The Western media's neglect of the ongoing political unrest in Thailand seems quite conspicuous considering it's a sordid gem of a story ready-made for sensational headlines, replete with murder, political intrigue, corruption and nepotism. Thai activist Jon-Amerin Vorabutra is frustrated by this lack of coverage because he wants the world to see how the puppet regime of Yingluck Shinawatra continues employing excessive force against peaceful protesters. During an exclusive interview with this writer on Friday, Mr. Vorabutra urged the global press to compensate for past dereliction by spotlighting a mass demonstration set for January 13 that could bring Bangkok to a standstill and, potentially, the regime to its knees.
The opposition's animosity towards the incumbent is certainly understandable given Yingluck's government is de facto ruled by her nefarious brother, the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a felon on the lam who is able to still run the country, according to The New York Times, due to the wonders of Skype. Veteran journalist Tony Cartalucci succinctly captures Thaksin's track record and operational reach: "There is no question that an accused mass murderer and convicted criminal hiding abroad from a 2-year jail sentence, multiple arrest warrants, and a long list of pending court cases, is illegally running Thailand by proxy."
Yingluck herself is the personification of power gone mad. According to Michael Peel of the Financial Times she has cynically pursued her family's agenda since taking the helm. Although freely elected in 2011 Yingluck made the tragic mistake of showing contempt for the governed one too many times when she decided to extend amnesty to her fugitive sibling, triggering this latest round of protests. One wonders if she would be facing the current dilemma if her highness could have found a scintilla of wisdom and/or humility to resist being tempted by such a monumentally stupid idea.
Seemingly in one fell swoop Yingluck squandered the public trust and unleashed the ire and energy of the most passive of resisters, evidenced by millions of mostly middle-class protesters taking to the streets demanding her ouster. Of course, those who lust for power are rarely ready to concede it, which is why the state has tried to crackdown on the movement with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets -- and more.
Vorabutra and members of the People and Students Network for the Reform of Thailand (KPT) have been circulating evidence indicating regime surrogates have used lethal force on several occasions, including on December 28 when a member of the KPT was killed by a gunmen wielding an M16. Government security forces first claimed ignorance then blamed the incident on an unnamed "third party."
Vorabutra has also been disgusted by the Western media grossly underestimating protest attendance figures despite several rallies attracting millions. Reuters reported that a November 24 protest attracted only about 100,000 anti-government protesters while The Nation, a major news site in Thailand, put the figure at over one million. Eventually learning their lesson, opposition organizers decided to capture helicopter footage of a rally that took place on December 22. Vorabutra said this near irrefutable evidence was handed over to experts who then pegged the size of the crowd at no less than 4.3 million. Yet Reuters and The New York Times reported the number of protesters at the very same rally to be in the "tens of thousands."
In light of the media's credo "if it bleeds, it leads," how does one account for the overall dearth of curiosity? Cartalucci suggests that members of the Western corporate media complex have squarely placed themselves on the side of Wall Street and London's "monied elite" as opposed to performing their role as impartial informer. Upon taking office in the late 1990s Thaksin promised to act as a "matchmaker" between Western commercial interests and Thai businesses. He has been represented by America's foremost public relations and lobbying firms and has been an adviser to the omniscient Carlyle Group.
The Shinawatras have also leveraged American research institutes, including the CIA-linked Asia Foundation, whose studies have consistently portrayed the struggle in Thailand as a class conflict with Thaksin and his ilk representing the downtrodden against an opposition led by aristocrats. One would think said charge would be instantly undermined by the nature of its source, a cabal of crony capitalists, yet it has become intertwined within the mainstream media's narrative. Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to stand by its woman in Bangkok whom the State Department has referred to as "a long-time friend and ally."
This is not to suggest that exploitive elites are not capable of hijacking the revolution. Some have fairly accused certain anti-regime egoists of abusing the power of civil obedience for their own personal material gain. Thus, Thai protesters who genuinely care about their country should be suspicious of ideologues and utopians who promise nirvana. The legitimately civic-minded should also be on the lookout for reformers in-name-only who seek power for power's sake in addition to being wary of those merely interested in maintaining the status quo under a different name.
Vorabutra and his associates are well aware of these pitfalls -- they want nothing more than to break the cycle of corruption that has plagued Thai politics for decades. They also know Thailand will never recover by addressing only the symptoms of the disease, which is why they are focused on eliminating one of its major underlying causes.