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Old-style leftists have become a rare breed in Thailand


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Old-style leftists have become a rare breed in Thailand

By Tulsathit Taptim 
The Nation

 

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Haters and fans of Somsak Jeamteerasakul can at least agree on one thing: a raw leftist like him is hard to come by these days. In a world where billionaires can be “champions of the poor” and activists fighting “the elite” attend glitzy parties flowing with champagne and whisky, the line between ideologies has been crossed back and forth so many times that it is practically invisible.

 

Defying that trend, Somsak has held firmly to his principles.

 

The social critic and academic moved to Paris soon after the 2014 coup, and it was here that he collapsed over the weekend. The stroke paralysed half his body, but the true extent of the damage will not be known for at least a few days. Sympathy has flowed, coming largely from those who are supposedly “on the same side” as him but probably not as genuine. Somsak is a hardcore leftist, and “hardcore” means uncompromising, which rules him out of politics, especially in Thailand where anything goes.

 

Like most other places, our country has produced the kind of politics that makes a mockery of ideologies. “Pro-democracy” activists can be intolerant of criticism and seek to stifle concepts they don’t agree with. “Dictatorship” is a term generally used to describe opponents, when it might apply just as well to those who mouth it. “Liberals” can be narrow-minded to the point of violence when facing opinions that make their blood boil.

 

In other words, hypocrisy plays a big role in Thai politics. Whether Somsak realises that or not, he has been critical of key people that supposedly wear the same political colours as he does. In a Facebook outburst just a few days ago before his stroke, he attacked the leader of a new political party that portrays itself as “anti-military dictatorship”. “If voters give me a chance,” declared Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, “there will be no more coups.”

 

It was a brave announcement, but not brave enough for Somsak, who insisted that Thanathorn must commit his party to more than mere “rhetoric”. The Paris exile noted that Thanathorn had toned down his criticism of Article 112, a stance which had set the new face of politics apart from his mainstream counterparts, who are vocal in their support of rigorous legal protection for the monarchy.

 

“The leader of the new party has not encountered any big trouble yet, but he is dropping the case from his party’s agenda,” wrote Somsak. “This is inconsistency of the highest order. You used to say that it was a problem, but now you have entered fully into politics, you are doing nothing. What kind of a leftist are you?”

 

Somsak’s earlier targets included the supreme leader of the red-shirt movement himself. That Thaksin Shinawatra is an “elite” who is better than most at hiding behind the poor is not a new accusation, but when Somsak levelled it, the criticism stood out. The activist noted that whenever the Shinawatras’ political and personal interests take a direct hit from opponents, a “call to arms” to defend the “red” ideology follows.

 

The fierce criticism came in 2015 following the guilty verdict for Yingluck Shinawatra over her government’s mismanagement of rice subsidies. After Thaksin’s son responded to his aunt’s downfall with a rallying cry, Somsak wrote: “Are you really prepared to fight? Where have you been since the coup?”

 

Somsak’s frustration was understandable. The Shinawatras have repeatedly been accused of tax transgressions, land grabs, and unfair protection of their business empire. Those are matters that leftists normally frown upon. The largest red-shirt uprising, in 2010, took place just weeks after the Constitution Court ruled in favour of seizing part of Thaksin’s enormous wealth. Somsak must have wished that the uprising by the poor had been motivated by more genuine principles.

 

The activist may have spotted one thing that many have failed to see – that the political rift in Thailand is not actually an ideological battle, which is merely a smokescreen for an old-fashioned power struggle. Although some genuinely ideological people are involved, they are usually manipulated by those who couldn’t care less about liberty and freedom.

 

The challenge to Thaksin’s son Panthongtae sounded like it came from a man who had just been disillusioned. The attack on Thanathorn seemed to be borne of scepticism that follows such a rude awakening.

 

Somsak remained a critic of Article 112 until the day he collapsed. The majority of those in the same camp have chosen to skirt the issue. The Shinawatras, leaders of the movement against the royal-defamation law, would never say the same thing.

