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Thailand's Reverse Revolution

May 14, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Thailand continues its slow-motion political implosion. The prime minister has been ousted and a new election has been scheduled for July 20, but the latter will settle nothing unless traditional ruling elites are willing to accept a government run by their opponents. If not, the country risks a violent explosion.

Bangkok’s politics have long leaned authoritarian. Once ruled by an absolute monarchy, Thailand has periodically suffered under military rule. Democracy finally re-emerged two decades ago. Nevertheless, the 1997 constitution created institutions of establishment control, such as the Constitutional Court. The monarchy retains outsize (though indirect) influence, and is generally allied with top business and political leaders.

But in 2001, telecommunications executive Thaksin Shinawatra disrupted the system. Campaigning as a populist, he won the votes of Thailand’s neglected rural poor to become prime minister. Those accustomed to ruling were horrified.

Thailand continues its slow-motion political implosion.”

Thaksin won again in 2005. Instead of figuring out how to better appeal to the popular majority, his opponents organized the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy which launched protests to topple his government. The resulting confrontation gave the military an excuse to oust the traveling Thaksin in 2006. The military regime tried him in absentia for alleged corruption and rewrote the constitution before calling new elections.

However, Thaksin’s successor party won a plurality and dominated the resulting coalition.

Thaksin’s opponents, who predominated in Bangkok, launched a wave of demonstrations, blocked Bangkok streets, besieged parliament, surrounded government buildings, and even took over Bangkok’s international airport. The security agencies refused to defend the government and the opposition-controlled courts ousted parliamentarians, including one prime minister, on dubious grounds. Establishment interests then pressured coalition partners to flip to the so-called Democrat Party (DP), which had not won an election since 1992.

When United Front for Democracy (so-called “Red Shirt”) Thaksin supporters flooded into Bangkok to protest the de facto coup, DP Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva no longer supported the people’s right to protest. The military conveniently decided that order must be maintained. The government killed scores and injured thousands of demonstrators, and imprisoned numerous opposition leaders.

But Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, and her Pheu Thai party won an absolute majority in the 2011 election. So the PAD morphed into the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by former DP Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, one of those responsible for the 2010 killings. He demanded elimination of the “Thaksin regime” and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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