Monday, March 14, 2011
by Greg Palast
Texas plants planned by Tokyo Electric. Image:NINA
I need to speak to you, not as a reporter, but in my former capacity
as lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and
I don't know the law in Japan, so I can't tell you if Tokyo Electric
Power Co (TEPCO) can plead insanity to the homicides about to happen.
But what will Obama plead? The Administration, just months ago,
asked Congress to provide a $4 billion loan guarantee for two new
nuclear reactors to be built and operated on the Gulf Coast of Texas —
by Tokyo Electric Power and local partners. As if the Gulf hasn't
Here are the facts about Tokyo Electric and the industry you haven't heard on CNN:
The failure of emergency systems at Japan's nuclear plants comes as no surprise to those of us who have worked in the field.
Nuclear plants the world over must be certified for what is called
"SQ" or "Seismic Qualification." That is, the owners swear that all
components are designed for the maximum conceivable shaking event, be it
from an earthquake or an exploding Christmas card from Al Qaeda.
The most inexpensive way to meet your SQ is to lie. The industry
does it all the time. The government team I worked with caught them
once, in 1988, at the Shoreham plant in New York. Correcting the SQ
problem at Shoreham would have cost a cool billion, so engineers were
told to change the tests from 'failed' to 'passed.'
The company that put in the false safety report? Stone &
Webster, now the nuclear unit of Shaw Construction which will work with
Tokyo Electric to build the Texas plant, Lord help us.
Last night I heard CNN reporters repeat the official line that the
tsunami disabled the pumps needed to cool the reactors, implying that
water unexpectedly got into the diesel generators that run the pumps.
These safety back-up systems are the 'EDGs' in nuke-speak: Emergency
Diesel Generators. That they didn't work in an emergency is like a
fire department telling us they couldn't save a building because "it
was on fire."
What dim bulbs designed this system? One of the reactors dancing
with death at Fukushima Station 1 was built by Toshiba. Toshiba was
also an architect of the emergency diesel system.
Now be afraid. Obama's $4 billion bail-out-in-the-making is called
the South Texas Project. It's been sold as a red-white-and-blue way to
make power domestically with a reactor from Westinghouse, a great
American brand. However, the reactor will be made substantially in
Japan by the company that bought the US brand name, Westinghouse —
I once had a Toshiba computer. I only had to send it in once for
warranty work. However, it's kind of hard to mail back a reactor with
the warranty slip inside the box if the fuel rods are melted and sinking
halfway to the earth's core.
TEPCO and Toshiba don't know what my son learned in 8th grade science
class: tsunamis follow Pacific Rim earthquakes. So these companies
are real stupid, eh? Maybe. More likely is that the diesels and
related systems wouldn't have worked on a fine, dry afternoon.
Back in the day, when we checked the emergency back-up diesels in
America, a mind-blowing number flunked. At the New York nuke, for
example, the builders swore under oath that their three diesel engines
were ready for an emergency. They'd been tested. The tests were faked,
the diesels run for just a short time at low speed. When the diesels
were put through a real test under emergency-like conditions, the
crankshaft on the first one snapped in about an hour, then the second
and third. We nicknamed the diesels, "Snap, Crackle and Pop."
(Note: Moments after I wrote that sentence, word came that two of three diesels failed at the Tokai Station as well.)
In the US, we supposedly fixed our diesels after much complaining by
the industry. But in Japan, no one tells Tokyo Electric to do anything
the Emperor of Electricity doesn't want to do.
I get lots of confidential notes from nuclear industry insiders. One
engineer, a big name in the field, is especially concerned that Obama
waved the come-hither check to Toshiba and Tokyo Electric to lure them
to America. The US has a long history of whistleblowers willing to put
themselves on the line to save the public. In our racketeering case
in New York, the government only found out about the seismic test fraud
because two courageous engineers, Gordon Dick and John Daly, gave our
team the documentary evidence.
In Japan, it's simply not done. The culture does not allow the
salary-men, who work all their their lives for one company, to drop the
Not that US law is a wondrous shield: both engineers in the New York
case were fired and blacklisted by the industry. Nevertheless, the
government (local, state, federal) brought civil racketeering charges
against the builders. The jury didn't buy the corporation's excuses and,
in the end, the plant was, thankfully, dismantled.
Am I on some kind of xenophobic anti-Nippon crusade? No. In fact, I'm far more frightened by the American
operators in the South Texas nuclear project, especially Shaw. Stone
& Webster, now the Shaw nuclear division, was also the firm that
conspired to fake the EDG tests in New York. (The company's other
exploits have been exposed by their former consultant, John Perkins, in
his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.)
If the planet wants to shiver, consider this: Toshiba and Shaw have
recently signed a deal to become world-wide partners in the construction
of nuclear stations.
The other characters involved at the South Texas Plant that Obama is
backing should also give you the willies. But as I'm in the middle of
investigating the American partners, I'll save that for another day.
So, if we turned to America's own nuclear contractors, would we be
safe? Well, two of the melting Japanese reactors, including the one
whose building blew sky high, were built by General Electric of the Good
Old US of A.
After Texas, you're next. The Obama Administration is planning a
total of $56 billion in loans for nuclear reactors all over America.
And now, the homicides:
CNN is only interested in body counts, how many workers burnt by
radiation, swept away or lost in the explosion. These plants are now
releasing radioactive steam into the atmosphere. Be skeptical about the
statements that the "levels are not dangerous." These are the same
people who said these meltdowns could never happen. Over years, not
days, there may be a thousand people, two thousand, ten thousand who
will suffer from cancers induced by this radiation.
In my New York investigation, I had the unhappy job of totaling up
post-meltdown "morbidity" rates for the county government. It would be
irresponsible for me to estimate the number of cancer deaths that will
occur from these releases without further information; but it is just
plain criminal for the Tokyo Electric shoguns to say that these releases
are not dangerous. Indeed, the fact that residents near the Japanese
nuclear plants were not issued iodine pills to keep at the ready shows
TEPCO doesn't care who lives and who dies whether in Japan or the USA.
The carcinogenic isotopes that are released at Fukushima are already
floating to Seattle with effects we simply cannot measure.
Heaven help us. Because Obama won't.
Greg Palast is the co-author of Democracy and Regulation, the United
Nations ILO guide for public service regulators, with Jerrold Oppenheim
and Theo MacGregor. Palast has advised regulators in 26 states and in 12
nations on the regulation of the utility industry.
Palast, whose reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight, is a
Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for investigative reporting.
Subscribe to Palast's Newsletter and podcasts at GregPalast.com.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2011
Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was heavily
damaged by the tsunami from the massive March 11 magnitude 9.0
earthquake continues to spread extremely high levels of radiation into
the ocean, ground, and air.
Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company that operates the plant,
said on April 5 that radioactive iodine-131 readings taken from seawater
near the water intake of the No. 2 reactor reached 7.5 million times
the legal limit. The sample that yielded this reading was taken just
before Tepco began releasing more than 11,000 tonnes of radioactive
water into the sea.
