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Thwarting Thailand is in Topsy-Turvy


Thailand government and anti-government protestors must have immediate dialogue to avoid the certain economic crisis
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: March 16, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : Suthep Thaugsuban | Brad Adams | Director at Human Rights Watch | Siamese Revolution of 1932 |

The world has become unrest over the last couple of years. One after another anti-government protests are taking place in a row worldwide. Anti-government protests in Turkey, Bosnia and Ukraine are the most infamous in 2013. At the end of 2013, series of protests against Ukrainian government attracted global attention. While Ukraine is yet to cool down then the Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy Thailand has drawn global attention for all the wrong reasons. Astonishingly, Thai people have been exhilarated by the Ukrainian protests. But the case of Thailand is little bit different. The nation is entering in the wrong zone as some people have demonstrated the idea of ‘splitting the country in two.’ On February 26, 2014, one report published by Reuters highlighted that "Some pro-government leaders have called for the country to be divided, along north-south political lines." For the uninitiated, while the current Prime Minister YingLuck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra who was also former Prime Minister represent the north and northeast of the country then the anti-government protestors are likely to be originated from south and the capital of the nation, Bankok. The moot point here is that should the nation be divided in two parts to fulfil few elite people’s interest?

Anti-government demonstrations began in November 2013 but it became worse at the end of February 2014. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Suthep Thaugsuban led protesters continue to fight against the Yingluck and the alleged corrupt government to dethrone them from power. Similarly Thaksin had been thrown out from power through a military coup as he was found guilty of corruption in 2006. Since then he has been self exiled in London and Dubai but he has been continuing to influence Thai politics through his Prime Minister sister Yingluck. Some politicians have tagged Yingluck as puppet of her brother. A massive surge of protest against the government took place as the ruling Pheu Thai Party drafted an amnesty bill in the last November which was intended to broader the way of her brother’s return to Thailand. The bill confronted huge opposition from both the anti-government Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the pro-government Red Shirt movement. Although the bill was malfunctioned but the protest has been continuing in the nation. Nine Democrat members of parliament including Suthep left their jobs to accelerate the protest further. Brad Adams, Director at Human Rights Watch, Asia observed that many Red Shirts have started to believe that demonstrators are "using street protests, thuggery, armed militants, obstruction of election, judicial intervention, and a threat of military coup to cripple and eventually oust their elected government." Consequently, Red Shirts have demanded to split the nation. In response to public protests, Yingluck’s government decided to hold a snap election in the month of February 2014. However, the opponent party which was not able to win for a single time in the last twenty years boycotted the poll and block loaded polling centres.

Amidst the tug of war between democrats and the government, common people and the nation are losing all the way. As a result of the protests, twenty one people have lost their lives and hundreds have been injured. However, Yingluck did not remain silent. She replied back to the deadly attacks by saying that "I would like to ask all sides of the political divide that we may see things differently and there are many ways to express those differences." She further added that "the use of violence that leads to deaths is not the civilized way of the living." In reality, the nation has functioned without an effective government during the last four months. Consequently, economy of the nation is trembling. As per a government report, Thailand witnessed ‘the biggest drop in imports in more than four years in January’ as tourism industry has affected a lot due to extended protests. The report has also highlighted that imports plunged by 15.5 per cent in last January which is the biggest fall since October 2009. In the same light, exports have also been declined by 2 per cent. Similarly, the nation would like to slump further in 2014. Along with tourism industry, airline and hotel industry have been affected the most. For instance, the national flag carrier of Thailand, Thai Airways International has recorded a net loss of 12 billion baht ($369 million) for 2013. According to the Thai Hotel Association, occupancy rates in the capital plunged to around 50 per cent compared to 80 per cent at this time of year. The nation reported a record number of visitors (almost 26 million) in the year of 2013 but the scenario has been changing drastically over the last two months of this year which will affect the nations economy significantly in near future.

Since the Siamese Revolution of 1932 or the Siamese Coup d'état of 1932, the most powerful institute of the nation, the military had participated 18 times to resolve political disputes. But this time it has not shown any intention to interfere. However, it has clarified that it will not take any side this time but has warned both protestors and the government to respect the nation’s constitution. In the same light, 86 years old King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his allies have remained silent over the crisis. At this situation, neither the government nor protestors are in a mood to compromise. However, Suthep led protestors have decided to unblock roads and continue protests in parks.

Both the government and anti-government protestors have to realize the national loss over their personal interests. At any cost, the nation should not conmsumate the absurd idea of diving the country to fulfill some elite people's interest. Keeping their ego at bay of bengal, both the government and anti-protestors must compromise their interest and should have dialogue immediately for the further development of the nation.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017