Monday, March 20, 2006

Thai Political Impasse.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a Professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok made an observation on Thai political crisis. Among other things, he said:

“One year after he was re-elected in a landslide, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been forced to dissolve the National Assembly and call a snap election. Although his Thai Rak Thai party commands a 75 percent majority in the assembly, Thaksin is embattled. He remains immensely popular with rural voters and the urban poor, who comprise more than 60 percent of Thailand's electorate, but he has been battling a fervent Bangkok-based insurrection against his rule by the intelligentsia and middle classes…

….Thaksin's days appear numbered, for Thailand seems poised to eject a popularly elected prime minister. The number of street protesters has since swelled from five digits to six. His predicament illustrates the common dictum in the politics of developing countries where rural electorates elect governments but urban elites get to throw them out.

Indeed, the anti-Thaksin coalition will settle for no less than his ouster from office, permanent banishment from Thai politics and possibly exile. But the opposition has decided to boycott the snap election, which his Thai Rak Thai party would likely win again by a large margin, because Thaksin has captured and manipulated the institutions established by the Constitution to safeguard against graft and uphold separation of powers within the state.

Thai politics has thus reached an impasse. Only intervention by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is widely revered, seems capable of saving the day. In a fiercely contested battle between Thaksin and his opponents, King Bhumibol is the fundamental difference between Thailand and the Philippines, where "people power" revolts regularly undermine and sometimes overthrow presidents. The king's intervention would put an unconditional stop to the street confrontations.

But the Thai people cannot afford to look to their aging and ailing king every time they have a problem. Moreover, a royal intervention would risk returning Thailand to square one, seeking to rewrite its Constitution to remedy the shortfalls of its democratic culture.

What Thai democracy needs in order to mature is not a political safety net, but a vigilant citizenry to ensure disciplined enforcement of the Constitution's provisions and institutions, so that they can no longer be hijacked by the likes of a Thaksin. ”

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