did the Privy Council play any role in organizing the protests you often led?

"No, no, not at all. They wanted to kick out Thaksin but they didn't have the people behind them. That's why they mumbled and grumbled behind Thaksin's back. And as time went by, they began to see their political base waning.

Fonzi said...


Sondhi contradicts himself in the interview.

I e-mailed Mr. Crispin to clarify.

I haven't heard back.

I'll let you know what happens.

Was it a criminal conspiracy or just a conspiracy?

Stay tuned.

hobby said...

Fonzi said: "I don't think the situation is hopeless if there is a commitment to the law. And it is intellectually inconsistent to argue that an illegal coup is justified because Thaksin broke the law.
Do you seriously want to live in this kind of world?"

There is no commitment to the law - that's why I think the situation is hopeless.
I don't claim to be an intellectual so I am still prepared to argue that in those circumstances (where there is no commitment to the law), then a coup is justified - particularly if it is done to bring about a change that results in a commitment to the law in future.
You call it destroying democracy, and I call it 'resetting' democracy.

Looking forward to the Crispin response (although as Bangkok Pundit has pointed out Asia Times Online is associated with Sondhi's Manager group).