Michael Kelly SJ. A powerful minority or an elected majority!

May 10, 2014

In a process that shows no sign of ending soon, Thailand’s unstable governance has reached another crisis.

The Acting Prime Minister has been tipped out only to be replaced by an Acting Acting Prime Minister who is himself to face judgment for his part in the failed scheme to stabilize the price of rice.

These judicial decisions – seen by many to be actions of courts tainted by their association with the anti – Shinawatra, Royal establishment – are now the trigger needed to bring the opposition back onto the streets of Bangkok. However, more prosecutions to come will now follow these latest incidents. Ousted Acting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is to face proceedings over up to another dozen alleged misdeeds.

But a situation that supplies ample opportunity for a Thai version of an operetta worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan’s satire of the British in the 19th Century could turn darkly unamusing over the next week. It is now time for the long–frustrated forces of the two sides – those loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck arrayed against those claimed by the leader of the opposition parties, Suthep Thaugsuban – go on the streets. They may engage and the whole situation could descend into anarchy. That will trigger military intervention to prevent what would become a civil war.

In the meantime, the big cloud handing over the current government is its next meeting with destiny when there is a court assessment of the failed rice purchasing scheme. In what looked like a masterstroke in the use of public funds to sustain the loyalty of rice farmers who are mostly supporters of the Shinawatra family, the government agreed to pay a fixed price to the farmers for their produce irrespective of the global market price  for the commodity.

The Government has not only sluggishly complied with this deal. Its full honoring jeopardizes the country’s economic viability. It could send the government into bankruptcy.

The numbing reality is that both sides of the contest are riddled with what is part of doing business in Thailand – corruption. Both parties are incredible; neither proposes anything approaching a sustainable vision for Thailand’s future; neither has leadership that offer comfort to investors that the rule of law and the practice of honest politics will be followed; the courts seem the plaything of interest tied to one side of politics.

Without the Royal intervention that is unlikely, a divided society and paralyzed political processes look seem set to get worse. In the past, Royal intervention has brought an end to civil disturbance through the imposition of martial law. But in the King’s physical state, with advanced if undeclared diseases in his old age, such magic solutions that resolved conflicts that would only recur later appear to be too fantastic to expect.


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