Thursday, May 12, 2011

Democracy, Thai style

I'm going to make a prediction a few months out from the event - which is always dangerous - but I'd put money on yet another judicial or military coup in Thailand before the summer's out. Prime Minister Abhisit - who went to Eton & Oxford - is in the process of winding up the parliament in advance of an early-ish (it was due in December) election in Thailand.

Here's a fact for you. No parliament in the history of the Thai state has run a full term. The occasional fall through scandal (the Democrat government of the 80s for example for a land zoning rumpus), a few snap elections as we'd get in the UK and more often than not a military coup. 18 so far, if memory serves me right.

Ever since Thaksin tapped into the unstoppable power of the rural vote, his parties (Thai Rak Thai, People's Power Party, Puea Thai) have won every election. The Thai judiciary, gently prompted by the palace, has outlawed the first two iterations, but chances are very much that the next government will have Puea Thai as the main government party again after the election.

So can the palace/judiciary/army just this once accept the will of the Thai electorate? Probably not. Favourite would be a judicial coup - outlawing either the Puea Thai party or its leaders (Thaksin's sister is on the ballot and would be a good bet to lead a Puea Thai administration). This would probably be backed up by a typical Thai state of emergency, which would entail shooting various people in red shirts. So just be careful with your wardrobe colour co-ordinating if you're going there on holiday.

The western powers are only too happy to do business with Thailand as a 'liberal democracy', despite the fact that it's neither liberal nor democratic. It has never let any government stand that the old establishment interests - the monarchy, the military and the judiciary - didn't like.

Sure the army shot a few of its own people last year, but that Abhisit chap seems awfully nice doesn't he? Friends with Boris, you know. What's not to like?