As the openly self-proclaimed fascistic and anti-democracy Pitak Siam movement get set to march in Bangkok this weekend, Thailand’s government have invoked a very limited use of the Internal Security Act (ISA). It will be employed for 9days in a few, small areas of Bangkok. As far as I’m aware there has been no call to ban the Pitak Siam protest, so their rights to peaceful assembly have been maintained.
However, some voices have been raised in concern as to the use of the tough ISA security laws and their impact on civil liberties.
The line being put out is that using the ISA laws now is no different to when Abhisit’s unelected, unpopular and unmandated regime used them in 2010.
When the actual evidence is looked at, this “false equivalence” (a classic argumentative device used by those who actually don’t have any argument) is easily debunked. Here’s why.
First lets compare the governments of the Pheu Thai Party and The Democrat Party.
The present Pheu Thai Party government won a landslide election victory in 2011. This was the 5th straight election win for the various re-incarnations of the Thai Rak Thai party from which PTP sprung. They have a very clear democratic mandate to govern, winning a single-party parliamentary majority and had a bigger share of the Thai electorate voting for them in 2011 than any single party in any European democracy. To claim that PTP have no legitimacy to govern is to attack democracy itself.
The last time the Abhisit Vejjajiva-led Democrat Party won the largest number of seats in the Thai parliament was in 1992. The Democrat Party has never won an outright majority. The only time it has taken power in recent years (2008) was after aligning itself with neo-fascists, dodgy generals and the corrupt Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party – a political entity that wasn’t even in existence when its members that made up Abhisit’s 2008 "Coalition of the Anti-democratic" were elected in 2007. In short, Abhisit’s government was as democratic to the same degree as the earth is flat. It lacked the democratic legitimacy needed to clean Bangkok’s toilets never mind govern the country. However, this didn’t stop Abhisit’s government sending snipers onto the streets of Bangkok to shoot nurses and school children in 2010 in order to cling onto power. Over 90 unarmed civilians died in 2010 as a result.
Only the most myopic and delusional would claim that there is some “equivalence” of democratic legitimacy between the PTP and Democrat governments.
Now onto Pitak Siam and the Red Shirts.
Pitak Siam’s (PS) avowed publicly proclaimed aim is to destroy democracy, throw out the democratically elected PTP government and then shut the country down for five years. To ratchet up tension PS have deliberately sowed rumours of violence and chaos up to and including shutting down Bangkok’s electric and water supplies. They are backed by a handful of very wealthy Thais and whilst they can call on a few thousand followers have no mandate whatsoever. Their "aims" seem to be driven by a peculiar form of nihilism that offers Thailand nothing other than chaos and violence. They are, of course, backed by Abhisit’s Democrat Party.
The Red Shirts protests in 2010, which were estimated to reach over 300,000 persons at their height, called, simply, for Abhisit to test his government’s legitimacy with an election. When the Democrat Party government finally did call one in 2011 they were hammered, returning with less seats than they managed in 2007. The Red Shirt aligned PTP, as outlined above, won in a landslide.
So, we have one protest group seeking to destroy democracy and one seeking to restore it. To claim they are “equivalent” is, once again, absurd.
Now onto the invocation of the ISA.
When the Abhisit Vejjajiva government invoked the ISA in 2009 and 2010 it was used to apply lethal force to attack democracy and keep the Democrat Party’s unelected, unmandated and anti-democratic government in power. The ISA was used purely for anti-democratic means.
The PTP government are being threatened by a group whose sole aim is to overthrow and destroy democracy and who appear to be more than willing to use violence to do so. It’s very clear that Pitak Siam need to be curtailed and it’s very clear that the ISA is being invoked to protect democracy.
To claim that the use of the ISA by an unelected government to attack pro-democracy protesters is equivalent to the use of the same law to protect an obviously democratically elected government from a potentially violent fascistic tiny minority is not only disingenuous it is dangerous.
It’s my view that Yingluck’s government has a duty to protect both Thai democracy and Thai citizens from Boonlert’s fascists and Mark Abhisit’s maniacal lust for power.
Those looking for a fence to sit on always find excuses as to why they lack courage, principle and conviction. False equivalences provide an easy but logically false way out that employs the kind of weak arguments a child could debunk.
I wish that there was no need to invoke the ISA but its present very limited use to protect democracy is entirely appropriate. Let’s hope this weekend passes off peacefully and Pitak Siam scuttle back under the stones from whence they came.