The radioactive water discharged into the Pacific has prompted
experts to sound the alarm, as cesium, which has a much longer half-life
than iodine, is expected to concentrate in the upper food chain.
"The situation is very concerning," Dr MV Ramana, a physicist
specialising in issues of nuclear safety with the Programme on Science
and Global Security at Princeton University told Al Jazeera, "They are
finding it very difficult to stabilize the situation."
Operators of the plant are no closer to regaining control of damaged
reactors, as fuel rods remain overheated and high levels of radiation
are being released.
Until the plant's internal cooling system is reconnected, radiation will flow from the plant.
Nuclear safety agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama on April 3 offered
the first sense of how long it might take to bring an end to the
"It would take a few months until we finally get things under control
and have a better idea about the future," said Nishiyama, "We'll face a
crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the
Ramana explained to Al Jazeera that he sees the current situation as
being the "best case scenario," because "the wind has been largely over
the ocean, there haven’t been any more major explosions, and none of the
spent fuel areas have had a major fire."
Worst case scenario
"There could be a core that gets molten, and we could have an
explosion," Ramana said of what he believes would be a worst-case
scenario, "This isn't likely, but it is possible."
Mary Olson is the director of the Southeast Office of the Nuclear
Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a group that describes itself
as the information and networking center for citizens and environmental
organisations concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, and
Olson shares Ramana's concerns about the worst-case scenario.
"The worst-case scenario is still out there, it could happen," Olson
told Al Jazeera, "And that would be some kind of explosive force that
mobilizes the fissile material on the site into a wider sphere."
Olson, who is also an evolutionary biologist with a double major in
Biology and History of Science, including studies of chemistry and
biochemistry at Purdue University, expressed concern over the fact that
in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the United
States, "All the contaminated material generated from that was released
to our environment in a planned and 'regulated' way. It was dumped in
rivers or boiled off into the atmosphere."
Olson sees the same thing already happening now with the Fukushima
disaster, and thinks the situation could eventually be worse than even
the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that left some 200,000 people dead,
according to a study from the environmental group Greenpeace.
"All of those [Fukushima] reactors have been in a catastrophic level
of radioactive release that exceeds Chernobyl," she said,."Two of these
have exploded, No. 2 is in meltdown, and we believe it has gone back
into criticality and that there is a nuclear chain reaction coming and
She also pointed out that the fuel core in reactor No. 4 was
offloaded for refueling at the time of the earthquake and tsunami, "So
none of the fuel was in containment and was all in the pool and that's
why it's gotten hotter faster and there has been very little attention
to this. All of these are catastrophic in themselves. Having them in one
place in one month is truly catastrophic."
Dr Ramana warned that it would likely take several months without any more setbacks before the crisis can be declared stable.
"What we're seeing is a lot of the systems were taken out during the
tsunami and explosions," he added, "The lack of power to circulate the
water is a problem, so there aren’t going to be any quick fixes for
Olson also fears that if the core meltdowns get to the groundwater
under the plant, "You have an explosive force that is like putting
dynamite under the site. The problem is if you get this molten fuel into
that water it could cause a steam explosion."
"Since unit two is showing signs of fission happening, the chances of
something more catastrophic happening at that site are increasing,"
Olson added, "People are acting like the worst is over, and that is just
not understanding the real issues here as far as the radiological
She also pointed out that the fuel pool in reactor No. 3 "is gone,
according to recent photos. There is no fuel there. The reactor fuel
pool in No. 3 is gone. Where did it go?"
On Thursday, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said the
current 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the plant may need to be
enlarged due to the original parameters having been established in
relation to short-term exposure.
"Current evacuation orders apply to areas where people are in danger
of having received 50 millisieverts [of cumulative exposure]. We are now
looking into what to do with other areas where, with prolonged
exposure, people may receive that amount," Edano said.
A 50-millisievert amount is the exposure limit for a nuclear-plant worker for a full year.
"The regions the Japanese government has evacuated have been declared
to be long-term, and these are regions of several hundred square
kilometers and they are finding local hotspots that are further out,"
Ramana told Al Jazeera, "There is going to be an area around Fukushima
that is going to be off-limits for human habitation for decades. The
same thing happened with Chernobyl."
Olson agrees, and believes the mandatory evacuation area needs to be increased.
"Two hundred thousand people are now out of their homes," she said,
"But the government needs to enlarge the evacuation area. Much of that
area, to the north and west will become permanent interdiction, meaning
nobody will be going home. There will be a fairly large area where
nobody will be going home."
Taking 'safety' with a grain of salt
Recently disclosed documents show US regulators doubt that some of
the nation's nuclear power plants can withstand a disaster akin to
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) members have questioned back-up
plans to maintain cooling systems in case main power sources fail, and a
July 2010 memo assessing Exelon Corporation's Peach Bottom nuclear
plant in Delta, Pennsylvania, concludes that contingency plans, "have
really not been reviewed to ensure that they will work to mitigate
A Union of Concerned Scientists statement by nuclear expert Edwin
Lyman said, "While [regulators] and the nuclear industry have been
reassuring Americans that there is nothing to worry about … it turns out
that privately NRC senior analysts are not so sure."
Possibly answering Olson's question about the missing fuel pool in
Fukushima reactor No. 3, the document suggests that fragments of nuclear
fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown "up to one
mile from the units" during one of the plants earlier hydrogen
This ejection of radioactive material could indicate far more
extensive damage to the radioactive pools than has been previously
Ramana, the Princeton University physicist, is clear in what he
believes needs to happen within the nuclear industry to correct these
myriad and potentially catastrophic problems.
"At the minimum you probably want to stop all nuclear construction
until we get a much better understanding of what happened at Fukushima
and what problems occurred," he said. "Even though the reactors shut
down as they are designed to do, the problem was cooling water. In
Chernobyl, it took years to really get a better understanding of what
happened. Until that happens, all construction should be put on hold."
Ramana points to another problem - that of building several reactors on the same site.
"There are six reactors on the same site at Fukushima, and what
happened was that all of them were affected by one common cause, the
tsunami. We also saw that when there were hydrogen explosions in one
reactor, that affected the spent fuel at another reactor, so we have
cross-effecting problems. Then when one started getting out of control,
it impeded emergency steps that needed to be taken at other reactors. So
building multiple reactors at one site is a bad idea, and should be
He said that previous accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island
have been dismissed by the nuclear industry. "Chernobyl was explained
away due to Soviet operator errors and operators who had bad training,
etc." he said, "So the argument for many years is that as long as we are
using western built light water reactors we are perfectly safe."
"Now, however," he added, "Fukushima blows that idea out of the
water. We are going to be told that new reactors are safer and that has
to be taken with a grain of salt."
A nuclear Obama
The Obama administration has proposed $36bn in federal loan
guarantees to jump-start the construction of nuclear power plants in the
Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's
biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois
where Obama was Senator. The company has donated over $269,000 to his
Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Energy Future.
