Sudetenland 2.0

A country invades a large region of another because they claim that the region in question is comprised of people from their own nation. This is something that we have all heard before during GCSE history lessons on the lead up to WW2. Clearly Mr Putin was not listening in class, as it is the exact same pathetic excuse for an invasion that he has trotted out in response to the outcry caused by his illegal annexation of Crimea.

In November of 2013, Viktor Yanukovich, the then President of the Ukraine, announced the abandonment of a trade agreement with the EU, and that he wanted to seek closer ties with the ex KGB, AK-47 wielding, chest revealing Vladimir Putin. This caused considerable outrage in the Ukraine, especially Kiev, as the western parts of the country are strongly pro-EU and are abhorrent of the Russian regime, a country devastated by the Stalinist purges of the 1930’s. Ukraine was liberated only 23 years ago when the Soviet Union broke up. On December the 1st, 300,000 people gathered in Independence Square in Kiev to protest, and the City Hall was seized. By January the 16th anti-protest laws were introduced which were immediately described as ‘draconian’ as they took away the human right to protest in a similar manner to Tony Blair’s anti-terror laws took away the right to dance around naked in front of your webcam without GCHQ taking photos of you. It was then that people started to die…

On January 22nd Ukrainian police fired upon the crowd with live ammunition. Two died and another followed when he clashed with riot police. Dmytrov Bulatov, an opposition activist was found outside of the city having been imprisoned and tortured for eight days by pro-Russian groups. On the 16th of February it seemed like a ceasefire between the Government and its people was in sight when protesters returned control of city hall in exchange for the release of 234 imprisoned activists. Two days later clashes re-erupted after changes to constitutional reform were stalled. 18 people died and over a hundred were injured. Another two days later and within 48 hours, 88 people had been killed by Government snipers shooting into the crowds.

President Yanukovich then fled the capital after a vote in Parliament determined his removal and the release of his previous political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. With the now wavering ties he had with the country now disappearing, Putin started to play. On the 27th armed men seized governmental buildings in Crimea, the Crimean parliament determined May 25th as the date of referendum and the fleeing pro-Russian ex-president Yanukovich was granted refuge in Russia. Simferopol international airport, in Crimea, was then seized along with Sevastopol naval base by further armed men in unmarked combat fatigues, Russia denied that they were theirs. By the 1st of March the Russian Upper House had approved the use of military force in not only Crimea, but in the whole of the sovereign state of Ukraine.

“There can be one assessment of what happened in Kiev and Ukraine as a whole. This was an anti-constitutional takeover and armed seizure of power.” These were words spoken by Putin himself which, do not imply he is having any thoughts of stopping at taking just Crimea, but Ukraine as a whole, if not more.

Within the next week, convoys of hundreds of Russian soldiers marched towards the regional capital of Crimea. The Russian Black Sea Fleet ordered the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol to surrender to them, or face a military assault. Putin then stated that “The legitimate president, purely legally, is undoubtedly Yanukovich.”, surprising as that was also Putin’s favourite candidate, and that “We reserve the right to use all available means. And we believe that this is fully legitimate.” when speaking on the issue of ‘protecting’ the people of eastern Ukraine.

The notorious referendum was then held in Crimea, by order of Putin, which contravened many principles of what a referendum actually is. The vote received 96.77% of the vote, apparently, making it one of the most successful referendums ever. There have been some questions over the integrity of this unquestionably truthful referendum, that included the fact that hundreds of Ukrainians, left for security reasons or were kicked out and that the indigenous Tatars suffered widespread intimidation. Furthermore a Russian journalist living in Crimea told them that she was Russian and only lived in Crimea for a very short time, was positively encouraged to vote, even though this was not legal.

After the vote, Russia recognised Crimea as a sovereign state and no longer part of Ukraine.
The crisis, although with less coverage in the news, is not over. Many towns and cities along Ukraine’s eastern border have been seized, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Slavyansk as well as further naval and military bases have been taken by pro-Russian activists who have asked Putin to send military force. The conflict is showing little sign of abating and with Putin’s already expressed views of his contempt for the fall of the Soviet Union, it is unlikely it will do any time soon. We no longer know whether it is just Ukraine on the menu, or whether he would like to try a taste of Finland or Estonia, who have both reported fear in the knowledge that Russia has had extensive military exercises along their borders. And being the superpower that they are, not even America has the balls to come out and tell them where to go. Maybe the Cold War was not over, maybe it was just waiting.

Contributed by Daniel Gibbs

Thailand: Blood, Sweat and Political Fears

We in the United Kingdom think of Thailand as a peaceful place, one of good food, low cost clothes factories and the notorious ‘Full Moon’ parties. And usually these go by day to day with little or no disturbance, with the occasional overdose here and the celebrity cover up lady boy there. However, this is not the true picture of modern Thailand. Modern Thailand is one of political turmoil and democratic upheaval. The problems regularly featured in the news today are ones that started over ten years ago in 2001.

