Thailand’s Silent Coup

Thailand is once again being convulsed by extreme partisan politics, with the country’s polarization playing out on Bangkok’s streets. The sense that Thailand has been through all of this before would be mildly reassuring were it not for a nagging fear that this decent and prosperous society may be set to destroy its democracy.

BANGKOK – Thailand is once again being convulsed by extreme partisan politics, with the country’s polarization playing out on Bangkok’s streets. Several people have been killed, and many more have been injured. The sense that Thailand has been through all of this before would be mildly reassuring were it not for a nagging fear that this decent and prosperous society may be set to destroy its democracy.

Much of the violence has been led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister. He has inspired thousands of demonstrators, many from his power base in the country’s south, to storm and occupy government buildings with the aim of unseating Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Suthep says that this is the first step in rooting out “Thaksinism” from the country’s political life.

On December 1, Suthep demanded – and received – a meeting with Yingluck in the presence of Thailand’s military chiefs, whom he had asked to “guarantee” his safety. During the meeting, Suthep gave Yingluck a two-day deadline to resign. With the police failing to control the mobs in the streets without the help of the military, Yingluck decided to resign and dissolve parliament, declaring that she would lead a caretaker government until a new election is held on February 2.

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