Commentators try to explain and analyse the current violence in Thailand.
• Q+A: Thailand protests
In the Japan Times Christopher Johnson gives some context:
“Massive occupations of two areas of central Bangkok the past two months show that the rise of Thailand’s ‘red shirt’ protesters is one of the most significant developments in Asia in 25 years, as it signals a new type of conflict involving entrenched elites and millions of workers who have migrated from farms to cities across Asia.
“In the 1970s, when most Asians lived on farms, ideologues fought their battles in mountains and jungles across Southeast Asia. Now, after some of the largest demographic changes in history, radicals can recruit massive followings in cities such as Bangkok with millions of disaffected laborers who no longer have farms to return to.”
Ian Buruma says in Lebanon’s Daily Star that the Thai protests reflect a worldwide uprising against the elites:
“In Thailand, the rage stems from the perceived neglect of the rural poor by the ruling class, backed by big business, the army, and the king. The populist billionaire and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, appeared to be different. He used some of his vast wealth to shower money on rural areas. Rural people, grateful for his largesse, voted for him twice.
“Authoritarian, crude, and somewhat megalomaniacal (almost as though he were a king himself), Thaksin was a Thai version of Silvio Berlusconi. He was removed from office in 2006, following a bloodless military coup that was supported by the Bangkok middle class, whose members took to the streets in yellow T-shirts (the color of the Thai monarchy). Today’s ongoing pro-Thaksin red-shirt rebellion is a form of revenge.”
The Telegraph editorial argues that the only path to peace is through a democratic election:
“The army’s tactics may force the protesters to submit – the Red Shirts’ number has already reduced by half from its peak. But that will not resolve the instabilities that continue to dog a country that relies heavily on tourism for its foreign earnings. Thailand has seen 18 military coups since 1945, and may be on the verge of another. What is missing is any recourse to the democratic practices it promised to build on in 2007, when it adopted what was hailed as a pluralist constitution that would serve as a model for the rest of the region.”