Thai Protests

Death On Bangkok Streets As Thai Political Crisis Deepens

The political crisis in Thailand shows no sign of ending any time soon. CNN reports that five Thai citizens were killed this week as anti-government protests continued following disputed elections earlier this month.

The political crisis came to a head in December 2013, when growing disquiet with the government of Prime Minster Yingluck Shinawatra led to her dissolving Parliament and calling for new elections, which subsequently took place on February 2. The election results have still not been announced; opposition figures led by Suthep Thaugsuban – a former deputy Prime Minister of Thailand – demanded supporters boycott the poll, and an unsuccessful bid to have the results annulled has already taken place.

Political crisis is nothing new in Thailand, with the figure of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra constantly at the center of the type of power struggles and intrigue that bewilders much of the western world. In 2010 it was poor, rural supporters of the ousted Thaksin who took to the streets demanding a reinstatement of their idol, whereas now it it middle-class, urban opponents of his younger sister Yingluck demanding change.

Chief among their demands is the creation of an unelected ‘people’s council’, under the leadership of a new Prime Minister nominated by the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The ultimate goal appears to be to rid Thai politics of Thaksin Shinawatra for good. The original crisis that led to the dissolution of Parliament came about due to a government amnesty allegedly designed to protect Thaksin and his supporters, and smooth his eventual return to the top table of Thai government. Opponents of the Shinawatras have long presumed Yingluck takes orders from her brother.

Piling on fresh misery for Yingluck during the ongoing political crisis, she is likely to face charges of corruption in connection with a controversial rice purchase scheme. According to BBC News, Thailand’s anti-corruption commission says the Prime Minister will be charged for her role in the scheme, which allegedly saw the government buying farmers’ crops at prices up to 50% higher than world averages. While popular with farmers, it led to a downturn in Thailand’s rice exports and critics have charged many involved with corruption on a grand scale.

Yingluck has denied the allegations via her Facebook page, resorting to posting messages online as she stays hidden from the carnage on Bangkok’s streets. Protests had lately seemed to have been calming down as political horsetrading took place behind the scenes, but as police moved in to clear protesters from government buildings fighting flared up again, with one police officer and two protesters among the five dead this week.

The political crisis in Thailand is unlikely to end until a resolution to the Thaksin conundrum is reached once and for all. Should his sister beat corruption charges, beat back the protests and remain in power she will forever be accused of being her brother’s puppet. That a Thai political crisis is nothing new is the saddest fact of all.

Image of Thai soldiers from Wikimedia Commons.

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