On October 17, the new commander-in-chief of the army, General Apirat Kongsompong, gave an interview and pointed out that there wouldn’t have been a coup de tat, if not for politics causing the chaos. Meaning, it was the doings of politicians that caused riots in the streets, so the coup was necessary. In other words, don’t blame us, it’s your own fault.
In an alternate reality, the words of the new commander-in-chief would be something along this line: “There would be no need for a coup de tat, if Thaksin had lost the election.”
Let’s analyze this, but also allow me to preface it by stating that this is not a good versus evil narrative. Real life isn’t a Hollywood movie. Rather, the conflict is simply a power struggle between two rivaled groups.
The 2014 coup de tat was launched for one reason and one reason only, the conservative elites could not beat the populace demagogue at the voting booth. Therefore, extreme situation required extreme measure. The extreme situation was the losing of power. The extreme measure was using the military to gain back power.
After decades of power struggles since the 1932 revolution, Thailand settled on the rule of the triumvirate: the traditional establishment, the military elites and the elected politicians. Think of the Roman second triumvirate between Octavian, Mark Anthony and Lepidus.
Many of you, dear readers, may wonder, who the hell is Lepidus? Well, exactly. In this power-share, Thai politicians were Lepidus, weak and irrelevant, nothing more than a puppet. But if you don’t know any of the three aforementioned Romans, let me give a modern analogy: the Kardashians. The establishment and the military were Kim and Khloe, the politicians were Courtney.
There, crystal clear.
For the sake of the discussion, we shall from now on bunch the traditional establishment and the military elites together and called them, the conservative elites.
The triumvirate was the arrangement of the Thai-style democracy during the 1990s. But who were the politicians? They were pretty much (not all, but pretty much) urban gangsters and provincial mafias. Ambitious adventurers with the power and money to get elected and the aim to carve their own slice from the Big Durian that is Thailand.
They were kept on a leash, of course. But otherwise they could do as they please. Abused the power, corrupted the country, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Just so long as they didn’t upset the power status quo, everything was fine (“mai pen rai”).
Then along came the conservative elites’ worst nightmare, a populace demagogue. This is true now, as it was in the times of the Roman Republic. Names like Marius, Sulla and Caesar, they were the populace demagogues, the enemies of the conservative elites.
Up to this point, Thai politics was very much “gangster politics” kept on a leash by the conservative elites. Then came Thaksin Shinawatra, representing a new and fast-growing power, the capitalist elites. He turned the Thai-style democracy into “money politics”.
As any merchant would, he bought out the gangster politicians, consolidated their power bases as his own, cloaked his political machine under snazzy branding and marketing strategies, launched the product into the market like it was the latest iPhone, made promises to shower the people with gifts if elected, and actually did shower the people with gifts once he was elected (especially his own people), and then settled in to build a cult of personality.
Why a cult of personality? Because, you see, an opportunist may make his money and move on. But, like MMA superstar Connor McGregor, Thaksin didn’t just come to take part. He came to take over. The 2001 election victory was a landslide. The 2005 victory was an even bigger landslide. The first person in the Thai election history to, not only serve the full four years’ term, but won a second term.
Meanwhile, the cult of personality kept growing and growing, as did the Thaksin patronage network. Friends, relatives and allies were appointed to important and lucrative positions. He also made a move to take control of the military itself. Naturally, the populace demagogue’s expansion was at the expense of the power and influence of the conservative elites, and that just won’t do. The conservative elites had to put an end to all the shenanigans.
The power struggle saw three political demonstrations against the populace demagogue (2005, 2008 and 2014), two of the demagogue’s political parties banned (Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power) and one coup de tat (2006).
But despite all the efforts, the dude just kept winning elections. After a decade-long conflict, the conservative elites finally realized, it’s them damn elections that are the problem.
In a democracy, the solution to political chaos is to hold a fresh election. Let the people decide which group of elites they want to rule the country. Well, if the people kept deciding for the populace demagogue, then there needs to be a change of tactic.
In the political turmoil of early 2014, Thaksin’s puppet Pheu Thai government sought a way out by announcing for a new election, knowing that they would again win. The conservative elites, smarting from past lessons, went like Whitney Houston, “Hell-to-the-no.”
Hence, the strategy for the whistle-blowing demonstration was to prevent the election from happening – and that they did, through forces and intimidation. Chaos ensued. The coup de tat of May 2014 followed.
But why not appoint an interim government and then a return to election within a year’s time, like with the 2006 coup? It has been over four years of military dictatorship, with an election may be in February 2019. What’s up with all this?
The conservative elites have to win this election, that’s what’s up.
Hence, the building of the cult of personality of General Prayuth Chan-ocha – hoping that he would be Khabib Nurmagomedov to Thaksin’s Conner McGregor. Hence, the populist policies. Hence, the junta-inspired 2017 Constitution. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. All of which is to give every possible advantage to the conservative elites in the coming election.
If the conservative elites win the next election, Thailand returns to the triumvirate rule of Kim, Khloe and Courtney.
If the populace demagogue wins, then it’s Kylie Jenner taking charge. Silicone-injected lips and butt, a celeb-on-steroid making more money than Kim and Khloe combined, even more than Beyonce. Selling colorful cosmetics to the populace of millions and millions of tweenies who worship the ground she walks on.
Again, this is not a fight between good versus evil, but a struggle between two groups of rich and powerful elites for the control of the Kingdom of Thailand, and all the wealth and power that come with. Furthermore, as in any battle since the dawn of time, one fights by any means necessary.
There you have it. Get out the pom-pom and choose a side, if you must. But at least, first and foremost, understand what this is all about.