Thailand: The Question of Democracy

Does general election ensured a truly democratic government? Is it a necessity? Or an election could come down to a level of merely a tool to keep certain people in power?

The answer, when in come to current political crisis in Thailand might be difficult, and it depends on which side are you on.

Simon Saunders over at One Stop Chiang Mai Blog wrote a long post about Thailand's “Growing pains of democracy”

He asked that:

“A year after sweeping to an unprecedented re-election victory Thailand's PM has called a snap election in the face of growing calls for his resignation. So what went wrong?”

Apparently lot of things went wrong.

In February, predicted a day before by Bangkok Pundit on his post “What Should Thaksin Do: Resign, Dissolve, or Carry On”, PM Thaksin has dissolved Thailand Parliament with general election to scheduled next week, on April 2nd.

Since then, the anti-Thaksin coalition, anchored around the People's Alliance for Democracy, has been pushing hard the same stance that PM Thaksin should resign immediately without conditions and has stated that the opposition parties will not participate in the snap election.

Who is Thaksin of Thailand?
It was Sampsa Daily that asked the important question of “Who is Thaksin of Thailand?” because more and more , this Thailand national crisis seems to centered on Thaksin Sinawatra personality and what he represents.

He noted that besides his usual biography entry that he is an ex-police and a self-made millionaire (now billionaire), he is also symbolized a new phenomenon in Thai politics.

A new phenomenon that in a words of Thailand's opposition Democrat Party, Surin Pitsuwan on International Herald Tribune noted on this MSN Spaces post, means taht PM Thaksin administration has a more aggressive, materialistic and debt-generating style, compare to the more traditional, humble and largely self-sufficient model that is more common among Thai politician.

Bottom line, to his political opponents, PM Thaksin Sinawatra is simply an authoritarian leader who has abused power by usurping constitutional mechanisms, marginalizing the parliamentary opposition and intimidating civil society groups.

That's why, Stuart G Towns over at noticed, that the opposition is focusing entirely on removing the Prime Minister from power and not about other reform issues such us changing the constitution or removing the TRT Party (PM Thaksin's Party) from power.

Simon Saunders at One Stop Chiang Mai Blog, ponder that it is the ethics of the PM which has so angered all the urban middle class and generated such harsh criticism for him.

Indeed, for a country leader he does seem to have a warped sense of judgment when it comes to ethics and morality, preferring to run Thailand like his own private company where everyone is his employees and should be grateful for a salary, but ultimately the decisions are his to make to suit the ‘bottom line’.

Bhojman on Meandering wonder maybe PM Thaksin simply has became too confident and has taken advantage of his position for his own ends.

And indeed, it was the sale of the Shin Corporation, owned by Thaksin's family and in-laws, to the Singaporean Government's Temasek Holdings for $1.88 billion using a loophole created by Thaksin that excludes capital gains tax, that becomes the last straw that has outraged many Thai's

That does not mean that PM Thaksin never done anything good for Thailand.

Stuart G Town on his post “Thaksin's Record” compiled a list of “for” and “against” in several fronts including Village development, Human rights, The media and The Government.

In fact in five-year rule, he has successfully implementing a raft of populist policies, from universal health coverage and business start-up funds for rural villages to debt suspension for farmers. Policies, which for some, exploit the longstanding income divide between Bangkok and the countryside

Reaction online: Singapore Bloggers and Ribbon Campaign
Anti Singapore stance is one of the issue that demonstrator put forward, with demonstration in front of Singapore Embassy and while they are burning posters of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Waving placards saying “Thailand Not for Sale, Get Out”, several hundred protesters urged a boycott of all things Singaporean in answer to the takeover of telecoms giant Shin Corp by its state investment arm, Temasek, from Thaksin's family.

Jewie a Singaporean who lives in Bangkok wrote:

Thanks to Temasek Holdings Singapore buying up AIS, seems there is a “I hate Singapore” thing going on here now. In addition, I see the red crossy sign of UOB popping up here and there in Thailand. Wonder what other Singapore things I will see next. Singapore… what the heck is Singapore doing… buying up everything here just because its cheap?? I got a call from a friend… asked me to be caution… stay home.

The rally prompted one Singaporean blogger to ask asked American-style question “Why Do They Hate Us So?”

One blog went far giving out a Warning to Singaporeans not go to Thailand, specially Bangkok. But so far there's no violence involved in the street rally.

A blog sprung up from the Anti-Thaksin movement creating the blog with the same name: Anti Thaksin Sinnawat and Thaksin Get which is the crying rally of the demonstrators (Thakin ok pai in Thai) started an online ribbon campaign similar to site.

Uncharted Territory

Outside Looking Inside on his post “Hanging By Thread” commented that Thailand is now entering uncharted territory.

With opposition boycotting the April 2 election, there is a probability that Thaksin's Party (TRT) will not fill the 500 minimum members of parliament required to form a government.

“How do you maintain a democracy without democratic process?” he asked. Without an elected government, the national crisis will still not be solved and chance this will become a continuing crisis is bigger.

Epilogos noted in his post Restless in Thailand:

The opposition knows that they cannot unseat Thaksin, but they forget that this is the only democratically valid way to remove him from power, if not today, then next year, if the reasons warrant it.

It is sad to see that a country cannot resolve its political differences through the ballot box, but only through threats and boycotts of parties that provides employment to the Thai worker, no less.

Bangkok Pundit tried to analyze what will happen after April 2 and whether, the matter might need to go to Thailand Constitutional Court (find more interesting discussion at the comment section of the post of the possibilities the whole crisis can be ended).

Currently a called for compromise where all the factions sit together to discuss and finds compromise out from the problems seems to be the best solution even that is not most likely, as the Meadering blog wrote:

Somewhere along the way a compromise needs to be reached. Compromise is the Thai way to restore harmony. This is why so many have been trying to bring the relevant people to the bargaining table. From the news reports it does appear that Mr Thaksin is not playing the compromise game as he should. Why not?

Another way to go is to ask HM the King to enforce Article 7 of Thai constitution to end the political crisis while keeping off possible violences outcomes.

This seems to be undemocratic way to solve the problem, but depends on a few days ahead, Thai people might look at this as solution to avoid a deepening and prolong crisis.


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