Thailand, Zimbabwe, and the Terrorism Algorithm

abhisit071810.jpgLast week I was in Kenya, advocating on behalf of a client in a UN trial, when I had the chance to meet with a number of leading African human rights specialists. Among others, I met with the well-known human rights lawyer Evans Monari, Member of the Council of Law Society of Kenya, who drew some interesting parallels between the April-May Bangkok massacres and the post-electoral violence in Nairobi of 2007-2008.

Overall I was impressed by the high level of interest in these matters on behalf of Africa’s thought leaders, as many of them are deeply experienced in both the scourge of military dictatorship and violence, but also fluent in post-conflict human rights, international law, and peace and reconciliation processes.

Offhand comparison between African and Asian experiences with democracy and military rule is not a fruitful pursuit: the two regions are fundamentally different in terms of development, culture, society, economy, size, and geopolitical advantage. What is worth looking into, however, is a comparative examination of the processes underway which drive many of these political events and often produce similar outcomes.

In Zimbabwe in particular there are a number of processes and striking parallels between the current conduct of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party, and the military, and events that were taking place under Mugabe’s early administration 7-9 years ago, before everything went off the rails. Early on in Mugabe’s rise, we observed 1) an outsourcing of political violence, 2) the creation of a repressive legalistic apparatus, and 3) an exhibition of a “terrorism algorithm” – an inverse relationship between the state’s level of democratic legitimacy and the need to taint opponents as terrorists.