Third Color in Thailand, Neither Red Nor Yellow



A constitutional referendum is scheduled in Thailand for August 8. Yet, the draft is facing opposition because it grants the ruling military junta, the National Council for Peace and Order, the power to handpick Senate members with six seats reserved for armed forces chiefs. Those who criticize the draft for its heavy military intervention are arrested. During the Universal Periodic Review session at the U.N. Human Rights Council on May 11, international society has raised its voice against the Thai military’s suppression of human right. Since Thai military took power in 2014 through coup, political demonstrations have been banned through the interim charter’s Article 44. Furthermore, online channels including social media are being controlled by the military limiting people’s freedom of expression. According to the Thai newspaper The Nation, for the past two years, 527 politicians and activists have been arrested by the military in the name of keeping order. The number of people being investigated by the military for expressing their political views online reached 992.[ref]태국 군부 쿠데타 2년…침묵 강요 속 527명 체포[/ref]

Junya Lek Yimprasert,[ref]After writing an essay entitled 'Why I don't love the King' she was charged with lès majesté under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and became of a political refugee in Finland, where she received political asylum in 2014.[/ref] an exile to Finland after the monarchy-military’s violent 2010 crackdown, explains the present situation in Thailand as a political deadlock: protest leads to military crackdown and a coup which leads to a new constitution followed by elections and then protests.[ref]Understanding the fog shrouding Thai Vision written by Junya Yimprasert and Richard Thompson Coon[/ref] In 1932 a peaceful coup had changed Thailand’s system from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy with the King’s power limited by a Parliament half-appointed and half-elected. After that, there were twelve successful coups and seven failed ones. Even though the governments were formed by election, they were under constant threat of intervention by the monarchy and military: many were overthrown or dismissed. Elections have also been highly irregular or on-hold. In particular, no elections were held between 1959 and 1969.[ref]Understanding the fog shrouding Thai Vision written by Junya Yimprasert and Richard Thompson Coon[/ref] Furthermore, only one Parliament finished its full term (2001-2005). Currently, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who came to throne in 1946, has been ill. His ailing health and the lack of a successor calls into question the future of the monarchy.

The recent situation in Thailand seems the clashes between Yellow Shirts, supporting the monarchy and Red Shirts, supporting former Prime Minister Thaksin. Yellow Shirts consist of middle and upper class in Bangkok with conservative tendency and civil societies that are against materialism and consumerism. They think that Thaksin made Thailand materialistic and consumerist and believe that the rural and the educated urban should not have an equal vote.[ref]정치난민이 된 짜란 교수와 실종된 태국 민주주의[/ref] On the contrary, Red Shirts are predominantly rural people and lower class from the north-east and northern regions who gathered around political and economic inequalities.

Lek said that the answer is not in Yellow Shirts nor in Red Shirts. It is because both are not for the people but for them to protect their power. The Thai Monarch owns immeasurably vast wealth and is protected by Royal Guardsmen. Also the lèse majesté laws punishes people who criticize the monarchy by up to 15 years in prison. In the case of Thaksin, he boosted the Thai economy with his so-called CEO manner but he signed trade agreements without debate and pushed privatization. Moreover he more or less ignored the role of trade unions and non-government organizations and did not attempt to cooperate with them, losing his base from his supporters and people.

Where then is the future and hope of Thailand? Lek said “It lies in society governed not by power and capital but by workers and the public who would be able to participate directly in politics. Currently many people feel powerless and are waiting for someone powerful to solve their problems. However people should proactively build the society where diversity is accepted and human rights are valued and realized .” In order to build this society a third color is needed, neither Red nor Yellow. This third power has not yet come taken concrete form, but there are more and more people opening their eyes to reality. Therefore, Lek suggests young Thais establish an alternative political party. As for international solidarity Lek requested direct action to pressure the current military government. She asked us that we demand the military government step down since it does not represent the people and to demand people be allowed to participate in an election to establish a democratic government.

written by Hwang Jeong-eun (General Secretary, ISC)