Kurlantzick on failed reconciliation

At the Council on Foreign Relations, Joshua Kurlantzick has a take on the failure of reconciliation.

He begins by claiming that “Thai politics, which almost couldn’t get worse, actually has.” We at PPT don’t agree. Since the 2011 election, while those who lost the election have been vocal and demonstrative, and while the conditions in the south seem more dangerous, in terms of the ongoing political crisis, we have to admit that Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has seen an easing of political violence and repression.

Even in terms of lese majeste, while calls for changes to the law and for the release of those currently incarcerated, and despite some regressive statements on lese majeste, we can think of only one case that has been wholly processed under this government. Others, begun under the royalist Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, have continued to be processed. That scores of people aren’t being accused and jailed is a step forward, if a much smaller one than PPT wanted.

We don’t disagree with the cited quote from Thitinan Pongsudhirak who states that “Thailand’s problem is that those who keep winning elections are not allowed to rule, whereas others who ultimately call the shots cannot win elections.” At the same time, we think that those “who call the shots” are not going unchallenged. The recent red shirt challenges to the politicized and corrupt Constitutional Court are a case in point. The Court’s actions were reprehensible but were opposed and continue to be opposed, and the Puea Thai Party hasn’t (yet) been dissolved.

That progress, however, is not robust, and Yingluck’s government faces constant threat. We remain bemused by the claim that there was a “deal” done between Thaksin Shinawatra, the palace and the military. There’s scant evidence for a deal yet the claim continues to be made. Kurlantzick cites Asia Times Online columnist Shawn Crispin on this, but as far as we can tell, no deal has been respected by anyone. Rather, an arm-wrestle continues for control of the state.

If there is one aspect of the so-called deal that has played out it relates to the military.  Essentially, Yingluck has been very reluctant to challenge the military. Indeed, we believe that her government is pushing money to the military, with the idea being that new toys keep them quiet and funds flowing to military bosses from “commissions.” That said, deal or no deal, we think the government would have attempted to avoid confrontation with the coup makers. That would also apply to the coup makers in the palace. Yingluck’s prostrating and pandering to them is a bit like throwing money at the men with guns. Conflict with both groups continues but is not as overt as in the past.

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