By most counts, Thailand is still a developing nation and the political instability reflects this. Hovering somewhere between first and second in the socio-economic-political world, the democratic landscape throughout SE Asia is often volatile, occasionally violent and always interesting. Thailand, a constitutional monarchy (essentially “there is a King who answers to a constitution, so no official power”), has a governmental system which is seemingly much more trustworthy than its neighbors, but 40 years of democratically-elected officials has been marked by periods of military rule, numerous declarations of martial law and some violent episodes indicates that there is still a long way to go in the actual application of democratic principles and practice.
This latest incident actually started back in 2006 when the military seized the Parliament while the then-Prime Minister was away at a summit in Peru. Elections were held and a political party closely tied with the ousted party won in a corruption-filled election. Opposition parties gained strength and four months ago seized Parliament and staged a sit-in that last four months until they upped the anti and took over the airport for one week until the courts ruled that the current coalition party had won the election by fraud and disbanded the party.
The good news is that, for the most part, these protests were non-violent, but the violence was increasing and there was one fatality last week and injuries were multiplying, as well. The bad news is that Thailand has no leadership. This hasn’t changed and won’t be changing any time soon. As usual with these circumstances, it’s the less well-off, poor people who get hurt when the economy takes a beating from the seized airport and more privileged individuals and parties are dueling for power.
Who’s in charge now? Who will lead Thailand politically and economically into the Asian-centered global future? Will the hard-working Thai middle and lower classes (most people work six days-per-week just to make ends meet) ever have a chance to help themselves in any significant way? Just some of the questions in the wake of yet another season of political turmoil in Thailand.
That wasn’t much fun. Come back for a ride in a tuk-tuk next week for more about this enjoyable, and politically “exciting” country.