Illinois, where Obama began his political career, gets approximately
half of its electricity from nuclear power, more than any other state.
It currently has 10 operable reactors at six sites. The Quad-cities
Nuclear Power Plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River, is a
GE Mark One plant, with the identical design and nearly the same age as
the Fukushima reactors.
Olson said that even with Japanese and US government so-called
acceptable limits of radiation exposure, "we’re still getting excess
She says it's too soon to say if the fallout from Fukushima will
compare to cancers borne of the Chernobyl disaster, where two thirds of
the excess cancers occurred outside of the Belorussia area.
"We are creating radioactive sacrifice zones on our planet," she
said, "And these zones will persists for hundreds of thousands of years,
and our genetics will be effected. Ionising radiation, especially when
it is internalised in our bodies, randomizes DNA…so when cells are
damaged, that is when cancer starts. And every single time radiation
exposure occurs, there will be additional cancers."
Olson also pointed out that there is likely little Tepco can do to
prevent the Fukushima plant's radiation from being released into the
"All of that radioactive water they are holding will be diluted and
released or evaporated into the air. The water is going off as
radioactive steam or runoff, and all of that will end up in our
environment because there is no place to put it. They treat it like
dilution is the solution, but the more you spread it out the more human
and animal tissue is exposed and the more cancer there is."
on the Cheap
Mar 16, 2011 12:12PM
please agree that in the real world corporations exist for one purpose, and one
purpose only — to make as much money as possible, which means cutting
costs as much as possible?
The New York Times reports that G.E.
marketed the Mark 1 boiling water reactors, used in TEPCO’s Fukushima
Daiichi plant, as cheaper to build than other reactors because they used a
comparatively smaller and less expensive containment structure.
Yet American safety officials have long thought the smaller
design more vulnerable to explosion and rupture in emergencies than competing
designs. (By the way, the same design is used in 23 American nuclear reactors
at 16 plants.)
mid-1980s, Harold Denton, then an official with the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission, said Mark 1 reactors had a 90 percent probability of bursting
should the fuel rods overheat and melt in an accident. A follow-up report from
a study group convened by the Commission concluded that “Mark 1 failure
within the first few hours following core melt would appear rather
National Commission appointed to investigate the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last April recently concluded that BP
failed to adequately supervise Halliburton Company’s work on installing
the case even though BP knew Halliburton lacked experience testing cement to
prevent blowouts and hadn’t performed adequately before on a similar job.
In short: Neither company bothered to spend the money to ensure adequate
testing of the cement.
Massey Energy spend the money needed to ensure its mines were safe.
get me wrong. No company can be expected to build a nuclear reactor, an oil
well, a coal mine, or anything else that’s one hundred percent safe under
all circumstances. The costs would be prohibitive. It’s unreasonable to
expect corporations to totally guard against small chances of every potential
there’s a tradeoff. Reasonable precaution means spending as much on
safety as the probability of a particular disaster occurring, multiplied by its
likely harm to human beings and the environment if it does occur.
Here’s the problem. Profit-making corporations have
every incentive to underestimate these probabilities and lowball the likely
This is why it’s necessary to have such things as
government regulators, why regulators must be independent of
the industries they regulate, and why regulators need enough resources to
enforce the regulations.
also why the public in every nation is endangered if the political clout of its
biggest corporations — BP, Halliburton, Massey, G.E., or TEPCO
— grows too large.
One of the
most complex opposition movements of 2010 was that of the Thai ‘Red
Shirts’. In three articles Joe Gold sought to explain the context,
ongoing struggle and the repression which followed. This is the first.
by Joe Gold, 1st April 2010
What is going on in Thailand? What do the yellow and red shirt
movements represent? Leaders of the Red Shirts have been pressurising
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down and call elections after
weeks of protests that have shaken the country. Here our correspondent
gives some background information to the conflict presently unfolding in
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajaya. Photo by World Economic Forum/Monika Flückinger.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajaya sleeps only three to five hours a night at the base of the Royal Guards 11th
infantry regiment. Outside and all around the redshirts are sleeping.
It’s a slack time for the rice growers and they are in no hurry.
Parliament cannot meet as less than 100 members arrive for the sessions,
and the demonstrators play cat and mouse with the cabinet, sometimes
allowing it to meet to arrange negotiations and to avoid giving an
excuse for a military crackdown. With 3000 motorcycles and numerous
trucks the redshirts stop the city on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Press reports in Bangkok and abroad, skilfully manipulated, present a
picture of an opposition in decline, with support for Thaksin
Shinawatra being nothing but rent-a-crowd, that it had peaked last year,
and had fizzled out with the failure to stop the world Trade Conference
– and yet it continues. With 100,000 demonstrators heading for the
capital police claimed they were only expecting 10,000 and the next day
announced that demonstrators were drifting away and the number had gone
down to 90,000.
Tuesday, March 30, the anti-government “Red Shirt” protestors
rejected the prime minister’s offer of more talks, as these were seen as
merely a manoeuvre to avoid calling early elections. Thus the mass
protest rallies in Bangkok have continued.
The question that has to be asked is how is it possible that a mass
movement initially of poor farmers from Isan, the rural north of
Thailand, is showing such persistence and determination in support of a
politician Thaksin who started as the richest man in the country, went
on to enrich himself and his family through corrupt business activities
while in power and was overthrown in a military coup with royal consent
after mass protests by the ‘yellow shirts’?
In 2001 Thaksin won a landslide victory in the elections of that
year, becoming the country’s prime minister. He was also the first to
serve the full term of office. Thaksin went on to introduce a range of
policies to alleviate rural poverty which proved highly popular.
Thaksin, in typical populist fashion, leaned on the poor layers within
the population and carried through some small but significant reforms.
The 30 Bhat health service made hospital treatment a real possibility
for many and there was talk of advances in education and subsidies for
small farmers and low-interest village loans. Thailand’s impoverished,
mainly rural masses benefitted materially from Thaksin’s period in
office. This explains why his re-election in 2005 saw the highest voter
turnout in Thai history.
However, in September 2006, with allegations against him of tax
evasion, corruption, human rights abuses and so on, a military coup,
with the backing of the monarchy, was carried out which removed him from
“Red Shirt” movement is made up of supporters of Thaksin, largely from
among the country’s rural and urban poor, that want to see him back in
office. Its leaders have portrayed the demonstrations as a struggle
between Thailand’s impoverished, mainly rural masses, but also urban
poor — who benefited from Thaksin policies— and a Bangkok-based wealthy
What we are witnessing now is essentially a split in the tiny ruling
elite which networks at the highest level in the army, the police, the
political life of the country, and controls much of the economy.
Thailand is as profoundly corrupt as any country in the world in its
obscene and conspicuous contrast between rich and poor, town and
countryside. The poorest 10% of the population consumes only 1.6% of
national wealth, while the richest 10% concentrates 33.7% of national
income in its hands.
