For decades, the UK has been a fierce supporter of the Thai elite, to the extent that the UK axe Thaksin’s passport visa to the UK and investigated Thaksin’s purchase of the Manchester City football club. Here in Thailand, during the Abhisit administration, the UK Ambassador to Thailand, Borris, was known to be a close friend of Abhisit and Abhisit’s finance minister, Korn. Both Abhisit and Korn went to Oxford, for their higher education, and bacame very much, an extended part of the UK’s elite system, where even Abhisit, was born in the UK.
However, the latest, is that the British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in Jakarta after talks with his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa last Wednesday, urged Thailand to uphold democracy as political violence escalated ahead of an election.
“It’s important that constitutional democracy is upheld,” Hague said. “This is a matter for the people of Thailand, but I hope their political leaders will find a way forward,” he said. Protesters have occupied several key intersections in Bangkok since Jan 13 in an attempt to scuttle an election scheduled for Sunday.
Apart from Hague making a fresh statement, the UK’s top global class, news and information unit, the Economist, also have been coming out with many reports in Thailand, like in the past week, perhaps 3 to 4 articles on Thailand, already. The following is the latest from the Economist, namely saying that Thailand’s Constitution, needs to be amended and change.
- Thailand’s political crisis: A way out (Source)
Both sides in the stand-off must back down, or risk their country’s disintegration
Feb 1st 2014
FOR more than three months Bangkok has been the scene of confrontation, as huge protests have shut down the government district and other parts of the capital. A snap general election is due on February 2nd, but the opposition (which would lose) refuses to contest it. The protests’ tub-thumping leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, calls for a temporary suspension of constitutional government so that an unelected “people’s council” can “save” democracy. Protesters have blocked Thais from taking part in early voting at polling stations. Several people, from both sides, have been killed, and the risk of grave violence is rising. The capital and surrounding districts are under a state of emergency.
The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, says that the election must go ahead (see article). It will not bring peace, because Thailand’s political system has broken down. Foreign capital is jittery. The army is being sucked into the gulf. The divisions are social, ethnic and linguistic. On one side stand the well-heeled urbanites and Mr Suthep’s followers from the south; on the other, the poorer northern and north-eastern Thais whose spoken Thai is closer to Lao and who will vote for Ms Yingluck. And as the grievances mount, the chances of defusing the situation peacefully shrink.
The “red shirts” in the government camp are right on one big thing: their opponents are a minority who have repeatedly refused to accept the results of recent elections, all of which the red shirts have won. The anti-government protests are backed by a privileged Thai establishment in the court of the ailing king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, in the civil service, in the judiciary and in the inappropriately named Democrat Party.
But the “yellow shirt” protesters also have legitimate complaints. The government, as they point out, is a sham. It is run not by Ms Yingluck, but by her elder brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon and former prime minister who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and is now in self-imposed exile after being sentenced to prison for corruption. And Mr Thaksin’s orders, dictated from Dubai, are harming the country in two ways. First, the government, like its Thaksinite predecessors, has won support by populist giveaways, such as its ruinous rice-subsidy. Second and much worse, the interests of Ms Yingluck’s brother usually trump those of the country. A bill that would have given amnesty to Mr Thaksin, and which Ms Yingluck bungled late last year, set off this wave of protests.
If mass violence is to be headed off, both sides must step back. Then they must acknowledge that, when it comes to fixing the system, they share a surprising amount in common. But if the moment for co-operation passes, Ms Yingluck and Mr Suthep will both be to blame.
Any attempt to find a solution will have to wait until after the forthcoming hollow elections. Then the ruling Pheu Thai party should stop being a Thaksin fan club. Instead, it should be led by someone other than a maladroit Shinawatra. Some in Pheu Thai now want to dump Ms Yingluck: they should hurry up and do so. The party will gain authority and legitimacy with a more independent leader.
The Democrat Party under Abhisit Vejjajiva has a more fundamental change to confront. As long as it insists that losers in democratic elections are under no obligation to accept the results, Thailand will slide downhill. If the effete toffs who run the party commit themselves to democracy, they may also help their party sharpen up its political act—and move more into the age of Twitter rather than of court receptions.
Despite the personal hatreds, there is a surprising amount of common ground. Crucially, both camps agree on the need for constitutional reform. Thailand is overcentralised and bureaucratic. It allows constant meddling by the king’s courtiers. Both Mr Suthep and many red shirts call for devolution, including the election of provincial governors. Many in the old-guard Thai establishment, and certainly the army, would be horrified. But it is the only way for different regions to express themselves, while holding the country together. Right now the alternative is staring Thailand in the face: social failure, economic and political disintegration and civil strife.