Friday, May 9, 2014

Thailand: Update--Political Unrest Could Always Get Worse in the Land of Smiles

According to The Associated Press, thousands of protesters marched through the Thai capital on Friday (May 9) to show that the prime minister's ouster by a court ruling is not enough, and warned that they will retaliate if their demands for the government's complete removal are not met within three days.

The rally came two days after Yingluck was removed by the Constitutional Court on grounds that she had illegally transferred a civil servant to another post. Yingluck supporters and many analysts criticized the ruling as politically motivated.

The protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, 64, demanded that the Supreme Court president, the Senate speaker and the Election Commission, along with other state agencies, jointly work to oust the current government within three days.

Protesters want to install an appointed government to oversee reforms before new elections are held, a concept criticized by many as undemocratic. They oppose polls tentatively scheduled for July 2014, which Yingluck's loyalists would very likely win. 

COMMENT: Thailand's long-running political crisis began in 2006 when Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, 64, was ousted by a military coup after protests accused him of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for King Bhumibol Adulyadej. 

Yingluck was subsequently criticized as Thaksin's surrogate and protesters say they want to remove all traces of the politically powerful Shinawatras from Thai politics.

More than 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured since November 2013 when in sporadic shootings and grenade attacks occurred.

Suthep called Friday's rally a "final offensive," a declaration mocked by the Thai media, which noted this was the 11th time in six months he has summoned supporters for a final protest.

After Wednesday's ruling that removed Yingluck, the National Anti-Corruption Commission followed up Thursday by indicting her on charges of dereliction of duty for overseeing a widely criticized rice subsidy program.

That ruling means Yingluck will face an impeachment vote by the Senate, though it is not clear how the former PM could be impeached from an office she no longer holds.

A sequence of decisions by the courts and independent agencies such as the anti-graft commission against Yingluck and her political machine have given many people a declining trust in the rule of law, raising the possibility of heightened civil unrest. 

I continue to urge that both residents and expats currently in Thailand ensure that they have access to water and food in the event political unrest worsens.