What’s Driving the Violence in Thailand?
On Thursday, as the Red Shirt protesters who rallied in Thailand’s capital for two months weighed the government’sultimatum to leave by midnight, a Red Shirt leader and dissident general was shot in the head while speaking to a New York Times reporter. The incident has brought Thailand’s long-running conflict to a new level of violence. For those new to the story, what’s happening and how did it get so violent?
- The Escalating Violence Newsweek’s David Graham writes, “Clashes between antigovernment protesters, who have taken red shirts as their symbol, and pro-government forces, clad in yellow, have been ongoing for months. On Thursday explosions and gunfire were heard around the capital, Bangkok, and Gen. Khattiya Sawatdiphol, known as Seh Daeng, was shot … Despite deploying troops, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva—which demonstrators argue came to power illegitimately with the help of courts and the military—has been unable to quell protests.”
The protesters, known as the red shirts, started their mass demonstration two months ago seeking the dissolution of Parliament. But the movement has fractured, and the leaders’ ultimate aims have become less clear. In talks, the government recently agreed to allow early elections, but the breakthrough faltered as some protesters dug in, demanding that someone be held responsible for violence on April 10, when some 25 people were killed.
- Can The ‘Demographic Time Bomb’ Spread? The Japan Times’ Christopher Johnson worries, “After two decades of migration from northern provinces which doubled Bangkok’s population, these poor dark-skinned laborers — and their city-bred offspring — have essentially held the government hostage and pushed it to call for November elections a year ahead of schedule. This demographic time bomb also exists in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Manila and other cities with huge migrant populations. If Thailand’s red shirt uprising is a revolution of rising expectations among the servant class, then migrant laborers elsewhere might also demand a greater share of political power.”