Thailand has undergone a series of political upheavals in the past few years, including the deposing of its government in favor of a military junta in 2006. The next year, democracy was partially restored, and observers hoped that the Southeast Asian nation might return to stability. Michael Yon has spent a lot of time in Thailand recently, and reports that those hopes may soon be dashed:
I’m getting a sinking feeling about the growing unrest in Thailand. I flew out of Chiang Mai,Thailand on Saturday and am in Malaysia. A message just came in from Chiang Mai that tensions have increased in Chiang Mai even since Saturday. Many Thai people are staying at home even though it’s time for the national water fight they call Songkran. …
Despite the obvious progress, make no mistake that the current political crisis is serious. Every democracy is different, and the fuse is burning faster and hotter on this one.
Most of Michael’s post deals with the difficulties of traveling in Thailand in the event of unrest, with healthy disclaimers that the Thai like to keep foreigners safe and outside of their politics. He links to Sunday’s NYT article on the deteriorating situation. The ousted Prime Minister has called for civil war:
The army clashed with demonstrators early Monday after thousands of antigovernment protesters defied a state of emergency, massing in the streets, climbing on armored military vehicles and attacking the prime minister’s motorcade.
Soldiers charged protesters and fired automatic weapons into the air to clear a major road leading out of this city as Thailand began celebrating its three-day New Year’s water festival. Hospitals said at least 60 people were wounded. …
Mr. Thaksin has been making nightly broadcasts to supporters in recent days, apparently from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to the crowd at Government House, the prime minister’s office, a protest leader, Jakrapob Penkair, said a state of emergency was “a declaration of war against the people of Thailand.”
He added: “They will try to disperse the crowds, but we will remain at Government House. We will start a people’s war.”
Rather than a religious conflict, which seems to be the latest fashion, this looks more like a clear political and economic conflict. All sides pledge allegiance to the monarch, who is in ill health and has no clear successor, but otherwise have come to the point of war with each other. Reconciliation looks out of the question, and Thaksin may have to return just to get his own side under control.