I’ve been watching the current protests in Thailand over the past several days, and it’s fascinating from a political science perspective.
- The Thai PM can’t really crack down on the protesters too heavily, he just came to power himself on the back of similar protests
- The ASEAN conference should have been easy to provide security for, there’s basically only two roads in and out of Pattaya but nothing was done
- The PM has lost face in front of the international community. Has to crack down now. If it doesn’t work, he’s inept and has to leave. But if things turn violent he loses confidence of the people and has to leave. So he has to hope that the protesters disburse.
- Roughly speaking the protesters are being paid to protest, and things are pretty nonviolent, even reports of violence are dubious (shots fired at the Prime Minister’s vehicle as a precipitation for the state of emergency… where are the photos??). Thaksin Shinawatra is behind the whole thing, the previous government that was taken down in December was recently installed with his backing. He’s out of the country but over US$2 billion of his assets are frozen in Thailand.
- I assume he wants chaos, and then returns himself to ‘clean up the mess.’
Assuming the current PM fails, the military has to step in as they did in 2006. Governments don’t last long in Thailand, they’re kinda like Italy that way. Ultimately though there’s a real divide in the country between the poor in the North and urban elites in Bangkok, the former being Shinawatra supporters on the whole — regularly considered pro-democracy since they’re a slim majority but really redistributionist — and the latter being Royalists but really proponents of a corrupt bureaucratic status quo.
The military exercises power independently, they either do or do not support whatever regime in power which determines whether that regime can hold onto power. But even if the military takes a hands off approach, and the current government falls, you just get a cycling problem…
The only one with respect and stature in the country is the King, but he’s 82, not clear that he’s in a position to unify the country in a meaningful way.
Things have been pretty nonviolent all things considered, but I’m uncertain of the ultimate end game. Still, won’t stop me from visiting…