World View: Ethnic Tensions Rise in Thailand as PM Is Forced to Resign

This morning's key headlines from

  • Ethnic tensions rise in Thailand as PM is forced to resign
  • Many young people in Kenya learning Mandarin
  • MERS virus spreads more rapidly in Saudi Arabia

Ethnic tensions rise in Thailand as PM is forced to resign

After a series of court rulings this week, Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was impeached, and she and much of her cabinet were forced to resign in what opponents are calling a "judicial coup." Yingluck in 2011 began a rice-subsidy scheme that paid rice farmers well above market rate for their crop. This pleased Yingluck's biggest group of supporters, the mostly indigenous Thai rural population, but it cost the government $21 billion and infuriated the powerful elite opposition in Bangkok, mostly Chinese descendants. 

The crisis was brought about by months of protests by the "yellow-shirt" market dominant light-skinned Thai-Chinese elite minority, vastly outnumbered by the "red shirt" dark-skinned Thai-Thai who do most of the menial labor and who continue to support Yingluck's Pheu Thai political party. Because of the Thai-Thai majority, the Pheu Thai have won the last five elections and can continue to do so. It's almost comical that the minority elite repeatedly used the courts to throw out a Pheu Thai prime minister. 

Now Thailand is in a ridiculous situation. Yingluck offered to resign and call new elections in January, but the yellow shirt elite protesters forced the new election to be called off because they knew that the Pheu Thai candidate would win. Now Thailand has no government at all, and the only constitutional way forward is another election -- which the Pheu Thai would win. 

The elites are backed by the King, the army, and the courts, none of whom like all those rural workers who grow the food and do the jobs no one else wants to do. So they're going to use the army and the courts to prevent another Pheu Thai candidate from becoming PM. They're going to use the army and courts to appoint a "people's council" of their own sycophants to run the country, with no election required. The only problem with that is that the majority of Thailand's population is going to be infuriated. 

The rural "red shirts" are planning a march around Bangkok on Saturday. The red shirts held off as long as Yingluck remained in office, but now they're expected to become a lot more belligerent, and possibly violent. 

When Yingluck took office in 2011, she promises to use 'femininity' to resolve disputes. It looks like it didn't work. Today Online (Singapore) and Time

Many young people in Kenya learning Mandarin

With China investing so many billions of dollars in transportation and energy projects in Kenya, many young Kenyans see the best hope for their future job opportunities is with China. For that reason, many young Kenyans are learning Mandarin. Al Jazeera

MERS virus spreads more rapidly in Saudi Arabia

During the last 24-hour period, there were 14 new confirmed cases of MERS-CoV (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) diagnosed and 5 new deaths from the disease. At the same time, the first MERS patient was diagnosed in Lebanon, a man who had recently returned from visiting a Persian Gulf country. The rising incidence of new MERS cases in Saudi Arabia indicates that human-to-human MERS transmission is widespread in western Saudi Arabia, which raises serious pandemic concerns. 

As happened last year, concerns are growing that a pandemic might begin during the Hajj, when millions of Muslims from around the world arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. The Hajj in 2014 is scheduled for October 2-7. CIDRAP and Recombinomics

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Thailand, Bangkok, Yingluck Shinawatra, Kenya, Mandarin, China, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, MERS-CoV Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Mecca, Hajj 

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