Bangkok has the sky train, multi screen cinemas, vast glittering
shopping complexes and underground malls where you can pop in for the
best gold, gems and jewellery, designer clothes, celebrity sponsored
golf clubs or a new Ferrari, while village people live in grinding
poverty, often growing rice on tiny plots of land using a plough pulled
by water buffalo.
The seedy industries for which Thailand is well known have their origins in the class division between anmart (bureaucrats or aristocrats) and phrai,
or commoners and can be understood in the context of social conditions
and low status enjoyed by the poor farmers. The bar girls in Soi Cowboy
and older women in the sex industry appear undernourished compared to
the tourists on the beach in Pattaya. Nearly all are working to support
children who live with the grandmother in a village. The begging
industry is fully Dickensian with businessmen of the street leading
their captive cripples to prime sites to be artistically displayed
spreading out the frayed trouser legs with no leg inside, for example,
positioning a cute puppy in the arms of the beggar and studying from a
safe distance the emotional impact on Japanese tourists leaving the
Tokyu department store.
Pornographic DVDs are sold openly and even aggressively in certain
streets and electronic shopping plazas and it is impossible to search
for foreign visas without getting adverts for meetings with ladyboys.
Bangkok is no worse than the contents of an email spam folder but opened
up and brought to life. The paedophile element is also unmistakeable.
Even the Thai brides export industry has its roots in rural poverty.
It must be accepted that there can be genuine loving relationships
between foreign men and Thai women, and that some foreign men marry into
Thai extended families and it goes well for them. It cannot be denied,
however that only in Thailand would you expect to meet a newly released
grossly obese murderer from Australia drinking himself to death in a
bar, who has come to find a Thai woman because she would “not answer him
back”, or to come across a painfully shy and inarticulate farmer who
has never had a girlfriend and hopes for better luck in Thailand or a
man over 60 looking for a teenage girl. The outside world is literally
invited to use the country as a playground and exploit the poverty of
the ordinary people – just as the local ruling class has always done.
Some countries can maintain stability of a sort by living a lie.
Indonesia for example is the biggest Islamic country in the world and
95% of its people are Muslims, but when you start to add up the number
of Christians, Hindus Buddhists and animists and take into account that
it is illegal to have no religion or to have a belief not in the list of
seven approved religions, it is clear that non-Muslims are closer to
30% than 5%. Thailand has its own untruths which all must accept: the
country is united because there are no classes; all must be happy
because they are Buddhist and all Thais love the King (except for the
Muslims in the South and in small fishing villages who are not regarded
as Thais except when they demand political autonomy).
Protest outside the US embassy in March. Photo by adaptorplug.So
Thais supposedly love the king they say so and they stand for the
national anthem right to the end. They love the king as Russians loved
the Czar up to February 1917, or as Iranians loved the Shah before 1979 –
and then he was gone. We are supposed to believe that they love this
King even more because he was once a monk, because he leads a simple
life close to his people, because he is old and ill and because he
brought rain to the farmers. And they loved him most of all because he
gave them democracy… until of course he took that democracy away from
Red shirts and yellow shirts compete in their displays of loyalty
but, expressed in silence for fear of imprisonment, the future of the
monarchy is in serious doubt. Thaksin and his allies won the last three
general elections but the results were set aside by the King and the
Army under pressure from the yellow shirt movement, said to represent
the middle class and urban elite in Bangkok. First Thaksin was forced to
call a new election, which he won, then he was persuaded by the King
personally to stand down but delayed the move and was overthrown in a
military coup supported by the Democrats. The king called for a rapid
return to democracy but Thaksin’s allies gained a majority. Then
followed an organized betrayal (comparable to the National Government of
Ramsay Macdonald in the UK in 1931 when Labour leaders crossed the
floor of the House following an appeal by the monarchy).
The last issue of The Economist was said to run an article
questioning the future of the monarchy and this has not been circulated
in Thailand. It is likely to focus on the issue of succession as the
heir is less loved than the King but in the long run the issue is not
the personality of the monarch but the limitations of a democracy which
is permitted as long as the right side wins. As in Nepal recently, the
Thai monarch’s position is in question. He has been seen more and more
using his constitutional powers to remove from office politicians not to
the liking of the elite, and in particular Thaksin who is seen by the
masses as having carried out some pro-poor policies. The demand for the
removal of the monarchy is clearly one that has to be taken up by the
So far the protests have been non-violent and the army have
controlled crowds without the use of force. There have been a few
provocative hand grenade attacks on government buildings by men with
military style haircuts but the spirit of Buddhism rules – for now. It
is also obvious from the swagger and arrogance of the military top brass
that they are prepared to drown the protests in blood as soon as they
calculate that they can win, but at present they are deterred by the
polls showing that 85% of people here want the crisis to be solved by
negotiation and there must be doubts about loyalty of the lower ranks.
Thaksin has played the class card, claiming to be the leader of the Phrai
despite his extreme wealth and extravagant lifestyle. In this way a
split within the ruling class, combined with an inability to rule in a
way that carries society forwards, has opened up the more fundamental
division between the oppressed and their oppressors. The rice farmers
are now touring Bangkok in motorcades appealing for support from the
pedlars, stall holders and the lower paid workers – and getting that
support. They also have the possibility of making a class appeal to the
lower ranks of the army, including many recruited from Isan and the
other rural areas.
The red shirts would win if there were a free and fair election and
now carry a great weight on their shoulders. Thailand fell so far behind
its neighbours Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea in a boom time that
any redistribution of wealth would not be sufficient to bring their
living standards up to a reasonable level. New wealth has to be created
in the economy and the labour theory of value tells us that all wealth
comes from a single source, socially necessary labour power. Work
creates value, in other words, but not just any work. It must be
unwasted, effective and efficient work, using current tools and
equipment, transport and communications with a skilled and educated
The Thai elite failed to modernize the country during the decades of
unprecedented advances for capitalist production in Asia, and is less
likely to achieve much now that the world markets are returning to the
more normal pattern of booms, slumps and stagnation. The redshirts have
given small amounts of blood to be splattered on the steps of government
buildings and used by artists for a display to be wrapped around the
Victory monument. In this symbolic act they show an understanding that
the smiling face of a nice kind king looking down from the wall in every
building and the reassuring chants and chimes of the Buddhist monks are
no indication that the army can be trusted. If their campaign should
lose momentum temporarily there will be arrests followed by real
bloodshed and death.
However, it is also very clear that the underlying class
contradictions are what are fuelling the movement. The present regime
will not be able to hold the line for ever. As the movement from below
becomes stronger it is possible the campaign will bring back Thaksin.
Should the situation become like that in Nepal, the ruling elite may
even be forced to ditch the monarchy as a way of appeasing the masses.
The present leadership of the movement could be swept along or pushed
aside by the masses of poor farmers and low paid workers.
