May 30, 2007

Thailand's Fragile Democracy

This morning in Bangkok, government troops and military have been stationed around television and radio stations as well as key government buildings in anticipation of today's landmark court ruling.

Just over a year ago over 10,000 protesters took to the streets in Bangkok, Thailand demanding that the democratically elected Thaksin Shinawatra step down as Thailand's prime minister.

Led by a loose coalition called the People's Alliance for Democracy, the protesters comprised of opposition politicians and a plethora of special interest groups protesting everything from education policies to free trade said they won't go home until the prime minister resigns over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Ironically, the mob who had gathered in central Bangkok then proceeded to march about a kilometre down the road to the Democracy Monument.

While Thaksin Shinawatra vowed not to succumb to "mob rule", he eventually did stating that "It's not that I'm not willing to fight, but when I fight, the nation loses." Thaksin could not have been any more wrong. Looking back now it is quite clear to see that Thaksin's refusal to fight is what led to the disaster that Thailand and the nation now face. Thaksin's departure and unwillingness to fight have represented a defeat against democracy and a victory for mob rule.

For a country that has seen 18 coups and 24 prime ministers since World War Two, in the process of drafting its 18 constitutions, one might wonder if Democracy can or will ever take root in Thailand. The implications of royal intervention being required each and every time to resolve Thailand's political disputes continues to be a grave thing indeed for Thailand's fledgling democracy.

While the Thais are now learning firsthand how fragile freedom and Democracy are, it would seem that much of our own nation seems to have forgotten over the 231 years.


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