BANGKOK – “Thailand’s future is up for grabs,” proclaimed the eminent Thai scholar Thitinan Pongsudhirak just before the country’s Constitutional Court ruled, in effect, that the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and its two smaller coalition partners are “illegal,” and hence must disband due to “election frauds” committed by party executives a year ago. Party leaders, including Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, are barred from politics for five years.
With that one stroke, Thailand’s popularly elected government fell. Parliament must now reconstitute itself without the three parties loyal to Somchai.
In Thailand’s current crisis, history is repeating itself, for the PPP under Somchai was the same Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party formed by the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a figure much-hated by the country’s Bangkok-based elite. The PPP was created because TRT had been outlawed at the time of Thaksin’s removal.
What is perverse about this is that every recent poll in Thailand shows that Thaksin remains wildly popular with the vast majority of Thais, most of whom live outside Bangkok. So, despite the ousting of two Thaksin proxies in a row by the court and the elite, Thais are likely to return yet another Thaksin loyalist if they are allowed to vote in an unrigged election.