During the boom years of 2000 to 2008 the country averaged more than
4% GDP growth per year. This has served to strengthen the working class.
GDP per capita today stands at over $8000 per year, which although low
compared to the major advanced capitalist countries, is an indication of
the economic development the country has undergone in recent years. In
2009, however, GDP is estimated to have fallen by close to 3% as a
result of the worldwide economic recession that seriously affected the
country’s exports. This underlying economic crisis, serves to explain
also the present movement and also a spate of strikes over the past
Out of Thailand’s 65 million population there is now a 36
million-strong labour force, but only 3% are organized in trade unions.
But that still makes over one million trade union members. Trade union
rights, however, are very limited. Even the US Department of State – not
the most worker friendly body in the world – has to admit that there is
“inadequate protection of worker rights” and also “forced labor and
child labor” in Thailand.
In spite of the limited trade union rights, Thailand has recently
witnessed important strikes. One such case was the months long protest
of workers against Body Fashion Thailand Co, a subsidiary of Triumph
International, which fired them last June. About 300 ex-workers occupied
the ground floor of the Ministry of Labour. Another recent example is
that of 2,000 Burmese female workers who ended a strike only after the
authorities located a relative of a worker, who had earlier been thought
to have been killed by security officers of the factory. At the
Ford-Mazda joint venture car manufacturing plant, workers recently came
out on strike for better pay and bonus terms. There was also an
important rail dispute in November of last year.
These are just a few examples of labour disputes, but they show that
the working class is a strong force within the country. Unfortunately,
the Thai working class does not have a voice of its own. In the past the
country had a powerful Communist Party and at one point it led the
second largest communist movement in mainland South-East Asia after
Vietnam with up to four million supporters in the 1970s. Due to the
demise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and other factors, eventually
the party collapsed in the early 1990s. Since then, there has been no
real independent voice of the Thai workers and peasants.
What is required today is the building of a genuine party of the Thai
working class, one that is capable of intervening in the present
movement and placing the working class at the head of the people’s
protest. All the potential for such a party exists today in Thailand.
first published: www.marxist.com
The dramatic events unfolding in
Thailand – with 21 people killed by the army in the last few days –
highlight the weakness of the present regime and the power of the mass
movement. It is an indication of the impact of the present worldwide
crisis of capitalism on this South East Asian country.
By Joe Gold , 13 April 2010
Photo by Nate Robert.
It is the beginning of Songkran, the
equivalent to Christmas and New Year in the Buddhist calendar, when
Thais celebrate by throwing water at each other. It is usual to ask
permission first and the drenching is considered a blessing. Prime
Minister Abhisit, who was born in the UK and educated at Oxford, seems
not to grasp the subtleties of Thai culture. At his insistence the Army
came with water cannons to break up demonstrations by his political
opponents, then dropped tear gas grenades from a helicopter and fired
rubber bullets leaving 21 dead so far and at least 800 injured.
The Red Shirts regrouped and fought back by releasing balloons at the
helicopter and threw Molotov cocktails at the tanks. In the evening the
Army and Police withdrew in what was described as an informal cease
fire, leaving military vehicles in the hand of the Reds.
Last week the two sides were negotiating live on all Television
channels but the impasse was obvious. The Red Shirt leaders demanded the
dissolution of Parliament within 15 days and the government side argued
that they could go a year early but would not resign until they had
passed a budget and arranged the succession of the head of the armed
forces. On Thursday Abhisit declared a state of emergency but police and
military spokesmen announced that violence would not solve the problem.
At one point Redshirts were hugging the police.
Abhisit was talking tough. He wanted a showdown and foreign opinion,
especially the BBC, seemed puzzled and indignant as he had done nothing,
refused to attack the demonstrators and allowed the crisis to drag on
for a month. Surely in England, if a new Jarrow march had occupied
Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street and Canary Wharf for the run up to
Christmas they would be welcomed with Truncheons and Tasers, forced out
with water cannons and tear gas, trampled by horses and filmed or
photographed for identification and arrest at a later stage!
government got arrest warrants for 17 hard line redshirt leaders, later
increased to 27 and announced that if the leaders were arrested the
crowd would drift away. They also managed temporarily to shut down the
satellite channel and about 20 websites. So the police have not got near
enough to arrest any of them.
Abhisit had warned that medium-to-severe force would be used. He had
fallen out with the military top brass, accusing them of not doing their
job of upholding the law and set a deadline of ending one of the main
occupation sites before darkness fell on Saturday. Ambulances were
standing by; the riot troops were equipped and ready. The sky train and
buses stopped running and the heavily censored TV started to show
pictures of a military advance into a retreating crowd of demonstrators
obscured by clouds of teargas. As it turned out this may have been old
footage of an attack on last year’s demonstrations. This time the
redshirts had pushed back the troops, thrown tear gas canisters back at
the police and even attacked a helicopter with balloons, fireworks and
The troops opened fire with rubber bullets from above, but still
facing defeat live ammunition was used, resulting in the deaths of most
of the 14 redshirts who died and a Japanese photographer working for
Reuter. Later claims by a government spokesman that troops had no live
ammunition had already been contradicted by earlier government
statements and threats, as had the claim that they had only wanted to
clear a route for traffic and had no plan to end the demonstration.
Next came a military style attack on the army using M69 hand
grenades, M79 grenade launchers and possibly AK47 rifles, although M16
rifles were also said to be used by some sources. This was aimed at the
military command post from a nearby building and the target was first
pointed out with laser technology. Among the army casualties were
Romblao Thuwatam, deputy chief of staff of the 2nd infantry
division, and Major General Walit Rojanapakdi, commander of the same
division. With the command post gone the troops pulled back abandoning
their armed personnel carriers and Humvees, which were wrecked and
vandalized by the redshirts.
This was no tactical withdrawal, as the government later claimed, but
a military defeat. Major General Khattiya Sawasdiphol (aka Sah Daeng)
was reported as admitting that an unnamed group of fighters came to
assist the redshirt People’s Army and the commanders had been nullified.
This should not have come as a total surprise as there had been a
series of hand grenade attacks on banks and government departments for
the last month since the demonstrations began. There had been
speculation on who was responsible, either redshirts or opponents trying
to discredit them, but they obviously had access to weapons, were a
disciplined and competent group well able to avoid detection and showed a
level of incompetence which could only have been intentional. Their
hand grenades either failed to explode, missed their target, apart from
one which injured two policemen who were out of sight playing pool. One
grenade was found with the lever taped down and the pin removed. My
conclusion is that these were warnings from a section of the military
prepared to fight alongside the redshirts, probably the same small group
of men in black who were seen carrying machine guns.
