On the Thai Elections

Here some quotes from an expert brief you by Joshua Kurlantzick for the Council of Foreign Relations, but it’s worth readingĀ  Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion? in full.

  • the election could simply accelerate Thailand’s political meltdown, underway since a coup in September 2006
  • any of the plausible poll scenarios […] is likely to inflame segments of Thailand, causing more unrest in what was once one of the most stable countries in Asia.
  • the putsch only triggered further instability. The military abrogated the 1997 constitution and replaced it with a more retrograde document, and the army continued to meddle in politics; it plays a major role behind the scenes of the current government.
  • the supposed reconciliation [after the 2010 clashes] has pleased no one
  • Working class Thais […] loath to go back to an earlier Thailand in which elites control all levers of power. The elites, fearful that any opposition government will mean further destruction of their economic and political power, are unwilling to hand over any control of government to the rural poor.
  • The government continues to harass and arrest opposition activists
  • The government also has blocked some one hundred thousand websites […] making Thailand today one of the worst abusers of Internet freedom in the world.
  • Looming over the election and Thailand’s political scene–though never openly discussed–is the issue of royal succession.
  • Many Thais fear instability will worsen when he passes the rule on to his successor
  • The military itself has initiated many of the recent lese majeste cases.
  • Most polls suggest that if the July election is free and fair, the opposition would win the most seats in parliament. But it is unlikely to get an overwhelming majority, leaving the door open for the Democrat Party, with the help of an arm-twisting military, to then try to assemble a coalition government along with several smaller parties.
  • but such a scenario would only make him [current prime minister Abhisit] more beholden to the armed forces, hardly a positive sign for a restoration of democratic institutions
  • Even if the opposition does win an overwhelming majority, the military is unlikely to let it take office. The armed forces have publicly declared they are not planning a coup. But Thai history suggests that claims by senior military officers that no coup is being planned actually means a coup is being planned–during nearly every previous coup it launched, the military publicly denied it was plotting a putsch.
  • Thailand is the United States’ twenty-third-largest trading partner [in 2009, trade in goods and services was more than $29 billion] and the two countries have close military relations
  • more repressive governments in the region, like Myanmar, have pointed to Thailand’s political crisis as a reason why they should not move too swiftly to allow real, open democracy
  • Washington could begin to treat Thailand more like other countries with serious human rights problems, criticizing abuses when they occur and taking appropriate measures, such as downgrading the military-military relationship after serious abuses, like a coup. So far, U.S. criticism has been muted, with many lawmakers still praising the Thai government, even as they criticize other countries in Southeast Asia, like Vietnam, for similar abuses

Thailand’s Elections: Resolution or Implosion?

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