ROAD TO DEMOCRACY IN THAILAND MARRED WITH COLOR – If you kick and beat a dog often enough one of two things are most likely to occur – either you’ll end up killing the dog or it’ll attack you.
The issues with Thailand are similar in that the political colors will continuously call upon their supporters only to be beaten.
Consider the last violent political clash in 2010 where thousands of red shirts at the bequest of their political masters ordered them into battle.
In the pursuing weeks, the then ‘Yellow Shirt’ government tired of the disruption and destruction finally ordered in their goons.
The result was as one would expect, chaos, murder and mayhem and the winners from this debacle were no one – that is the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts reached a stalemate with the Red Shirts accusing the Yellow Shirts of murder whilst the Yellow Shirts accused the Red Shirts of violence, destruction of property and an attempt to overthrow the Government.
A coup of course is not an unknown factor in Thailand; it appears whenever the haves want the have mores removed they simply invoke the nationalistic and royalist tendencies of the army and they roll in the tanks.
In 2006, Thaskin Shinawatra (Red Shirt) was removed from power by the military in what transpired to be a fairly peaceful coup.
As a result a Military Government was installed and Thaskin Shinawatra was accused of a number of crimes, ranging from illegal land deals, murder and above all being opposed to the Monarchy.
The result was that Thaskin Shinawatra fled Thailand to become self-exiled in order to avoid being imprisoned after the courts ruled Thaskin Shinawatra had indeed been guilty of illegal land deals and a few other charges laid against him.
The result of the court’s ruling was 2 years imprisonment and the confiscation of over US$1.5 billion of his assets.
Once Thaskin Shinawatra left Thailand all appeared well from the point of the Yellow Shirts and there didn’t appear to be any real efforts to seek extradition.
His Majesty the King is highly revered in Thailand and for good reason; if the monarchy didn’t exist it is likely Thailand would be thrown into outright civil war – it is only the monarchy that holds the nation together in that it is the only part of Thai society that appears above the struggle for the elite classes ruling the nation.
Fast forward and Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Yellow Shirts, is installed into power after opposing the Military Government by effectively closing down Thailand’s main airport.
Again, this eventually led to the 2010 Bangkok riots where nothing much was achieved; apart from over 90 people being murdered which almost appeared irrelevant to those struggling for power.
Of course we now know that all wasn’t well – members of the Red Shirts were to be dragged through the courts over the riots and destruction whilst they in turn attempted to seek justice for the murders of their compatriots by the Yellow Shirts.
A stalemate was yet again in effect and neither side wanted to relinquish power.
Move on again and Thailand was subjected to yet another farcical general election; again both sides accusing the other of underhanded methods of acquiring votes – mainly handing out cash payments or indeed promising the poor to drag them out of poverty.
As usual the military took sides asking the people not to vote for the Red Shirts due to their anti-monarchy tendencies but despite their efforts the Red Shirts were brought to power on the back of promises to help the poor.
The Red Shirts had a powerful weapon up their sleeves in the form of a woman, but not just any woman, she was Yingluck the younger sister of Thaskin Shinawatra and the majority of the poor were devoutly Red Shirt.
Within the first year of Yingluck Shinawatra being in power it was no surprise that a move was made to create an amnesty for her bother. Many believed, and still do, that Thaskin Shinawatra remains the driving force behind the Government and that his sister wouldn’t make a move without his approval.
Are the poor any better off under the Red Shirts compared to the Yellow Shirts? The answer is no, for the pledges made to help the poor have only gone as far as to damage the Thai economy and its biggest issue today remains the uncontrollable cost of the ‘Rice Pledging’ scheme.
The Thai Government honestly believed that its position as the world’s largest exporter of rice would allow it to manipulate the free markets and drive up the price so that it could sustain the subsidies handed to rice farmers.
It wasn’t long before Thailand’s rice exports started to slip due to the excessive market price it tried to impose and now Thailand languishes in fourth place in rice exports; behind India and other rivals such as Vietnam and Cambodia.
No doubt the leader’s of these countries were lifting the champagne flutes after the Thai Government announced its rice pledging scheme; for this has certainly allowed them to boost exports and in turn profits.
Since Yingluck Shinawatra came to power the issue of an amnesty continues to rear its ugly head. The amnesty has been widened so that it not only effectively exonerates Thaskin Shinawatra but also Abhisit Vejjajiva as he stands accused of murdering the Red Shirt demonstrators by ordering in the army to take back control of the capital.
Who will benefit from such an amnesty? Will the people feel united or more divided? Will the Red and Yellow Shirts finally put aside their differences and let the rule of democracy prevail?
It is most unlikely, for Thailand is a country ruled by class and the more money you have the more power – yes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The people, in their ignorance, fight for differing factions of the ruling elite and regardless to whom is in power the struggle will continue and the poor will be used as dispensable pawns; that is made to wear a color and then take up arms in a fight they know nothing about.
It appears to most outsiders that the Thai people are so easily fooled into thinking that their allegiance will provide a better standard of living if their masters were installed into power.
Thailand was supposed to join the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 but with an unstable political system and an economy that could implode under the weight of pledging schemes this has been pushed back until 2016.
The opinion for Thailand becoming a fully fledged member of ACE in 2016 is questionable; some point out that the nation simply isn’t educated enough to understand the impact and implications with such membership.
Others feel that unless the ruling elite can find middle ground and a modicum of democracy, then it’s likely that what played out in Bangkok in 2010 will continue to repeat itself periodically – a situation that will never unify the nation, never bring about democracy and that will eventually leave Thailand languishing in the middle of South East Asia in the grip of civil war.