Photo by adaptorplug.As
people’s TV went off the air this was the signal for demonstrators to
head back to the centre of Bangkok and the crowd at the main
intersection where numbers increased to something like 150,000. It was
also the signal for provincial capitals in the north, especially Chiang
Mai, to be taken over by the locals. There has been no comment here on
the fact that although the main support comes from Isan and the North
there are small groups in the crowd of Muslims from the South, their
traditional head covering just visible under red scarves. Their numbers
are growing even though Thaksin did nothing to address their demands for
cultural freedom and the right to education in their own language. If
they follow the lead of Chiang Mai they could get a degree of autonomy
which the terror campaign will never achieve.
So what are the lessons from Thailand? Class struggles have gone on
since the Bronze Age, and will not stop until the world is free of
oppression. When the working class does not give a lead, the poor
farmers and other oppressed layers can move forward in their own way. A
TV station is now a primary target for both sides. Information and
communication are critical. Just as mustard gas was found to be unusable
in the First World War when the wind changed direction, Tear gas can be
turned against the military forces. If Red Shirt leaders had copied the
ultra-left approach of many groups we know, they would have chanted
abuse at the troops in each confrontation, such as “Pigs Go Home”,
“Troops out’’, but being ex-Maoists in some cases they had an – albeit
indirect acquaintance with Marxism via the little red book and knew that
when society is split there can also be divisions within the state
machine and the army. They could shout at the troops “You are sons of
the people; we will not fight you and you should not fight us.” When
faced with the Thai royal police trying to start an attack from the HQ
on Rama 1 they could put Buddhist monks on the front line. Even though
the monks had to retreat when policewomen were moved to the front line
and the monks were not allowed to be touched by women, this had the
effect of moving the police back to a defensive position.
The unleashing of armed police on the protestors far from holding the
movement back have enraged the masses even more. The killing of unarmed
civilians has led the protestors to state that they will not negotiate
with “murderers”. Jatuporn Prompan, one of the protest leaders, is
reported to have stated that, “There is no more negotiation. Red shirts
will never negotiate with murderers. Although the road is rough and full
of obstacles, it’s our duty to honour the dead by bringing democracy to
The present government is therefore hanging by a thread. It is
proving incapable of holding back the masses, so what useful purpose
does it now have for the ruling class? That explains why no there are
plots afoot to destabilize the Democratic Party and the Prime Minister.
Abhisit’s party is under investigation for an alleged 258 million baht
[£5.2 million] donation from TPI Polene, a Thai company. According to
Thai law a party cannot receive more than ten million baht from any
individual or company. If the allegations are confirmed Abhisit could be
banned from office on corruption charges. This would be a convenient
way of removing him as he is now so hated by the mass of ordinary
workers, peasants and urban and rural poor.
The King in all this has remained silent, which is probably the best
things he can do, as his position is already very precarious. However,
it is clear the Ruling class will have to find some kind of compromise
to appease the farmers. The military are already intervening via the
head of the armed forces, General Anupong Paochinda. He conceded on
Monday that it may be necessary to dissolve parliament to end the
first published: www.marxist.com
By Joe Gold Redshirts and the Split in the State. The
killing has stopped, for now, and what passes for peace has returned to
the Capital. Prime Minister Abhisit leads prayers for peace and talks
of conciliation as the arrests continue and a state of emergency is
extended for three more months in Bangkok and a third of Thailand. Tame
singers, never much good at the best of times, drone on in censored
broadcasts about the return of happiness against a backdrop of burning
barricades – a sort of happiness, apparently, that comes from the
barrel of a gun! The
Udd at its height was a movement with revolutionary potential, hugely
popular in the rural areas, the towns and cities of Northern Thailand.
The protest against dictatorship gathered support from casual workers,
taxi drivers and political activists from around Bangkok. There were a
few teachers and college lecturers including at least one woman who had
supported the Yellow Shirts on the basis that a corrupt Thaksin
Government should be replaced but had been shocked that her protest
resulted in a military dictatorship. There are aspects of this movement
that have not been adequately described, or understood in the media
anywhere in the world, which demonstrate a fragile grip on power by the
could be observed by walking among the Red Shirt supporters and asking
questions that they had a surprising mix of political attitudes and
were in some respects quite conservative. They had strong attachment
to the monarchy and close links to the army and police. The
demonstrators were unarmed, largely peaceful, but with a military
presence somewhere on the periphery. When the Red Shirt supporters said
‘the army cannot fight us. We are the uncles and aunts of the army’
this was not just rhetoric, or a way of saying they came from the same
villages and shared the same class background. A survey of a random
sample of people was not possible, but it became clear that in many
cases they meant literally that they were army families. They had a
father a son or a nephew in the police or the military or a retired
soldier in the family. Where they had guns they were lovingly cleaned
and put on display as trophies captured from the army. Lacking
ammunition and logistic support these were of little use as weapons but
they showed that army families were in the best position to challenge
the allegiance of the troops to the ruling elite and even that an
experienced ex-soldier knew how to grab a gun from a new recruit.They
had support from the ‘renegade officer’ Khattiya Sawasdipol ( Sai
Deng) the major general who was suspended , deprived of his rank and
shot dead by Army snipers from the Sky Train walkway who may have had a
personal following from troops he had trained in the past for combating
communist guerillas. There were allies and class mates of Thaksin who
had been purged after the military coup (probably on the sidelines)
and the men in black launching hand grenades appeared to be sympathetic
to the UDD but not subject to their discipline. One of the three men
arrested after one of these attacks was said to be a retired soldier
and there were even suggestions that a few serving soldiers may have
been behind the barricades.The
UDD had impressive technical capabilities from the start and the
government censors were unable to keep up with their development.. They
could generate their own electricity, and set up a satellite linked TV
station with a streaming transmission from the protest site onto the
the government's expert team analysed the network with the aim of
identifying the source and thereby blocking access to, and broadcasting
from, the UDD Thailand Player, they found that the Red Shirts had
intelligently applied Cloud Computing technology by running Google
Appspot and Microsoft Horizon from two locations of servers in the US -
Mountain View, California; and Redmond, Washington” Bangkok Post.There
were community radio stations , multiple websites and the ability to
block transmissions by the PM on national TV chanels. They had
sophisticated use of cell phones to spread information and had a flow
of information from within the Army and Police. It was known in
advance which battalions would be used in the crackdown.Technical
resources which would be beyond the reach of other movements against
dictatorial rule in other parts of the world can be understand only on
the premise that the UDD protest on the streets in Bangkok and Issan
was the public face of another campaign, hidden and unreported, within
the army and police. There can be no names mentioned and no detailed
account of the discussions in dormitories canteens and the officers
mess , or power struggles in and around the police stations and at
all levels in the military command structure, but the reports of young
soldiers committing suicide rather than take part in the crackdown
leave little room for doubt that the real power struggle was within the
the Red Shirts this was their strength and also their weakness. There
was a turning point in their campaign when they moved from attack to
defence and eventually faced defeat by sections of the Army still loyal
to Abhisit. Reuter reported on April 6th:-Thousands
of protesters streamed towards parts of the Thai capital declared no-go
zones by the government on Tuesday, reversing an earlier decision to
call off the march to avert possible clashes with security forces."Red
shirt" protesters occupying the city's plush shopping district for a
fourth day were hemmed in by riot police, but called on demonstrators
based at Pan Fah Bridge in Bangkok's historic heart to fan out across
the city in defiance of government orders.Thousands
of "red shirts" on motorcycles poured into the city's embassy and
banking district, blowing whistles, peeping horns and waving flags as
riot police quickly moved in."From
now we will make an offensive move," a protest leader Nattawut Saikua
told the crowd. "Let our people from Pan Fah march to all the banned 11
were many accounts of the army pulling back and refusing to fire on the
crowd, of demonstrators hugging the soldiers, of Red shirts taking back
their TV relay station by just pushing through army lines. With their
movement at its height and the government losing control they changed
tactics and moved supporters from Phan Pa and around the City to
Ratchaprasong near the Central Word Shopping Centre. The
offensive move was cancelled but the mood at Ratchaprasong was
celebratory, Supporters were cheering the speeches on the stage. Others
were singing and dancing. Walking freely among the crowd and talking to
as many as possible, mostly through an interpreter, I met one man who
was leaving as he thought the army would come with machine guns and
shoot them all. I spoke to another 18 people who said they had won and
there would be fresh elections. But Abhisit had not resigned and after
a few days the demonstrators had settled in and life around them in
Bangkok returned to something like normal. The Sky train was running,
there was no general strike in Bangkok, but the luxury shopping centres
and private schools were out reach.The
power struggle within the army had led the movement into a world of
plots and counter plots, alliances, promises and betrayals . The Red
Shirt leadership could easily believe they had succeeded when the
police refused to move against them and the army could no longer be
ordered to attack, but the situation would be reversible unless they
moved against the stronghold of the 11th
Infantry Corps where Abhisit was hiding, sending him into into exile .
