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Violence Begins in Thailand

by Joshua Kurlantzick
May 16, 2011

Men atop a truck travel past an election campaign poster showing a candidate for the opposition Puea Thai party posing with ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand's Surin province April 26, 2011.

Men atop a truck travel past an election campaign poster showing a candidate for the opposition Puea Thai party posing with ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand's Surin province April 26, 2011. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters)

The shooting last week of a Puea Thai member of parliament was a sign that the election campaign for Thailand’s upcoming national poll is likely to be one of the bloodiest and most dangerous in recent history.  Both major parties appear to be engaging in the most inflammatory rhetoric possible, catering to their bases, with the government and the military also using the lèse majesté law to crack down on opposition activists. Puea Thai, meanwhile, seems to be returning to its roots as a vehicle for exiled former prime minister Thaksin.

With both sides catering to their hardest-core supporters, the divide in Thai politics is only likely to grow before the election, making any reconciliation afterward almost impossible. That is, if the election actually comes off without military intervention. Any scenario that seems plausible–intervention, a brokered election compromise, any opposition victory–is almost guaranteed to spark more violence.

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  • Posted by In Thailand

    If you live in Thailand or have lived in Thailand as a non-Thai, you know that you don’t need to hire a private investigator in Thailand to discover that both corruption and defamation of character are rampant in Thai politics. These two aren’t always mutually exclusive as well. In my opinion, Taksin is really not different from most other past and present politicians regarding corruption. I’m sure he’s not an angel, so to speak. By the same token, I think people need to also look at possible motivations of his opponents that wish to benefit by making him widely hated through slander. Whether Taksin wants to return to politics or not is another matter. Nevertheless, the opposition (particularly the Thai Democrat Party) has a well-documented recent history of not honoring the popular voting results in democratic elections. Additionally, the military and others have difficulty understanding that coups only destabilize the country.

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