Trouble In Thailand


Robert Tyler explains the background to the current political unrest.

Thailand is in the middle of a power struggle. The South-East Asian country, whose political system is not too dissimilar from our own, in turmoil as the Shinawatra government tampers with both the constitution and basic democratic principles.

Thailand is in the middle of a power struggle.

The protests in Bangkok that started a few weeks ago were, at first, over the passing of legislation that offered an amnesty for the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, brother of current Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra,  The former Prime Minister had fled the country in 2006, halfway through a corruption trial, after having being overthrown by a military coup. The legislation that acted as an amnesty overturns, in effect, the principle of the rule of law.

However, the turmoil and protests go back much further, with roots in more than just this one policy. Since the coup in 2006, Thailand’s political scene has been chaotic. Thaksin Shinawatra had been operating a relatively successful government based on a combination of Third Way and Keynesian policies that had been branded Thaksinomics. It was a mainly populist approach to politics that aimed to appease the majority of rural voters, at the expense of free market practices and alienating the growing middle class.

From 2006-2008, the military ruled Thailand. The election in 2008 produced a coalition that brought in the Classically-Liberal Thai Democrat Party. The Democrats governed Thailand from 2008-2011 with relative success: the economy grew, and Thailand began to interact more with its regional neighbours. Then, in 2011, Thaksin’s sister was elected on a landslide and returned to the Keynesian approach, but was more profligate than her brother. She spent more than her brother, and introduced reckless policies such as the “My First Car” subsidy that led to congestion and rising fuel prices. Her foreign policy was also less focused on regional relations and more on relations with African countries.

From 2006-2008, the military ruled Thailand.

The best way to sum up both the Shinawatra administrations is Blair-like. So it’s easy to see why people are a little more than merely thoroughly disillusioned with their government. With attacks on constitutionalism, the democratic process and the growing middle class, it’s obvious why the Thai people are frustrated. And with the Army gearing up to intervene again, the future looks bleak. However this could be avoided if several measures are taken now.

First the Army must agree to leave the political scene alone and assure its independence, something they haven’t done since the 1932 coup.

Secondly, elections must be called to let the people decide.

Thirdly, the rule of law must be respected: Thaksin and others guilty of corruption must face up to what they have done.

If they follow this advice, then I have no doubt that Thailand could easily become a stable liberal democracy and a force to be reckoned with in South-East Asia.


  1. To get the right answer to the conflict in Thailand is to answer hornestly the question of what a true democracy mean? And I am sure that the domocracy has been invented to liberate the people from fear and poverty and promote equality and fairness. Now let’s take a look at Thailand. The poeple in Thailand lack still the most fundamental humanright of freedom of speech; they live in fear and cannot express their political opinions. Think about how many civillians are imprisoned because of the Lese Majeste Law. They are suffering and in need of support.
    As far as poverty is concern, think about it this way: 80% per cent of Thai population have to eat only plain rice with a fried egg for dinner, while 19% of them enjoy a three-course menu with an additional roasted duck and 1% finds it difficult to decide what to eat as there are so plenty to pick. Is that what you call a fair society?
    As for the goverment, in democracy the govenment must protect and empower its people. In Thailand the governing institutions treat the majority of the people, the underprivileged, as servants who must be obedient. The rules come from the master and the servants must do what is told without questioning. The constitution does not guarantee their equality because it is made in Hollywood. Since the beginning of its history, the Democrats of Thailand have been so good in playing Hollywood with its director, making the world belive in their representation of Thailand. Hollywood is Hollywood. Reality is reality.
    Then along came someone, whose name happened to be Thaksin, who gave the underpriviledge a shock therapy with an eye-opening effect. Now the people realize that, as members of society by birth, they deserve to be treated better by their own government. They are entitle of freedom, fair shares, fair treatment, and fair opportunities: a genuine democracy. The basic human rights.
    The road is tough, but they decide to walk it.

  2. Well Rob, I would like to remind you that Mrs. Shinawatra was elected in a democratic, free and secret election. She has constitutional approval. The leader of the opposition demands her resignation and instead of new elections for a good reason. He said himself, that they don’t want re-elections but a choosen people’s government out of his own rows because he knows that they would succumb in free re-elections. Basically the opposition is a minority that trys to enforce their rule upon a majority. A Majority that democratically elected the PM. I don’t agree with Mrs. Shinawatra’s policies but still she is a democratic leader, elected by the majority of the Thai people. What the opposition demands is nothing less than a coup to change the political landscape of Thailand – against the will of the majority of Thai people – in their favour.

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