If they had been promised a coup to bring democracy then they were
victims of duplicity and deceipt.There
were televised negotiations which led nowhere, promises of a compromise
in which Abhisit would resign early but not until he had appointed a
hard line Amart loyalist as head of the army, and leave himself time
to break all promises and round up his opponents after they dispersed.
All this was a charade to give Abhisit time to prepare his killing
It is not unusual for upper class Thais including Dentists, University
professors and diplomats to demonstrate the outlook expected of
highly educated and enlightened people. They can be interested in
global political issues espousing liberal and democratic values,
opposed to the death penalty and can show love of humanity in a
Buddhist and peace loving way until confronted with dissent from the
lower classes, at which point they regress into the most evil, vengeful
and criminalized barbarians on the face of the earth. They just know,
with no self doubt or hesitation that Redshirts are evil and should be
has a long history of military coups and dictatorship and the ruling
elite is not capable of seeing any alternative. Abhisit is an extreme
example of his class having suffered an education at Eton and Oxford, a
system in which a child of the rich can be exposed to maternal
deprivation and institutional life in the first few years of life,
beaten bullied and humiliated then put in charge to do the same to
others as a prefect in the English public School system, forced to
achieve high scores with little understanding and propelled into high
office without the slightest idea why he is there.The
blend of attitudes between the Thai Amart and the remains of the
English aristocracy is especially lethal and this well groomed puppet
behaved accordingly. Troops were sent in to operate a siege, cutting
off water and electricity. They had a 60m free fire zone in front not
for any military reason but to stop fraternization between troops and
demonstrators. Crowds gathered behind the army cordon, local tuk tuk
drivers and office workers among them, who started to jeer and force a
retreat so the siege became permeable. Fresh
troops were prepared, kept in isolation and told repeatedly that they
were doing their duty to the King and they were faced with terrorists.
In preparation for the Crackdown TV broadcasts, the internet and
cellphone signals were switched off, not simply in order to disrupt
Redshirt communications but in order further to isolate their troops
from any knowledge of the protest they were to crush. The
last and most difficult leak of information was from the foreign
journalists on the scene and these came under pressure to stop. Rachel
Harvey and the BBC team were updating their on the spot accounts of the
military build up but stopped abruptly at 6.30 on the Saturday before
the crackdown. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) lists the following incidents.1Japanese cameraman, Hiroyaki Muramoto - fatal shooting on April 1 2Death of Italian freelance photographer Fabio Polenghi on 19 May from gunshot wounds3Nelson
Rand, for France 24 television network, sustained three bullet wounds
in his arm, leg and abdomen, whilst Chandler Vandergrift suffered
shrapnel wounds to the head.
photographers and one reporter were also wounded, including a veteran
Nation senior photographer Chaiwat Phumpuang..Abhisit
had announced that the protest would be ended and calculated that 5000
deaths would be acceptable. His snipers killed Sae Deng and the armored
personel carriers crashed through the makeshift barriers. As the
killing got under way the Red Shirt leaders ended the protest and some
walked into the police station. At that point they were isolated from
their mass base in the North, had been let down by their allies in the
military and had not mobilized support from the working class around
Bangkok who at this stage took no part in the action. The trade union
leadership had been compromised as they supported the moves to oust
limited the massacre but the leadership were hunted down- not just the
National leaders at Ratchaprasong but the newly emerging leadership
that came forward in the course of the campaign, speaking on the stages
of the UDD sit down demonstrations in The North and Northeast of the
country. The government had a list of 500 leaders and those under
arrest were transferred to army bases for interrogation.s“No country in the world got democracy just by asking — you have to fight for it.”Where is Phusadee?Just
one of many among the 88 dead, 3000 injured and others missing and
unaccounted for, (including two corpses), Phusadee Ngamkam is now the
focal point of investigations into the truth of how Thai PM Abhisit and
the thinly veiled military regime dealt with the Red Shirt insurrection.As
the occupation at the Ratchaprasang intersection and Red Shirt leaders
walked into the police headquarters nearby Phusadee stood alone by the
empty stage saying to the photographers “No country in the world got
democracy just by asking — you have to fight for it.” Now she is
missing, not even on the official list of people unaccounted for.The Mission ‘We
just want Democracy’ said the banner behind the stage at
Ratchaprasong. The problem for The UDD and for Thailand is that
democracy has become a revolutionary worth fighting for because of
the weakness and instability of the ruling class, which can use loyalty
to the king as its trump card but has no hope of an electoral victory.
Their ambivalent view of monarchy and the class struggle is reflected
in the UDD Mission statement:-Mission:
mission calls for a for a mass revolutionary movement, power of the
people, which will usher in a constitutional monarchy and break the
Aristocratic stranglehold on power, but without a fight. Loyalty to the
King is to be expected so far, as no Thai would sit down while the
National Anthem is playing or would dare to mention the possibility of
a future Republic, risking the very serious charge of lese majeste.
