I was away taking a short break since the U.S. stock market was closed on Friday for Good Friday. In the process I’ve disconnected myself from the outside world, no TV, internet or whatsoever. And when I came back tons of things happened but nothing beats the chaotic crisis happening in Thailand. A summit meeting of East Asian leaders in Pattaya intended to address the economic crisis and regional issues was rudely disrupted and all the leaders were rushed away by helicopters, speed-boats or cars to escape the tsunami of red-shirt protestors. Poor newly-installed PM Najib Razak – he was still in the shock and was visibly upset that he couldn’t deliver his first speech in the international forum as the PM of Malaysia. So far there seems to be bad omens for this PM who is also the son of the country’s second prime minister.
After Najib officially took over the presidency of UMNO and PM the tri by-elections which were timed to give the federal government advantage didn’t work according to the plan. Najib’s marketing stunt during his maiden speech as the PM also didn’t seems to work when the opposition retained their seats with increased majority. Najib’s administration is as puzzled as Thailand’s PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on what went wrong. Well, actually it was more on denial syndrome on Najib’s part and allegation of illegitimate premiership and demand for fresh elections on Abhisit’s side. If there’s one thing that shocked Najib who was holed up in his fifth-floor Royal Cliff hotel room before being escorted to the airport, it was the view of the swarming red-shirt protestors into the hotel.
Compared to Malaysian protestors the red-shirt protestors who are supporters of ousted Thaksin Shinawatra are more fearless and persevere in their demand for fresh elections. Najib has been having peaceful and luxurious life after his father’s death since everything was given to him on silver-plate. Can you imagine if what he experienced in Pattaya was actually happening in Kuala Lumpur? Maybe that was what shocked him so much so that he needs more time to compose himself even after his plane landed on Malaysian soil. About 30,000 protestors have taken to the street of Bangkok which was declared “state of emergency”. Some protestors even had taken over some military tanks. Like it or not the current situation in Thailand would indirectly impact its’ neighboring countries although it should not have the same effect as 1997-1998 Asia Recession, which coincidently started from Thailand as well.
While the Malaysian protestors could learn a trick or two from Thailand’s protestors both countries share different approaches and methodlogies although the objective is the same – a change in government for the betterment of the people; at least that was what they claimed. The good news – what is happening in Bangkok will never happen in Kuala Lumpur and below are the reasons:
- The protestors “identity” is different – unlike Thailand’s protestors who are united as “Thais”, Malaysian’s protestors are still divided under ethnic umbrella and you can see more ethnic-Malay than ethnic-Chinese or ethnic-Indian protestors although the gap is slowly closing in as can be wtinessed since the Mar 2008 general election. While the ethnic-Malay and ethnic-Indian are more daring in their demonstration, the ethnic-Chinese prefer to voice so silently via ballot-box. It’s still the “business first” and “rice bowl first” for the Chinese although most of them are open about their frustration on the current weak and corrupt government.
- The reason is different – the red-devils demonstrators reason was British-born Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power undemocratically (hence illegitimately) through a court ruling that toppled former premier and Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra’s allies in December citing fraud in the 2007 election. But in Malaysia the current government came to power after it won the majority seats in the Parliament although it was a different story in Perak state. Still judging by the scale of demonstration after Perak fallen to BN after the so-called coup, it’s negligible compared to what Thailand is experiencing. Malaysian’s reason of “corrupt” government is simply insufficient to create the chain-reaction of effect.
- The Icon is different – it’s undeniable that many red-shirt protestors are die-hard supporters of ousted Thaksin Shinawatra. And the reason why billionaire Thaksin is still so influential till today despite living in exile since 2006’s coup is because he still commands the country’s poor-man loyalty through his past popular policies. If there’s one type of people that you do not want to mess around, it’s the poor who have nothing to lose. In Malaysia the most influential figure is perhaps Anwar. Mahathir has lost its shine as can be seens during the recent by-election. Despite his charismatic Anwar would not be able to mobilize battalions of “Malaysian” protestors huge enough to effect any changes, at least for now.
- Malaysia FRU is an awesome machine *grin* – nobody knows the exact size of the deadlly machine – Malaysia’s FRU. Nickname deadly zombies FRU has been used with great success in breaking up demonstrators except in the case of “Bersih” rally. In any rally it was a matter of which side has the most fearless and deadly machines and people. As comparison the red-shirt Thai protestors are many times fearless than Malaysian protestors but at the same time Malaysian’s FRU is many times deadly than Thailand’s. It would be an interesting match to watch if you put Thaksin’s protestors against Malaysia’s FRU *whoa*.
- Malaysia police and military forces’ support is undivided towards Govt – there’s report that when red-shirted protesters smashed cars carrying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his aides, the police who were standing nearby did nothing sparking speculation that the military and police are divided in their support for Abhisit. In Malaysia the presence of FRU and police are enough to control the protestors and the military has yet to be called in any demonstration so far. In an event that the military is to be used, it would most likely for state of emergency which never happen since the 1969 riots.
- Huge and prolong demonstration sustainability – while Thailand has seen many huge demonstration numbering tens to thousands of hundreds people, Malaysian demonstrations are at their infancy. Thai’s are veteran while Malaysians are novice in the culture of demonstration. Furthermore Thais can go on for days or weeks of continuous demonstration as if it was a festival celebration while Malaysians can only lasts for hours. After “releasing” their tensions Malaysian will go back to their daily job and it’ll be business as usual.
- Malaysia has the silver bullet ISA *grin* – the infamous ISA’s detention without trial is the most efficient tool that has been used to silent politicians and leaders of protestors in Malaysia. ISA is the best weapon to neutralize and break the mentality of any individual who is anti-government. The detention of the leader(s) will cripple the whole movement. I can’t remember if Thailand has such equivalent law that is being used on political protestors. With the current crisis in Thailand you would be naïve to think that Najib’s administration would think twice about abolish the ISA. They need it even more now.
- Malaysian government is dirtier, more cunning and brutal – from masquerading as the opposition in burning flags to throwing away ballot boxes into the sea from helicopters and speedboats, the corruption in Malaysia has reached the highest point of no return. The perception of the public is there’s no independent body anymore in the country as the executive, judicial, legislative, election commission, police, anti-corruption agencies and almost everything under the sun are under the spells of corruption. They would not think twice about using excessive force – either you’re suspected criminals like Kugan or average-Joes. Even the monarchy dare not question the present government.
Let’s hope the current crisis in Thailand will not happen in Malaysia for the simple reason that it would cripple the economy, not to mention the current already fragile stock market. Anyway, for the reasons stated above such similar chaotic situation should not happen. Malaysians are known for their patience and it will probably take another two to three years to take over the government should the present government remains unchanged and the people decided “enough is enough”. When that day happen (the collapse of present government) you can be sure that the current top guns running away onboard their planes out of the country.
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