Matichon Weekly has in its latest edition, 23 April 2010, an article entitled ‘Suppose PM Abhisit Vejjajiva today faced an Opposition Leader named Abhisit Vejjajiva’. Since Abhisit became Prime Minister and has had to deal with the red shirts, what has most undermined his credibility are his own words and principles when he was Opposition Leader, the article says.
On 31 August 2008, Abhisit spoke in Parliament to then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who was under attack by the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy, asking him to dissolve the House.
‘For the people, just one person or a hundred thousand, to come out to make demands of the government is not against the principles of democracy, especially when there are suspicions that the administration of the country has violated the law and the rights of the people, or is corrupt. In developed countries, these issues do not need to be dealt with by the law, but by a political sense of responsibility.
‘In Korea, when [the government] recently came up with a free trade policy to import beef, hundreds of thousands of people rose up. The government resigned. It has to be admitted that the PAD protests result from frustration which the people have long been harbouring.
‘Even if [the government] deals with [the protesters] once and for all, it will never be able to destroy the concept of resistance.’
‘Today, I have to say what displeases the ears of members of my party and other MPs, who always dislike the idea of a House dissolution. But a House dissolution is part of the show of spirit. If the PM does not want to take responsibility alone, the whole Parliament will take the pain together’.
Today, Abhisit has insisted that a House dissolution is not the solution.
Channel 11 under the Abhisit administration has been heavily criticized. Since the 10 April clashes, in particular, it has come under fire for having aired views and information only from the government side.
When he was Opposition Leader, Abhisit wrote on a book entitled ‘Hundred Dreams under a New Sky’ about reforming Channel 11 to be a public television station.
‘The Channel 11 television station is regarded by many people as just a government mouthpiece for all time. I used to be a co-host for the Mong Tang Mum programme [literally meaning ‘Looking from Different Corners’, a popular TV political talk show , in 1991-1992 hosted by Jermsak Pinthong, now a hardcore yellow shirt – Prachatai] which was aired by Channel 11 when it was free to produce shows that promote free thinking.
‘I think Channel 11 in the past used to produce programmes which had substance and quality, and it was open, bringing people with views that differed from each other or from the government to sit at the same table and talk for the people to listen.
‘It shows that despite being a station under state control, it can do the job of quality media, if ‘the powers that be’ have the will and a respect for the media.
‘I think since Channel 11 is under state control and belongs to the state, it is, therefore, up to the policy of the state.
‘What is important is that the government must realize that the ‘state’ is not the ‘government’, and has to make clear that Channel 11 belongs to the state, not the government.’
Under his own administration, Channel 11 belongs to the ‘government’, not the ‘state’, the Matichon Weekly article says.
On 7 Oct 2008, then Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat ordered a crackdown on the PAD protests in front of Parliament House, resulting in two deaths and over 400 injuries. Abhisit held a press conference after a meeting of his party.
‘For all that has happened, the PM cannot deny his responsibility, either by negligence or intention.
‘What is even worse than laying the blame on the authorities is vilifying the people.
‘I have never thought that we would have a state which has the people killed and seriously injured, and then accuses the people of the crimes. This is unacceptable.
‘I have heard those in the government always asking people whether they are Thai or not. Considering what you are doing now, it is not the question of being Thai or not, but whether you are human at all.
‘Today, [the government] has lost legitimacy. We are demanding that the PM take responsibility. [The PM] can resign, or if he is afraid that by his resignation, the Democrat Party will take power, he can dissolve the House. He cannot just do nothing, because if he does nothing, it would be tantamount to damaging the country and the political system.
‘There is nowhere else on earth, in democratic systems, where the people are abused by the state, but the government which comes from the people does not take responsibility.
‘For what we have said today, the government must not make the accusation that it is because we agree with all points of the PAD. Even if the PAD has done wrong, the government has no right to hurt the people.’
When reporters asked why Somchai still stayed on despite such a crisis, Abhisit said, ‘I have no idea. I have never seen a person like this. If he were a normal human of the kind that I know, it would not have been like this.’
Abhisit was sharp and was a man of principle when he was the Opposition Leader, but when he became Prime Minister, his words in the past do not correspond to his actions today. The article ends by asking whether he never believed in what he had to say, or whether he just says what he never believes.