Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Thailand Has Moved Closer to Civil War'

The Thai government has brutally suppressed a two-month uprising in the capital. But even if the protesters have been routed for now, their call for new and legitimate elections remains, along with the threat of further violence. German commentators warn of the risk of civil war.

Downtown Bangkok was experiencing an uneasy calm Thursday after the Thai military cleared a protest camp in the capital's Lumpini Park on Wednesday. Hours of street battles Wednesday ended with seven leaders of the so-called Red Shirts, or anti-government protesters, arrested and at least 14 people dead. Red Shirt leaders called for an end to over two months of street demonstrations -- though it wasn't clear if the rank-and-file would listen.


The Red Shirts, formally known as the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, represent Thailand's rural majority, the normally impoverished class of farmers and villagers who saw their living standards rise under former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In 2006, a different round of protests by the country's elites and middle class against what they saw as corruption in the Thaksin regime ended in a military coup. Thaksin was removed by force, and the Red Shirt movement has called for new elections ever since.

In March, tens of thousands of Red Shirt protesters flooded Bangkok to protest the legitimacy of the current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva. By April, Abhisit had declared a state of emergency. But the protesters remained, and tension mounted, with bombings and skirmishes around the capital. On May 13, an unknown sniper shot a renegade general named Maj. Gen. Khattiya Sawasdiphol -- better known as Seh Daeng, or Red Commander -- while he spoke to a reporter for The New York Times.

The violence has shattered the image of Thailand as a placid tourist paradise. The small kingdom has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932, with a respected but now-elderly figurehead, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, on the throne since 1946. But the current unrest is just a new manifestation of decades of social tension between Thailand's rural majority and its ruling elite.

German commentators on Thursday see a threat of civil war. Most of them call for new elections, as well as more sympathetic attention from the West.

To read more and what german newspaper wrote about the situation in Thailand: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,695879,00.html

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