Thailand on the Precipice

Thailand’s Old Boys Club – generals, political parties backed by tycoons with an eye on fat government contracts, and the monarchy – has misgoverned the country for the past half-century. Unless its members embrace an honest and earnest effort at national and class reconciliation, Bangkok’s streets will not remain free of protesters for long.

BANGKOK – The two-month siege of downtown Bangkok by the so-called “Red Shirts” has ended in bloodshed. More than 60 people, including two foreign reporters and a few soldiers, died in the Thai army’s suppression of the urban rebellion.

The Thai government had no choice but to use force after negotiations with the protestors broke down. Both sides deeply mistrusted the other, even though the government’s five-point “road map” for a peaceful resolution implicitly acknowledged the existence of serious socioeconomic problems and included an early general election this November – a concession to the protestors, who argue that the government lacks legitimacy because it was never elected.

Much of Thailand is now under an all-night curfew, imposed after radical Red Shirts set fire to more than 35 landmark buildings in Bangkok. The militants’ targets included branches of Bangkok Bank, the country’s largest and a pillar of the establishment; Siam Square, owned by the Palace; and a deluxe shopping mall owned by one of the richest Thai Chinese families.

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