The 9th of February 2001, the leader and founder of the Thai Rak Thai party, Thaksin Shinawatra is elected as the 23rd Prime Minister of Thailand. He formed a coalition with three other parties, the Chart Thai Party, the New Aspiration Party and the Seritham Party creating a government that should’ve been representative and loved by all. It wasn’t. Unfortunately for Shinawatra, he was elected in a country in which the rich are very rich, and the poor are desperately poor. Yet more unfortunate for the new leader, he represented the people that in developing countries always have the measliest of voices in the political arena, the working class. When he was elected in 2001, 21% of the populous of Thailand lived below the poverty line. Representing them however angered the highly influential and diabolically dangerous urban elite. By 2006 the extravagant chattering classes came knocking at his door, and they brought with them a tidal wave of damnation. His party was faced with allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, conflicts of interest, acting non- diplomatically, muzzling the press and treason. Thaksin himself was accused of tax evasion, selling Thai assets to international bodies and most detrimental of all, due to his astonishing power, was the crime of lèse majesté, which is insulting King Bhumibol. With the backing of the King himself, the most revered and respected entity in the whole of Thailand, it would’ve taken a miracle to save Shinawatra. His miracle didn’t come.

While he was abroad on Prime Ministerial business, a coup, sanctioned by the King himself overthrew his government and left him in the political equivalent of being a gay athlete in the Winter Olympics, out in the cold. His assets were frozen and he was left wandering the globe in search of asylum. He even bought Manchester City football club in an effort to forget his failed leadership by managing something even less successfully. By March 2010 the country had turned back into his favour and there were massive demonstrations in which the army clashed with the public killing dozens of people. However this did not silence the public, and within the short space of a year, Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra was duly elected as the Prime Minister.

A comparatively spacious and happy period was enjoyed by Yingluck but by November of last year, while Ukraine was falling into political turmoil, there were yet again the appearance of anti-government protests. By December, an election was called, but the South-east Asian country still shows no sign of settling down, much like a night-out in a Thai strip club with oddly square jaw lines. Foul political play is now in session, like a malevolent episode of The Thick of It, the Constitutional Court has called an annulment of the election. The party has said that the election and the polls have disregarded the Thai constitution by such trivial matters as the fact that the polls were conducted over more than one day. In the constitution it says that if an election is disrupted then it can be recalled, this means that if a party does not believe that they can win a majority in an election then they can simply arrange riots in order to delay further.

This begs the question to why the Thai political scene is in such a permanent state of uproar. The point at which Thailand was finally tripped over the precipice, was when the Thai Monarchy which has been the may pole around which their society has danced for thousands of years, started to meddle in the affairs of politicians and corrupted itself. Democracy needs to be balanced around a point of unmoving reverence. In the United States there is the near religious admiration of the Stars and Stripes. In Italy there is the Catholic Church holding all of politics together. Where we find a lack of democracy, such as in China, we do not find such a symbol. The desanctifying of the Constitutional Monarchy on Thailand, means that we cannot expect the democratic nature of the country to last for much longer. Therefore it is highly unlikely that the stability of the country will endure the next few bouts of rallies and protests, and we are more than likely to see the fall of what is normally quite a militarily peaceful country, will be plunged into a bloody and brutal civil war.

Contributed by Daniel Gibbs

Ed Miliband: Our Knight in Shining Adenoids

When Ed Miliband stepped into the shoes of leader of the Labour party, like a new-born baby, he came out kicking, screaming and trying to make an impression on the world. He didn’t. His case was not helped by the fact that he was solely elected above his far more charismatic, and in many eyes more favourable brother, David, due to the alternative voting system; otherwise ‘Red Ed’ would have been on the first train back to 62 West Wallaby street.

It is hard for any politician to make it out of such a quagmire of scandal and hatred into a successful career, the equivalent to going on a pleasant yachting holiday off the coast of Somalia and then being invited onto the pirates’ boat for a cup of tea and a picnic. Unluckily for Ed, we have become a world of vain materialists, obsessed with image, of which he has none. Furthermore his party was bankrolled by the malevolent and mysterious force that is the Trade Unions, suspected by many to have a far larger part in politics than is let on. Expectations were that he would make an inevitable and imminent flop into a think tank. However, something happened, that was unexpected to the Unions, the public, and the Press. Ed decided not to conform.

Modern politicians focus on their image and how they look in the public eye hence the arrival of the beautifully polished David Cameron and the ‘down with the kids’ Clegg. We see all too often these ‘figureheads’ of parties that have good hair and good teeth but no actual political intelligence. Miliband has a nostalgic whiff of Eau de Thatcher about his person, not for his policies but for his unsurpressable enthusiasm in improving the country. Miliband could be the first we see in a fantastical marching return of real politicians, ones that think for themselves and actually listen and care about the electorate of this country. Ed did what no Labour politician had the guts to do; he stood up to the Unions and severed their tentacles of puppetry from a party that was in danger of falling back into their grasp since the departure of Blair. He also took a stand on behalf of every single one of us against the ‘Big Six’ energy companies who charge families an average of £1,412 a year with prices forecasted to do nothing but rise further in the coming years. He has also turned around the disastrous results from the previous election headed up by one of the worst smiles in politics, Gordon Brown, who managed to lose 91 seats. Compared to the last election, predictions are now at a 56 seat Labour majority in the upcoming election in 2015.

All of these things have been done in little over three years of party leadership, more than most politicians could hope to do in a lifetime. His branding of ‘Red Ed’ by his critics does not connote communism as they imply, but it is an expression of his regality, and that a new visionary and political royalty has been born into the sparse world of Westminster.

Contributed by Daniel Gibbs