Thailand misreads essence of democracy

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-3 23:58:01

Photo taken on Dec. 3, 2013 shows Thailand's anti-government protesters being allowed to enter the Government House, which has been besieged over the past few days in Bangkok, Thailand. (Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)


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Thailand's anti-government protesters have swarmed into the Thai prime minister's office compound and police headquarters. The police did not stop protesters so as to avoid further bloodshed. Protest leader and former vice prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban announced a partial victory while claiming that he would continue to fight until the "Thaksin regime has been driven out."

The mass protest was caused by the Thai government's amnesty bill. If passed, it will clear the way for ousted Thaksin, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's brother and former prime minister, to come back.

In the past decade, Thai society has been divided over Thaksin, who stepped into office in 2001 and was ousted in a 2006 coup. Then pro-Thaksin forces acquired power again, while street violence kept happening. Thailand has been set into a vicious circle. The streets were occupied by either an army of red shirts or an army of yellow shirts. The opposing sides have long disregarded the Thai constitution as a way to solve differences.

Thailand is in the difficult process of walking toward Western-style democracy but the king still retains huge influence. The Thai government, despite owning legitimacy through election, does not have complete power like Western governments have. Street protests are not only aimed at putting pressure on the elected government but also forcing the king and military to change the government through abnormal or even unconstitutional means.

However, there hasn't been absolute respect toward election results in Thai society and it also failed to carry out restrictions on street politics like Western society does.

Thailand has a long way to go to get out of the vicious circle. Some other underdeveloped countries that try to copy the West's political system are also trapped in such a circle. Thailand needs more economic achievement as the backup of social development and to make efforts in paving the way for democracy.

Thailand's experience also shows that to coordinate the interests of people at different levels is key for the success of reform. Thaksin's failure in recognizing this led to social division.

The Western system hasn't formed an effective mechanism which can amend political confrontation within societies of underdeveloped countries. The world lacks successful examples. The destiny of those countries hangs on their ability to bear disturbances.

If China encounters a similar situation to that which Thailand is facing today and such a situation continues for years, it would be a catastrophe. China probably needs to maintain a long-term political capability based on social consensus and not to make street politics as the decisive factor in China's political proceedings.

Thailand may not end up with long-term chaos but it surely faces comprehensive reform. Countries need to form their own political system while learning from others.

The West never labeled Singapore as a democratic country, but its own system has brought real benefits for its people.

Posted in: Editorial

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