Thailand: The Righteous Minority Riots Against Democracy

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September 5, 2008:  The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), one of the major opposition parties, has organized a series of increasingly desperate mass rallies in the capital over the last few months. Ten days ago, over 30,000 PAD members occupied the public spaces (the garden in the center of) the prime ministers compound and surrounding streets. Over the next few days, thousands more PAD supporters surrounded and tried to occupy radio and TV stations, in an effort to control how the media was covering the demonstrations.

The PAD was trying to goad the prime minister into using force, as they believed escalation of the conflict would lead to civil war, which PAD believes it could win. Two years ago, it was PAD that staged urban riots that led to a military takeover of the government. But since PAD only represents a minority of Thais, the military rule eventually angered the majority and democracy was restored. The PAD leadership was dismayed when their political opponents (which PAD considers corrupt) were re-elected. The righteous zealots of PAD are out to assert their moral superiority and bring down the current government and, well, plans for what happens after that are a little vague, but they apparently involve a dictatorship run by the morally superior leaders of PAD.

A week ago, pro-government demonstrators began to appear, and the police became more active to keep the pro-and anti government mobs from fighting each other. In the last few days, the violence increased, and several people were killed. In the last ten days, about a hundred demonstrators had been treated at hospitals for injuries. PAD tried calling a general strike, but that did not work, reminding PAD that it is a minority movement, and an increasingly unpopular one at that.

Over the last week, PAD became increasingly desperate, and sent mobs to surround police headquarters and transportation centers in the capital. Finally, the prime minister worked out a deal with the army (which did not want another coup, or a civil war) to send in troops to disperse the PAD mobs, and then hold a national referendum to deal with PADs complaints.

Opponents to the government planned to keep staging massive demonstrations in the capital, until the government resigned. PAD is led by zealots who believe rural Thais are being manipulated by election campaigns to support corrupt politicians. But this minority is largely urban, with many royalists and members of the military and civil service. The majority represents mostly rural people, who are looked down on by the better educated, and economically well off, urbanites. The urbanite attitude is that democracy didn't work here, and that some muscle is needed to put things right. But no one wants to set off a civil war, so everyone steps carefully, to avoid a spiral of escalation that no one can control.

Over the last three days, the army has announced it will not participate in a coup, and has sent some troops to work as riot police. The courts have issued arrest warrants for the nine senior leaders of the PAD, and the police have tried to remove, without success, the thousands of people occupying government, transportation and media buildings. But the time, and political attitudes, are moving against the PAD. More rural Thais are coming to the capital, to join pro-government demonstrators. The majority of Thais are not willing to give up democracy because PAD does not like the way things are working out. But it will take time to defuse the situation without a lot of violence and loss of life. PAD has been staging demonstrations for over three months now, and thousands of PAD supporters are still unwilling to give up the attempt to use mob rule to take over the government.

In the Moslem south, the Islamic terrorists continue to operate, but at a lower level. The army and police campaign against the terrorists continues to reduce the number of Islamic radicals.

 

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