Friday, December 21, 2007

The bridge to democracy: papering the cracks

I could think of many different analogies to describe what the NLA has done over the last couple of weeks. We English can probably best relate to the old idiom of the boiling frog. The idea being that if you have a frog in a pot of water and that water suddenly becomes scorching, he will jump out. But if you turn the water up slowly - fraction by faction - the frog will not realise until it is too late.

Then we have the real life tale of my school. Our delicious continental breakfasts were popular with staff but very expensive to the school. Knowing our farang habits of complaining and stubbornness, the school took a deviously smart plan. Bit by bit, they took away our morning feast. The orange juice disappeared, then the cereal next week, then the fruit a couple of weeks later and so on. When we realised what was happening, they agreed to return just a couple of items. By then, we were so sad to see our breakfast disappear, we agreed to the hefty compromise.

And that is exactly what the NLA have done to Thailand with their behaviour this week. Knowing that all eyes are on the election, the unelected executive branch have staged a silent coup. Just three days before they step down forever,they have passed a bill allowing extreme breeches of human rights and freedoms without almost zero opposition. That's right, just eight men objected to the travesty. How convenient.

Of course, this massive bestowal of power on the military only comes into play if there is a "threat to national security". Yes, it's that phrase we know and........well, we know it well. A video on youtube was once "a threat to national security". So were a few posters on a university web forum. So were a few student protesters handing out leaflets. A "threat to national security", it seems, can mean anything the military want it to.

And just like the teachers who were so happy to get a tiny bit of their breakfast back, the people stopped resisting the ISOC law after the NLA agreed to hand some power over to the PM, not an army general. The fact that the PM looks likely to be the choice of the army and privy council leader general Prem is overlooked. The people won a compromise, and they stopped fighting except for Jon Unpagkorn's few.

In my outsider's view, this is a clandestine coup. The Thai bridge of democracy has been blown up so many times and the people are sick of paying for the repairs. Knowing this, the military employed a cunning plan. Instead of blowing the bridge up once more, they chipped away at its foundations, pulling out a brick at a time, and replacing it with paper.

Timing was crucial. The military know that while all our eyes are focused on festivities and the race over the Democracy Bridge - will the winner be the handsome man or the plump, old school politician? - it doesn't really matter who takes the victory. The bridge's paper foundations would be washed away by the first heavy storm. Then the uniformed elite would, once again, set up their blockade on the bridge. A hefty toll is levied for anyone wanting to pass.

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