Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Political turmoil in Thailand

Hello everyone...

Please pray for Thailand. In short, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been indicted on multiple corruption charges and has jumped bail to Britain...after the peaceful military coup about 2 years ago. After he left a man named Samak became Prime Minister. Samak is a self-proclaimed proxy for ousted billionaire Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra...he openly supports Thaksin.

Basically...Thailand is split into two Thaksin and anti Thaksin. In the past 24 hours over 35,000 protesters have rallied wanting to oust Samak from his current position in the government. It started yesterday when one of the groups (80 people) successfully took over a government run news station by gun point but were later arrested. (That was the story I was told by mouth...have yet to read about the details on the news yet).

Then there was another group of protesters from the same group that have rallied in front of the prime ministers office...about 35,000 of them. Schools have had to be shut down because the roads are packed...This article is really good and explains much better than I can.

Please read and pray for Thailand. I will be posting more soon:

Posted: 905 GMT

If this were any other country, I’d say I’d just witnessed a revolution. But this is Thailand, and things aren’t quite as they seem.

Protestors gather inside the compound of Thailand's Government House on Tuesday in Bangkok.
Protestors gather inside the compound of Thailand's Government House on Tuesday in Bangkok.

The normal check-list of the overthrow of a government seems to have been fulfilled.

Tens of thousands of protesters? Check. Occupying state run TV station? Check. Climbing over the railings of the Prime Minister’s office and staging a mass sit-in? Check. Major roads blocked? Check.

But despite all the turmoil in Bangkok, it’s still far from clear whether the People’s Alliance for Democracy really have the momentum and numbers to oust the government.

The truth is they are well supported among the middle-class and traditional elite of Bangkok, but go outside the city to the countryside, especially the north-east and many hate the PAD.

The PAD wants the overthrow of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Samak is the self-proclaimed proxy for ousted billionaire Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. I asked Samak once whether that was true once and he snapped back “What’s wrong with that?”.

And that’s the problem. Many of the same people who managed to get Thaksin kicked out after months of mass protests, which culminated in a military coup in 2006, are now demanding that Samak goes as well.

They feel cheated that having got rid of one leader who they say was corrupt and on the make, they’ve been saddled with another.

Of course both Samak and Thaksin strenuously deny they have done anything wrong, but the fact that Thaksin and his wife have been indicted on multiple corruption charges and have jumped bail to Britain hasn’t exactly helped his cause.

No charges have been filed against Samak, but his association with Thaksin, a man effectively on the run, is tainting his entire administration, which is being branded as a Thaksin puppet government by the PAD.

But as I sweated my way through another PAD rally last night in the searing tropical sauna of Bangkok, I tried to find out who all the protesters would have Samak replaced with.

The answers seemed muddled and vague. As they munched on spicy Thai snacks, (no political movement can function here without seriously good fast food!), they told me they know they want to get rid of Samak, Thaksin and all their cronies, but the problem is they don’t seem to know what will happen when they do.

The leader of the PAD Sondhi Limthongkul has told me that the entire political system needs to be changed, and says that perhaps Thailand isn’t ready for full democracy, because of the endemic corruption. So is it the People’s Alliance for Democracy or the People Against Democracy?

It must be remembered that Thaksin won two landslide elections, and a third which wasn’t contested by the opposition. Samak’s party also won the last election in December, albeit by a narrower margin, but made their allegiance to Thaksin clear. The PAD’s argument is that the votes were bought and the system is corrupt, hence the current deadlock.

What’s critical now in all this is how the Royal Thai army will react. They staged the coup that got rid of Thaksin, but it seems incredible that they would stage yet another coup to get rid of another democratically elected leader.

The fundamental problem with the current stand-off is that a powerful minority in Bangkok doesn’t agree with the government that the vast majority outside Bangkok have elected.

Putting claims of vote-rigging aside, Thaksin and therefore Samak to a lesser degree, are both hugely popular. Until the PAD can offer an alternative which rivals that popularity, overthrowing another government would seem only to undermine the dysfunctional democracy here.

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Filed under: Thailand