The following is largely a personal reflexion on a developing situation:
Details of the devloping story can be found daily at: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/
Tomorrow will see a mass rally in bangkok for the second Saturday running. The rallies aim at forcing the resignation of Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who stands acused of using his large parliamentary majority to change laws for the gain of his personal companies. His family recently made a 70 billion Thai baht profit from selling their flagship company to the Singaporean Governments trading arm. This was after laws were changed to allow higher percentages of foreign ownership of Telecommunication shares. The family also managed to avoid paying any tax. This all follows the virtual closing of any TV media opposing the government which gave rise to a grassroots campaign led by a former media man.This has led to the rallies. the first pased peacefully with a real total of about 100,000 people. The second tomorrow however, has been banned by the police. I have personal reasons for hoping it passes peacefully as my wife and mother of my daughter will be attending.
The only remaining media of oppostion are the press excepting the largest daily, the internet and public meetings.
Newspapers critical of the government face loss of advertising revenue. Public meetings face disruption through denial of sound system use, mob attack or the setting off of fireworks to cause panic. Large rallies in Bangkok are difficult for those outside the capital to attend as provincial governors and police have been ordered to make sure it is “difficult” for provincial people to travel. However, government MPs face no impediment in organising their own “paid” supporters.
The constitutional check and balance apparatus (election commision, constitutional court, administrative court, SEC etc) is either in disarray, riddled with government proxies or afraid to act. Today believable accusations that the supposedly non-partisan senate had a block of 60 senators directly in the government pay were made.
Completely of the radar the reduction of democracy in Thailand to a family and crony run state goes on relatively unhindered. With complete control over the media that most of the country gets its news from and complete control over the local administrative apparatus the government remains quite capable of manipulating up-country public opinion. Only yesterday a community radio station executive was jailed for having a wrong length aerial or something. Needless to say this station was one of very few critical of the government.