Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thailand gets some unrest on

Red-shirted supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, have poured into Bangkok by the tens of thousands, looking to force current PM Abhisit Vejjajiva into dissolving Parliament and calling new elections.

Thailand has long been as close to democracy as there is in Southeast Asia, and has a proud tradition as the only country in the region to not be dominated by the Euros (or, at least not colonized by said Euros). However, it's certainly no peaceable kingdom. Coups, military governments, and violent protest are nothing new. At least it's easy to figure out which side is which.

I don't pretend to know the details on this one, nor do I have any insight whatsoever regarding who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. However, I do have some built-in skepticism which I feel compelled to voice:

1. Am I the only one who is suspicious of huge popular movements which can rally 100,000 or more poor, illiterate farmers from isolated, rural parts of the country? I know, I know, the US Civil Rights Movement did exactly that in a responsible and productive manner. But seriously, how often has that been repeated on the world stage? Isn't it a bit more common to see someone mobilizing this sort of crowd to benefit themselves? Or am I getting overly cynical in my dodderhood?

2. The former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in 2006 on charges of corruption and graft, has been in self-imposed exile in Dubai for the past 3 or 4 years. If he were in exile in Laos, or Taiwan, or even Hoboken, I'd be a bit more sympathetic. But Dubai? Really?

3. The red-shirt movement appears to be running out of gas and money. The current wave of protest is seen as the last gasp before irrelevancy. Leaders are promising non-violence, but lets wait on the Nobel Prize for a few days. As the protest sputters to a halt, does the leadership get a bit more desperate?

I try not to be overly cynical, but sometimes, events on the World News page seem to invite it.

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