An End Game for Thailand?

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…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Although I believe Thaksin Shinawatra should never have been taken out in a coup (he was about to sack the military head until the coup was staged), it’s too late now. After the political bickering, his TRT party was branded as illegal, the elections he held were wrong, especially the “vote Thaksin or vote No” (ridiculous) and the next stage of PMs were Thaksin puppets where he could yield his power like a prison gangster.

    The current PM is actually a very good, smart, Oxford educated man and its obvious it irks Thaksin very much. Thaksin is now taking advantage of the current condition of the monarchy with the global recession downturn and he shouldn’t do that at all. He should be negotiating, not calling for “revolution”.

    If anything it is Thaksin that has “lost face in front of the international community.” I really liked Thaksin Shinawatra, but really he should just do an Al Gore and concede “the election”.

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