The problem with the Czars Spotlight on Thailand post was how much to leave out. There is so much complexity to the issue that it could not possibly fit into one post without being unwieldy and messy. So CC jumps in to round out the issues and provide a third dimension to our overly brief synopsis. As he charitably says, we left out half of the story (maybe a lot more)…but CC leaps in to round things out.
Forgive my impudence in what follows.
My fiancee is Thai and Ive been more or less aware of whats going on in the country the past five years. You left out a good half of the story in your post, above all the fact that the military government actually held elections in late 2007 (or early 2008, cant remember exactly), and the reds of Thaksins Thai Rak Thai party won big. The PMs name was Samak Sundaravej, and he represented the re-branded TRT party, known as the Peoples Power Party (before that, he was the Rachel Ray of Thailandno fooling. He kept doing his cooking show even when he was PM.)
In response, a group a monarchists and people who hate Thaksin formed the yellows, who go by the somewhat ironic name of Peoples Alliance for Democracy. They protested in the streets, then occupied Government House and two airports in Bangkok. Samak was forced from power (officially on charges of illegally working for a private company while in office) and Abhisit replaced him when a deal was cut with a few Red magnates who went over to Abhisits Democrat Party. (And Abhisit, note, is still under investigation for the TPI scandal in 2005everyone is corrupt in Thai politics, not just the Reds. It is essentially an oligarchic monarchy).
Abhisit also demanded a royally appointed PM after the coup in 2006, and was rebuked by the king. He created the line that Thaksin and his redshirts had an ulterior motive, represented by something called the Finland Plot, to overthrow the monarchy. He, via proxies, was deeply involved in the PAD protests of 2007-08.
Abhisit, in short, was not elected, and indeed the majority of the people elect Redshirts whenever there is an election (and they will when the new elections are held too). Im not defending anyone, just saying that there is a reason things are so heated, and its because the Reds actually are very, very popular among the poor, among liberals (in the general sense), and among more sinister types like anti-monarchists, communists, and so on. Thaksins government was the first since Thailand became democratic in 1932 (or thereabouts) to win a majority in Parliament.
I would suggest however that your diagnosis is accordingly half-right. A little constitutional freedom tends to be liked, yes, but a little such freedom tends to slide into liberal democratic idealism which by its nature is at least in an uncomfortable tension with monarchy. Thailand has had 17 or 18 Constitutions since 1932. You are right that things are going too far this time, and I agree with you that its beginning to look like the conclusion of this might be civil war.
But to blame it all on the Reds is not quite accurate. If elections are held, as Abhisit I believe agreed to do, the Reds will winthat is why Abhisit did not want to hold elections, and had to be forced to do so by the protests. Yes, the protesters are being manipulated by people with other motives, but then so will the yellow PAD protesters if or when the redshirts come back to power.
The problem is more interesting. Thailand is a country that has tried to move from authoritarianism and absolute monarchy to liberal, constitutional monarchy on its own, with virtually no outside intervention. The country has been trapped in the logic of liberalization for 70 or 80 yearstoo much democracy and the monarchys ground starts to shake, too much monarchism and people start feeling oppressed. The pendulum swings back and forth, and the marvel of it all is that Thailand has managed to be such a peaceful andyesstable place for all of this time.
Now it appears that things are getting out of control, and a tragedy is brewing. Lets hope it doesnt come to that.
Astonishing and insightful post by CC. The Czar suspects the reader has learned more about Thailand in this one letter than anywhere else on the web. The Czar especially likes the last two paragraphs, which describes the awkward balance Thailand, solely in an effort to improve, finds itself. Well done.
Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.