Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I have a long piece up on the situation in Thailand at Global Comment. I conclude:

The United Nations has offered to mediate the situation, but the Thai government has rejected this. The government claims it doesn’t want to give legitimacy to the red-shirts, but of course, the government itself came to power through non-democratic means. It’s hard to say what leverage either the U.S. or the U.N. have in this situation and I believe violence will continue to mount.

William Barnes, writing at Asia Times Online, noted on May 13 that Maoist tactics are playing an increasing role in red shirt strategies. Were a large number of Thais to commit themselves to violent revolution, the situation could devolve into a more geopolitically important version of Nepal, which only recently ended its long and brutal civil war between the military and Maoist guerillas.

While we should condemn Maoist-inspired violence, it represents the desperation and poverty of rural Thais. They gave democracy a chance. They elected their leaders repeatedly and just as often their opponents threw their leaders out using non-democratic means. Unless the Thai military and middle-class accept democracy, understanding that they have to live with results they don’t like and that they will have to appeal to a majority of Thais in order to win power, political and social instability will result.

As the Thai elites have shown no inclination to respect democracy, I fear civil war will result that could lead to the destabilization of much of Southeast Asia.

The situation has worsened significantly in the last 24 hours, but however brutal the Thai military might act, it won't solve the problem of Thai elites not respecting democracy and poor Thais abandoning their commitment to democracy because they see it doesn't work.