S.E. Asia & Japan

Japan&SE Asia

  • Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear Plants  The no-BS info on Japan's disastrous nuclear operators Monday, March 14, 2011  for Truthout/Buzzflash  by Greg Palast Texas plants planned by Tokyo Electric. Image:NINA I need ...
    Posted 9 Apr 2011, 14:39 by Admin uk
  • Some experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster could become worse than Chernobyl.  Dahr Jamail Last Modified: 08 Apr 2011 http://english.aljazeera.net Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was heavily damaged by the tsunami from the massive March 11 ...
    Posted 9 Apr 2011, 10:08 by Admin uk
  • Japanese protest
    Posted 25 Mar 2011, 05:29 by Admin uk
  • Behind Japan's nuclear crisis  Safety on the Cheap  Robert Reich   Mar 16, 2011 12:12PM  Can we please agree that in the real world corporations exist for one purpose, and one purpose only — to ...
    Posted 17 Mar 2011, 12:54 by Admin uk
  • Thailand: The Red Shirt Revolt Pt 1 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 ...
    Posted 3 Mar 2011, 04:20 by Admin uk
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Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear Plants

posted 9 Apr 2011, 14:34 by Admin uk   [ updated 9 Apr 2011, 14:39 ]

 The no-BS info on Japan's disastrous nuclear operators

 Monday, March 14, 2011

 for Truthout/Buzzflash

 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 racketeering investigations.

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 suffered enough.

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.

There's more.

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 — Toshiba.

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 dime.

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.


Some experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster could become worse than Chernobyl.

posted 9 Apr 2011, 10:06 by Admin uk

 Dahr Jamail 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 nuclear crisis.

"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 end."

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 radiation.

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 going."

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."

Permanent interdiction

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 these things."

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 impacts."

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 Fukushima's.

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 severe accidents".

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 explosions.

This ejection of radioactive material could indicate far more extensive damage to the radioactive pools than has been previously disclosed.

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 stopped."

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 US

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 political campaigns.

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 cancer".

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 environment.

"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."

Japanese protest

posted 25 Mar 2011, 05:26 by Admin uk


Behind Japan's nuclear crisis

posted 17 Mar 2011, 12:47 by Admin uk   [ updated 17 Mar 2011, 12:54 ]

 Safety on the Cheap

 Robert Reich

  Mar 16, 2011 12:12PM

 Can we 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.)

In the 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 likely.”

Sound familiar?

The 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 well.

This was 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.

Nor did Massey Energy spend the money needed to ensure its mines were safe.

And so on.

Don’t 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 accident.

Inevitably 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 harms.

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.

It’s 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.


Thailand: The Red Shirt Revolt Pt 1

posted 3 Mar 2011, 04:19 by Admin uk

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 the country.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajaya. Photo by World Economic Forum/Monika Flückinger.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 office. Today’s “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 elite.

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.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 them.

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 movement.

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 workforce.

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 period.

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 Red Shirt Revolt Part 2

posted 3 Mar 2011, 04:14 by Admin uk

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.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!

The 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 lanterns.

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.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 this country.”

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 crisis.

first published: www.marxist.com

Thailand Pt 3: Redshirts and the Split in the State.

posted 10 Jul 2010, 11:39 by Admin uk   [ updated 3 Mar 2011, 04:18 ]

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 murderous elite.
It 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 internet.
‘When 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 armed forces.
For 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 routes immediately.
There 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 fields.
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 shot.

Thailand 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 wounds
3Nelson 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.
.4Three Thai 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 Thaksin.
This 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:-
  1. Achieving 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.
    .2) 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.

Their 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 UDD
The 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 Majeste
6 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.

10Building 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 Gold
Thai border

first published www.karlmarx.net


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