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April 11, 2009

By Rady Ananda

Farmers and youth organize new protest party, shutting down the Association of Southeast Asian Nations economic summit.  Populist resistance is growing across the globe as the elite-engineered financial collapse creates a deeper and wider spread of poverty and starvation. 

Thailand’s United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship stormed an economic summit yesterday, reports the Los Angeles Times.  The UDD demands the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiv, a 44-year-old Oxford economist.  The UDD claims his government seized power through a “silent coup” abetted by the military and Bangkok elite.

“Protest leader Kerk Somsan said the group overran the hotel in retaliation for one of their members allegedly being shot dead and others injured by gunfire in a clash with rival protesters earlier that day. They carried through on a vow to occupy the hotel if the government failed to make an arrest in the case within one hour.”

Asian Protesters Shut Down Econ Summit x Barbara Walton-EPA 4-09

Barbara Walton / EPA

Disgusted by the ouster of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, and the new government’s inability to deal with the economic crisis, citizens have taken to the streets for the past several days in at least 45 locations throughout Thailand.  The UDD also demands immediate elections and restoration of the 1997 Constitution, reports Asian Times.

The UDD differs from past populist movements in that it also rejects Thailand’s monarchy.  One poster reportedly held nude caricatures of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and another royal advisor. Royalists fear the threat to “monarchical institutions beyond the Privy Council … has a wider unspoken agenda to challenge the monarchy’s future role in Thai society.” 

That’s likely true.  The UDD chanted and carried signs that read:

We’re not a serf, we’re a citizen

We are in the 21st century, not medieval 

All Thais are equal under the same law

“UDD supporters have been instructed to converge on provincial city halls, the symbol of central power, in the case of any military coup or crackdown launched in Bangkok,” one UDD organizer reportedly told Asian Times.

Apparently the promised government handout of $56 per citizen (2,000 baht) has not mollified a growing populist movement for self-rule.  Analysts suspect ousted leader Thaksin is the hidden hand behind the UDD.  However, since 2006, the Thaksin family fortune ($2.2 billion USD) has been seized and frozen, pending corruption charges.  It’s not likely the Thaksin family is financing a populist uprising, but Thaksin has been posting nightly video links to reach Bangkok protesters.

Back in December, the same analyst welcomed Abhisit’s parliamentary election victory, “raising hopes for a period of political stability.”  The opposite occurred.  Instead, months of protests have harangued the new government, “culminating in the seizure of Bangkok’s main airports.”

“Mr. Thaksin, a self-made telecommunications billionaire, represents one pole of a deeply divided Thai society. He draws his support from the rural lower classes, who feel they have been cut out of Thailand’s power equation by the middle and upper class establishment in Bangkok. The army, the business elite and powerful royalists all supported Mr. Abhisit’s rise to power and are also in the cross hairs of the red-shirted protesters.”

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is being challenged by the UDD on democratic principles. 

“PAD’s leaders have advocated, and certain Democrat executives have supported, a move back towards a half-appointed, half-elected Lower House of Parliament, which is currently fully elected. The military-drafted 2007 constitution included provisions for a partially appointed Senate, which had been previously fully elected.” 

But self-rule does not seem to be the spark setting off this powder keg.  The Financial Times reports:

“The Pattaya summit was supposed to bring together the leaders of the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations with the premiers of Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.

“The agenda was dominated by the search for a common response to the international financial crisis, but leaders were also going to sign an important Asean-China agreement on investment and China, Japan and South Korea were due to discuss North Korea’s recent missile test.

The annual meetings are almost the only time that Asian leaders gather without other players such as the US or European powers. The meeting had already been deferred once. It was supposed to be held in December but a different group of protesters had threatened that event.”

Global bankers that engineered this financial collapse through deregulation probably did not anticipate global peasant reaction to starvation.  Protests and strikes have broken out in Europe and Africa.  In Iceland, protesters brought down the conservative government, replacing it with a populist leader. 

Elites forget their history if they believe they are in control.  This reminds me of Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue:

Who is to blame in what country?
Never can get to the one
Dealing in multiplications
And they still can’t feed everyone.

The last couple centuries of rule by these families have wrought environmental destruction, mass starvation, species extinction, and never ending wars.  Best not to fool with the masses.  When we get riled up, there’s no stopping us.  As the economic crisis worsens, what is clear is that an entirely new, sustainable system of self-governance will emerge.  There is no alternative.