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

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