Monday, March 28, 2011

Elections & Protests

Thailand will be having new elections within the next three months.  They current parliament's term was set to expire in December, but the Prime Minister called for new elections.  

Its not clear how everything will turn out.  The Peau Thai party, the one affiliated with the red shirt movement, is currently leaderless.  Apparently the former Prime Minister Thaksin's is still pulling the strings, but his very own sister refused to take the helm of the party.  With or without a strong leader, Peau Thai will do very well in their North and North East strong holds, but may struggle in contested districts such as Bangkok.

While the red shirts are in disarray, its not like the Democrats are running like a well oiled machine.  The yellow shirt PAD movement, which originally supported the Democrats, later formed its own political party and has turned against their former allies.  They have been protesting for the last two months over the government's handling of the border dispute with Cambodia.    

Even though the PAD has its own political party, it is talking about boycotting the elections.  Some Thais, including some of the PAD leadership, is calling on the invocation of Article VII of the Thai Constitution which allows the King to appoint a government.  In 2005, now current Prime Minister Abhisit and his Democrat party boycotted the elections and openly supported the use of Article VII.  Article VII was not implemented, and the boycott resulted in Thaksin winning a majority government.  This time around, however, the Prime Minister will not boycott the election and opposes the use of Article VII.  

My sincere hope is that Article VII is not invoked.  This would be a huge step back for democracy in Thailand.  While I have no doubt that corruption is epidemic in Thai politics, I think that taking away the people's right to chose their own government is fundamentally wrong and effectively renders them as slaves.  

The yellow shirt PAD movement may not be long of this world.  The Bangkok Post is reporting that several of the PAD's leadership are going to announce its dissolution due to the poor turnout in recent protests.  One more skeptical than I might say that the PAD was never really the powerful organization that they imagined, and that in fact powerful behind the scenes figures were driving its success.  Those individuals agreed when the PAD's mission was to remove Thaksin and the red shirts from power, but do not agree with the PAD's campaign against the current government.  Perhaps people are just tired of protesting or they aren't getting paid enough to do it.

More bad news for the PAD in that several leaders have been ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars in damages due to the airport closure in late 2008.  Of course, that probably only represents a fraction of what it actually cost Thailand, but I guess its something.

The third stop light color in Thai politics is of course the green, aka the military.  The military toppled one elected government in 2006, and has been accused of covertly pushing the reds out of power in 2008.  Military leadership has stated that they will not interfere with politics.  We can only hope that this is true.

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