Revolution in Thailand

Natalie Hanks

With blood in the streets and thousands of protesters crowding the city of Bangkok, red is the color of the revolution in Thailand.

Last week 24 people were killed in violent political protests and nearly 800 people were injured. Even though the government is facing major changes, will history repeat itself in this place of politically instability?
The “Red Shirts,” the massive group made of farmers and low-income citizens are the face of the opposition. The group is protesting to get P rime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva out of office.  Many dislike Vejjajiva because he came to office through a corrupt system, not a popular vote.

The “Red Shirts” are fighting for a new election one in which many hope old Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be reinstated. The “Yellow Shirts,” the middle class, threw out Shinawatra, who is a wealthy and corrupt businessman who supported programs for the poor, only 2 years ago. Political over throws and military coups are no rare occurrence in Thailand. In fact, 18 military seizures have happened over the past 80 years.

Unlike the French Revolution, this divide between the bourgeoisie and the antagonists is not so black and white. There have been reports of police showing public support for the protesters and middle class citizens supporting the military. These glimpses of opposing sympathies prove that the country is facing major unrest and is nowhere near a middle ground decision on leadership.

One of the main issues is the divide between the classes and the ways they view ideal democracy. The poor citizens want (one-vote one-citizen) as where the middle class believes that because the poor are uneducated, such decisions should not be made by the ill-informed masses.

The “democracy” in this country is not at all similar to the United States. The system in Thailand is a constitutional democratic monarchy. It is part democratic, part authoritarian and part military run.  Bottom line, until a truly democratic process of electing officials can be implemented, more corruption will take over.

The more background checking done, it seems there is not yet a fit leader to take control. Though it appears the charismatic Shinawatra is close to regaining control, it is speculated that his motives for returning to office are financially based. The King of Thailand is a figurehead and with the military and police unable to stop these rallies, the violence may continue.
If history is any indicator, what will keep the “Yellow Shirts” from another counter rally?  Will more leaders be chosen behind closed doors without the country’s consent, or will the masses choose another corrupt individual who woos them with promises and plans?

I am so grateful for this country and our democracy. I am so grateful that whether you wept with joy at the signing of the healthcare bill, or you grabbed your sign for a tea party rally, you could do so with freedom and conviction. We take for granted our rights and our ability to fight for those rights and opinions. I hold hope for Thailand’s future, with the optimism that they may find a resolution. Democracy is not perfect—it is not the answer. For Thailand, it is the only the beginning.


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