Nevertheless it must be said with all due respect to the Red Shirt
leaders, who showed initiative and remarkable courage in their peaceful
challenge to the Military backed regime, that violence always comes
from the State in dealing with a popular movement of the poor and
oppressed. Democrats will have no choice in the matter, unless their
movement has such overwhelming strength on the streets that it can
brush all threats aside and take power without hesitation.The
state today, just as when Lenin wrote his ‘State and Revolution’ is
made up of armed forces and bureaucrats charged with protecting the
temporary and shifting borders which define a nation (Siem Reap in
nearby Cambodia names the spot where the Thais were defeated and there
is still a border dispute between the two states) and also to regulate
society in the interests of the ruling elite.The
first constitutional monarchy in the world, in England, was produced
not by discussions and a social contract but as the outcome of a bloody
civil war between supporters of the Parliament on one side and the
Lords and landowners (the English Amart) on the other.In the early stages King Charles 1st
refused to compromise and had his head cut off. The Commonwealth led by
Oliver Cromwell was eventually defeated but the restoration of the
monarchy under Charles 2nd
was a compromise between the Lords and the emerging manufacturers and
traders who became the capitalists of the Industrial Revolution. The
hereditary Lords retained an Upper house and had some power until
recent times and the monarchy remains a threat to democracy through the
Privy Council. Once in the UK and once in Australia the institution of
the monarchy has been used to overthrow an elected Government. Just as
a Border is the outcome of war these institutions are an outcome for
shorter or more extended periods of time of ongoing conflict between
the classes in society. They are ‘dynamic equilibrium’ when they seem
most unchangeable.Revolutionary character of the UDDThe
UDD was representing parties which had won elections and been deprived
of power, either by military coup, banning of parties by a rigged
judiciary, or manipulation of the votes within Parliament. It was a
mass revolutionary movement at its height, especially in Issan among
the rural poor. That is not to say that its followers were trained
revolutionaries or had a clearer view of a future and more just society
than anyone else. Bill Durodie, writing on the ‘spiked’website explains
this with extracts from Trotsky’s three volume history of the Russian
Revolution. For example :-One
trend that Trotsky identified was the use of ‘conspiracy’ as one of the
prime accusations made by the ruling class – consciously or not – in
their attempts to demobilise the masses at a time of insurrection.
Members of the elite are unable to understand through their ‘police
mind’ that periods of rapid change stem, not from ‘the activities of
“demagogues”’, but from the precise opposite – the ‘deep conservatism’
of the masses, whose views lag chronically ‘behind new objective
conditions’. As a result, the elite focuses narrowly on ‘the deliberate
undertaking of the minority’, whilst ignoring ‘the spontaneous movement
of the majority’. Trotsky adds: ‘Without a guiding organisation, the
energy of the masses would dissipate like steam not enclosed in a
piston-box… But nevertheless what moves things is not the piston or the
box, but the steam.’Trotsky
had also been through the 1905 revolution and remembered how a group
of peasants led by a priest, Father Gapon, had gone to see the Tsar,
the ‘little father’ who loved all his people and ask him to plead their
case with the landowners, not able to imagine that their Tsar would
send out the troops and have them shot down.The
causes of an uprising are not to be found in waves of idealism or the
genius of agitators but in blind rage on the part of the people
involved. Democracy itself might not be worth fighting and dying for,
especially if nothing more is at stake than the date of the next
election. But what they hope and intend can be achieved through
democratic means, an end to serial dictatorships, a lasting change in
the balance of power between rich and poor, prospects of better health
and education for their children, all these issues are grievances which
can accumulate to a point of explosion. Enough is enough and Thailand
must change.After the Crackdown, This
uprising is over and the government prepares for the next, placing an
order for an airship despite reports that the prototype had failed to
cruise at an altitude sufficient to be safe from ground fire. Plans are
discussed for a more effective methods of blocking internet sites so
that it will not have to be switched off, and the purge of the police
and army continues.In a nauseating display
of religiose hypocrisy Abhisit with rows of monks leads prayers for the
dead and talks of conciliation – with the UDD leaders locked up,
opposition parties closed down and no prospect of a free and fair
election. The ruling class cannot face an election but is too weak to
enforce an authoritarian regime, lacking a mass party of reaction based
on the middle class or an army that can be trusted. Without sons of the
farmers, there is no army. His government is still unstable and could
be brought down by coalition partners or a few MPs changing sides. The
next election or a succession of the monarchy are likely reopen the
question of who rules Thailand. Meanwhile General Khattiya founded a
new party and his Daughter is taking over the leadership, and one of
the Redshirt leaders got permission from the court to be released from
prison under guard just long enough to sign the papers so he can stand
for the opposition in a Bangkok by-election. His party has appealed for
a robot which can make speeches and wave its arms on his behalf as he
campaigns from prison.Thaksin
has raised the possibility of Guerilla warfare and some of the UDD have
prepared to go underground. There will be more discussion of methods
and objectives of the next stage of this ongoing struggle. Marxism is
not simplistically prescriptive but can be used as a guide to those
wishing to transform society through an understanding of the
relationship between contending classes and through the study of
revolutionary history.Suggestions for an amended mission might include:-1 To achieve a genuine democracy.2 All politicians to be accountable with full declaration of interests.3 Politicians fairly convicted of corruption should be banned from holding office.4 The corruption of leaders should never be used as an excuse for closing down opposition parties.5Abolition of the law of Lese Majeste6 Democratisation of the Army so that it can never again be used to oppress the people of Thailand.7. To deconstruct and move beyond the Amartyatippatai (Aristocracy) system.8 The right of self determination for the Malay speaking areas in the South.9Advanced
Health services and free education, full Trade union rights,
modernization fund for rural life, full equality of opportunity and the
rights of ethnic minorities including the Malays.
the goal of establishing a genuine democracy that has the King as our
Head of State, with political power belonging exclusively to the
people. We reject any attempt, past or future, at using the monarchy to
silence dissent or advance a particular agenda.
Dissolving the 2007 Constitution and restoring the 1997 Constitution,
which may then be amended through a transparent, consultative, and
democratic process...3) Bringing Thais together in an effort to solve
our political and socio-economic problems, recognising that such
efforts must stem from the power of the people...4) Implementing the
rule of law, due process and a system of equal justice for all, free of
any obstructions or double-standards...5) Uniting all Thais who love
democracy, equality, and equal justice within all facets of society, in
an effort to deconstruct and move beyond the Amartyatippatai
(Aristocracy) system...6) Using exclusively non-violent means to
achieve these objectives.
of a combined mass movement of the workers soldiers and farmers of
Thailand capable of removing the dictatorial Abhisit regime. In the early stages it would be necessary to demand in Thailand , and to repeat from abroad,1 Immediate release of political prisoners.2 Drop all charges of terrorism and Lese Majeste.3
It can be promised on behalf of the future and legitimate government of
Thailand that those who torture prisoners will be punished, and that
punishment will go right up the chain of command. 4
If Phusadee Ngamkam is not found or accounted for Abhisit will be
held personally responsible for her murder and will suffer the
consequences.Joe GoldThai border
first published www.karlmarx.net