Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter and Thailand

Thaksin's Red Shirts mob disrupted the Asia Summit at the Pattaya beach resort near Bangkok to make a point. But what point? That the sitting Prime Minister is "illegitimate"? That Thaksin, now in exile, should be back in power?

Thaksin is not sitting idle abroad either. He has called for a military overthrow of the current civilian government. How ironic.

He was himself overthrown by the military a few years ago in a coup d'etat that was totally uncontitutional.

Thailand is now quite lawless. Some would say it had always been.

Constitutions come and go. The last government was declared illigetimate because some of the elected officials were found violating elections rules.

That's bad, of course. Except such rules had been violated by any number of officials on any side of the political spectrum and had always been part of the "accepted" price of democracy. Politicans had always gotten away with them as long as the principal leaders got elected fair and square. The Thaksin electoral victories had been monitored by foreign independent non-profit groups that do that stuff to promote democracy.

Oh yes, that does not excuse Thaksin of having been a blatant corrupt politican. Whilst in power, he looked after his own cronies and his alone, breaking traditional practice of being inclusive in sharing economic spoils with your political opponents. He was generous to the rural poor no Bangkok politicians had ever given two hoots about.

Thaksin was duly elected by a convicing majority -- twice. Those who couldn't stand him just couldn't dislodge him in fair and open elections.

As self-serving civilian politicians circle one another to grab or to remain in power, the country will continue to swing between factional struggles intervened by the military with a certain unmentionable power arbitrating from time to time behind a wall of secrecy. It is unmentionable for the law governing that particular topic is draconian, if not medieval. Bloggers and writers have found themselves behind bar in uncharacteristic haste not found in the rest of the economy.

Any expectation that Thailand would join the dynamic Asian tigers in the years ahead is highy imaginative.

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