 

Nor would the politicians working under them. Compromise is the name of the game at the highest political level.

 

The stroke will severely limit, if not end, Somsak’s political activities. His haters are cheering while his supporters are expressing sympathy. What it really means, though, is that a rare breed will likely become even rarer.   

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/opinion/30353192

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2018-08-29
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Careful observations of the last decade or so finds that the so called Thai left tend to be almost moderate, less obsessed and consumed with invented outside ideologies that have little relationship with Thai/Asian cultures...

 

The new breed of left tend be more home grown stemming from a more pragmatic local philosophical call. 

....and largely tolerated much more than their predecessors.

 

Oddly enough, a greater percentage of the old school Thai left have long found themselves in forced exile, voluntary exile or found themselves on the double-secret disappearance list.  

 

Even the likes of Carabao, once a bastion of rebellious origins, slighted their tune and political rumblings.

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4 hours ago, zzaa09 said:

Careful observations of the last decade or so finds that the so called Thai left tend to be almost moderate, less obsessed and consumed with invented outside ideologies that have little relationship with Thai/Asian cultures...

 

The new breed of left tend be more home grown stemming from a more pragmatic local philosophical call. 

....and largely tolerated much more than their predecessors.

 

Oddly enough, a greater percentage of the old school Thai left have long found themselves in forced exile, voluntary exile or found themselves on the double-secret disappearance list.  

 

Even the likes of Carabao, once a bastion of rebellious origins, slighted their tune and political rumblings.

Carabao are Royalists and Yellow Shirts.

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4 hours ago, webfact said:

Old-style leftists have become a rare breed in Thailand

They have been overtaken by the Smart Phone Don't Cares!...……..Mai phen rai.

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Would made a much more balance reading if the author include generals masquerading as politicians and claiming to be democratic soldiers throwing leftist policies crumbs while feasting on the trough.  

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4 hours ago, zzaa09 said:

Even the likes of Carabao, once a bastion of rebellious origins, slighted their tune and political rumblings.

Once student activists involved in student movements instrumental in toppling of dictatorial Kittikachorn’s regime and writing people songs like Khon Kap Khwai have forgotten their struggles after being rich and famous. Abandoned the people by supporting PAD and appearing on the PDRC stage and have gone cold on this d regime. 

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13 hours ago, webfact said:

In other words, hypocrisy plays a big role in Thai politics.

Its the center ring in the three ring circus.  People in power in Thailand will say anything.

 

13 hours ago, webfact said:

The activist may have spotted one thing that many have failed to see – that the political rift in Thailand is not actually an ideological battle, which is merely a smokescreen for an old-fashioned power struggle. Although some genuinely ideological people are involved, they are usually manipulated by those who couldn’t care less about liberty and freedom.

In this intellectual wasteland, have never even whiffed the faintest scent of ideology.  Sorry to see this man go.  He sounds like somebody Thailand sorely needs.

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"In other words, hypocrisy plays a big role in Thai politics."

 

How about most world politics? Somehow the power brokers have convinced many members of the working classes that they are temporarily embarrassed billionaires and if they are patient and support the power elite, the riches will flow to them.  Billionaires don't get that way by sharing the wealth. Only by stealing it.

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9 hours ago, thaiguzzi said:

Carabao are Royalists and Yellow Shirts.

Yeah, quite the odd transformation. 

Sadly, they've all become sell-outs and hypocrites. 

 

As I recall......their accepted transformation began about 1997 or thereabouts.

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3 minutes ago, thaiguzzi said:

Unfortunately, what we want to say about this topic, we are not allowed to in this kingdom....

That is, within public discourse. 

 

Such taboo subject matter can be commonly discussed in closed circles, even among Thai folks who know when to use the appropriate discretion.

I've witnessed this quite regularly for years. 

Dependent, largely on the circles that one keeps. 

 

Bit of a myth that Thais do not speak openly about such matters or any references thereof. 

There is much more indifference than what is led to believe.

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Anyone in this country know what a 'trade union' is? Ever heard of a 'strike'?

