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Sign of the Times? The Middle Class Revolts in Bangkok, Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick
December 13, 2012

An anti-government protester pushes riot police officers during scuffles near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012. An anti-government protester pushes riot police officers during scuffles near the Government house in Bangkok November 24, 2012 (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, protestors representing the royalist Pitak Siam group gathered in rally sites across Bangkok to force the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, accusing her government of acting as a puppet for her fugitive brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. While the number of protesters that ultimately turned out—some 20,000— paled in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who came out in 2006 for anti-Thaksin rallies, the protest is nonetheless another troubling development in the political meltdown that has engulfed the country in recent years. Since 2006, Thailand, once a poster child for democratization in the developing world, has undergone a rapid democratic regression. And it is hardly alone. Since 2001, a conservative middle class has revolted against electoral democracy —just as it has in Thailand—in  many key developing nations, including Pakistan, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Russia.

In my forthcoming book Democracy in Retreat,  I examine how, contrary to public perception in the wake of the Arab Spring, democracy has in reality become weaker, less effective, and less supported by the public around the developing world over the past decade. Democracy in Retreat is being published by the Council on Foreign Relations and Yale University Press, and will be released in early 2013. An excerpt from the book is now available on Asia Sentinel; you can read it here.

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