Thai disunitedThe conflict in Thailand vividly illustrates what can happen when anti-government forces that demand the resignation of a democratically elected administration clash with pro-government ones.
Yesterday, a state of emergency was imposed in Bangkok eight days after anti-government protesters occupied the government compound.
The protesters were demanding the resignation of the entire government, which is led by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
From an outside perspective, the conflict in Thailand appears to be a clash between people with different ideals and conflicting interests.
But when looked at more deeply, a serious class struggle is clearly wrenching Thai society apart.
Thailand, a constitutional monarchy, is divided between anti-government forces, which comprise the urban poor and rural communities, and the privileged, which comprise the middle class in Bangkok and supporters still loyal to the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The conflict raging today could have been avoided if Thaksin, who took power in 2001 thanks to overwhelming support of the poor and the those living in rural areas, had tried to unite his country.
However, Thaksin prioritized his own interests over that of the nation and took populist measures that benefited only his supporters.
In 2006, accused of abuse of power and corruption, Thaksin was ousted in a coup, the 17th in 76 years of constitutionalism in Thailand, and fled abroad.
Late last year, encouraged by the victory of the new pro-Thaksin People Power Party in the general election, Thaksin returned home, despite the risk of being brought before the court.
As expected, those who oppose Thaksin mounted full-scale protests.
While their trial was in process, Thaksin and his wife fled again to Britain where they sought asylum.
As a result, the protests became much more violent and ended in bloodshed.
The People’s Alliance for Democracy, a civic organization leading the anti-government protests, maintains that a democratic system based on one person, one vote doesn’t suit Thailand.
When an incompetent and corrupt administration doesn’t even make efforts to resolve a class struggle, what is eventually sacrificed is democracy.