Saturday, March 27, 2010

M79s and ungovernability

While the red shirts are gaining traction with their political message of double standards in the judicial system, there is a more serious problem with looming ungovernability in Thailand.

When I first came to Thailand I was told that "only the stupid and the poor go to jail".

And while there are exceptions, this sharp summary of the Thai judicial system is apt.

There are judicial double standards currently being manipulated by Abhisit's disingenuous and ineffectual government and the powerful non-democratic powers which control Thailand, but the real problem is that there simply is not much 'rule of law' anyway.

While we might talk about the manipulation of the judiciary, corrupt police, or simply the scoff-law traits so prevalent in Thai society, the real problem is that major violent crimes conducted in the political arena are rarely, if ever, resolved.

The list is too long to be detailed but major events like the eight new year's eve bombings in 2006 which killed three and injured 38 or the attempted assassination of Sondhi Limthongkul have simply disappeared, like countless other cases, without resolution.

The key point is that political violence - if not simply violence in general - is not only rampant but exists virtually unchecked. Major violent crimes occur with startling frequency and are rarely, if ever, subject to the police arrest, trial, or conviction.

(This is not even mentioning the southern insurgency which will never, and I really do mean never, be resolved without an end to the judicial impunity exercised by state security forces.)

Take the case of M79 grenade launchers as the quintessential example. Not only have M79s been the weapon of choice for the last couple years in a string of unresolved attacks which have escalated in the last couple weeks but there is the more serious issue of M79 manufacturing.

Characteristic of the shambolic enforcement and judicial system, police raids in Ayutthaya and Samut Prakan provinces uncovered workshops producing literally thousands of M79 grenade launchers but failed to explain or resolve the very serious issues of the production of war weapons.

Also characteristic of Abhisit's military-dependent government, groundless and shrill accusations from sycophantic and mindless ministers quickly pointed towards the red shirt protesters as the destination of the M79s.

We should not underestimate what the accusations imply.

Should protesters be arming themselves with thousands of war weapons, the implication is clear. If thousands of weapons were being commissioned by opponents of the government it would mean that Thailand is at the cusp of a serious and bloody civil war.

But, what is more likely, is that Thailand's puppet government, non-democratic leaders, keystone cops, and incompetent judiciary have fostered a serious ungovernability crisis in Thailand.

The big question, and one hardly broached by the local media, was the more likely destination of a large scale commission of war weapons.

Burma would be a logical guess. The Wa and the Tatamadaw are are at it again and it is not exactly a leap of the imagination to think that locally manufactured weapons are being sold to the Wa or the myriad of ethnic separatist groups or drug gangs operating in Burma.

But, the most plausible explanation, is that the M79s were being manufactured for local consumption not for anti-government forces but for the unaccountable Thai military.

If the GT 200 scandal has taught us anything, it is that wildly uncontrolled military spending equals wildly uncontrolled military corruption.

Military corruption - as opposed to bottom-up police corruption - is a top-down process in which weapons procurement is a core source of ill-gotten revenue for Thailand's curiously wealthy generals.

Rumor is that the recent silence around the raids on the manufacture of M79s is not because the police 'investigation' led to the red shirts but because the military had spent x-billion baht on M79s supposedly manufactured abroad but had commissioned them locally (despite serious concerns over quality in which many simply can not be fired) in a standard-practice procurement scheme that would net top generals millions of baht.

And here we have the crux of ungovernability.

How can a state function properly when those supposedly upholding the state are slinging incendiary allegations of civil war to bolster their highly questionable legitimacy while turning a blind eye to blatant military corruption and allowing an already impotent police force to fail, again and again and again, to bring resolution to serious politically-inspired crime?

So, while the red shirts are gaining political capital pointing out a major deficiency in the Thai judicial system, the net result of a chronic lack of law and order means that the state can not accommodate political contestation and is stumbling forward, like an aging alcoholic, towards a crisis of ungovernability.

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! Anonymous only because of fear :-(


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