Thailand: The Angry Young Men

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April 22, 2009: For the fourth time in the last four decades, the government has sent troops into the streets to disperse populist demonstrators. The royalists and few families that control most of the nation's wealth have always had a problem with democracy. Most Thai's are poor, or just getting by. They also have a vote, but when they elect someone the royalists and urbanites don't like, there is a military coup or troops are sent out to disperse the crowds with gunfire. In the last year, the royalists tried a new tactic, forming their own mobs of yellow shirted supporters. The army would not confront these crowds, and they brought down a populist government. But the red shirted populists will not give up.

Islamic terrorism in the south continues, with about three violent incidents a day during March. The government cannot find anyone to negotiate with. Neither can local leaders, who want to halt the violence. There are apparently dozens of independent terrorist cells, most of them associated with a gangster or religious leader. The violence has become popular with a segment of the young males in the south. It's believed that about five out of every thousand southerners is involved in the violence. But without any overall rebel organization, or even any agreement on what the goal of the violence should be (it ranges from more autonomy to  independence to union with Moslem Malaysia.) This isn't a new situation. It has come up periodically in the century that Thailand has controlled the area. So the traditional solution is being applied. That involves policing the area heavily until the angry young men get killed, jailed or discouraged sufficiently to quiet down.

The royalists now have to contend with populist officers in the army. There have always been troops with populist attitudes, but the officers were mostly from royalist and elite families. No longer. The growing middle class, which often sides with populists, has supplied the military with a growing number of officers in the last few decades. The army can no longer be trusted, by the royalists, as much as in the past.  

April 20, 2009: The red shirt leaders, despite being sought by the army and police, say they will return to the streets and battle for the restoration of democracy.

April 17, 2009:  Yellow shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul survived an early morning assassination attempt.

April 15, 2009: The government revoked former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's passport. Shinawatra then began using a passport from Nicaragua. The government accuses Shinawatra of fomenting and leading the current "red shirt" demonstrations.

April 14, 2009: The army hit the streets of the capital, fired on the red shirt crowds and forced them to disperse. At least two were killed and over a hundred wounded. Arrest warrants were issued for former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (overthrown by a military coup three years ago) and twelve other leaders of the populists (and believed responsible for the current round of demonstrations.)

 

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