 

Certainly noone in my family of illiterate peasants here in Surin knows about such things. And one member who works in a Japanese slave labour organization in BKK certainly hasn't heard of them either.

 

In Oz I'm what counts as a rightwinger. But living here (or, I surmise, in Usofa) is enough to make me appreciate what socialists & trade unions have over the last 150 years achieved for the workers in the more civilized parts of the world ...

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Are Thai customs officers still making careful inspection of any 'little red books' they come across in people's luggage? 

 

On arrival at Don Muang in the late 80s I was held up for half an hour while and increasingly be-meddled succession of customs officers leafed through a 'Loeb Classical Library' copy of Martial's Epigrams I had in my carry on bag. 

 

Had they chanced upon some of the more 'colourful' epigrams they might not have let me enter the Kingdom.

Little Red Book.jpg

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4 minutes ago, Chomper Higgot said:

Are Thai customs officers still making careful inspection of any 'little red books' they come across in people's luggage? 

 

On arrival at Don Muang in the late 80s I was held up for half an hour while and increasingly be-meddled succession of customs officers leafed through a 'Loeb Classical Library' copy of Martial's Epigrams I had in my carry on bag. 

 

Had they chanced upon some of the more 'colourful' epigrams they might not have let me enter the Kingdom.

Little Red Book.jpg

Don't worry, they were just practising their Latin. But it was all Greek to them ...

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5 hours ago, jaltsc said:

"In other words, hypocrisy plays a big role in Thai politics."

 

How about most world politics? Somehow the power brokers have convinced many members of the working classes that they are temporarily embarrassed billionaires and if they are patient and support the power elite, the riches will flow to them.  Billionaires don't get that way by sharing the wealth. Only by stealing it.

Thanks. 'Whoops a daisy' say the banking racket in 2007. 'Bail us out or we are all ruined, but we still need our bonuses'.

Governments duly oblige and here we are in 2018, with my bank back in the UK sending letters promising thousands of GBPesos on loan which I obviously would never be able to pay back. No problem. Just fill out this form and don't worry about it.

 

Meanwhile, somebody makes a not entirely honest dole claim and all hell breaks loose in the press if they are discovered. As an 'old style leftist' myself, I find this rather disgusting...

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First, there is institutional prevention of left ideologies. The EC refused to registe the name "socialist party" because they judged it to be out of line with the national ideology. What chance of a republican party?

 

Typical Tulsathit. Wait till the guy's safely out of action before praising him.

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And of course Tulsathit cites Somsak's criticism of Thaksin and Thanatorn but not his criticism of more revered targets. He'll have a job forever despite being one of the worst jourrnalists in Thailand

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11 hours ago, Chomper Higgot said:

Are Thai customs officers still making careful inspection of any 'little red books' they come across in people's luggage? 

 

On arrival at Don Muang in the late 80s I was held up for half an hour while and increasingly be-meddled succession of customs officers leafed through a 'Loeb Classical Library' copy of Martial's Epigrams I had in my carry on bag. 

 

Had they chanced upon some of the more 'colourful' epigrams they might not have let me enter the Kingdom.

Little Red Book.jpg

I remember when I emigrated to Oz from NZ in 1974: I had, in my packing case of books, a copy of Castro's famous speech at his trial in (from memory) 1954 - 'History will Absolve Me'. Which I thought, rightie though I already mostly was, was a pretty good speech - impressive all round. Anyway, some 9 or 10 years later, after the Hawke government came to power, I read in the newspapers that a whole lot of books 'forbidden' to be imported or sold in Oz had been removed from the 'Index' (so to speak). 'History etc' was amongst them.

 

So it took a rightwing Labor government to start bringing Oz culture into the late C20th, as opposed to the conservative do-nothing government of Malcolm Fraser.

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On 8/28/2018 at 7:52 PM, Eric Loh said:

Would made a much more balance reading if the author include generals masquerading as politicians and claiming to be democratic soldiers throwing leftist policies crumbs while feasting on the trough.  

If you're looking for balance and objectivity, one might consider the source. 

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