World View: Thailand Again in Crisis as Anti-Government Rioters Issue Two-Day Ultimatum

World View: Thailand Again in Crisis as Anti-Government Rioters Issue Two-Day Ultimatum

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Thailand again in crisis as anti-government rioters issue two-day ultimatum
  • Thai-Chinese versus Thai-Thai
  • Thailand’s generational Awakening era
  • European Troika cancels bailout negotiations with Greece – again

Thailand again in crisis as anti-government rioters issue two-day ultimatum

Violent anti-government riots outside Government House in Bangkok on Sunday (Reuters)
Violent anti-government riots outside Government House in Bangkok on Sunday (Reuters)

On Sunday, the 8th day of anti-government protests, about 30,000and petrol bombs at police, who fired back tear gas. At least fourpeople have been killed and dozens injured. On Sunday evening, theanti-government yellow shirt leader Suthep Thaugsuban met with PrimeMinister Yingluck Shinawatra and gave her a 48 hour ultimatum “toreturn power to the people,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. Therewas no explanation of what would happen on Tuesday, after the 48 hourspass.

Of all the countries that I’ve been writing about in the last tenyears, this has been the wildest political story, involvingtwo ethnic groups.

On the one side, you have the market-dominant “yellow shirt”light-skinned elites, also called “Thai-Chinese,” since almost all ofthem are descendents of Chinese, comprising about 1/4 of thepopulation, living mostly around the capital city Bangkok.

On the other side, you have the “red shirt” dark-skinned lower classindigenous people, also called “Thai-Thai,” comprising about 3/4 ofthe population, living mostly in the northern regions of Thailand, butwho come to Bangkok mostly to work in menial jobs serving theThai-Chinese. Bangkok Post

Thai-Chinese versus Thai-Thai

The mathematics of the situation are pretty clear: The Thai-Thai aregoing to win every election if they stick together. And the personwho got them to stick together was the colorful and charismaticThaksin Shinawatra, who was elected prime minister in 2001, andre-elected in 2005. As Thaksin’s government adopted economic policiesthat favored the Thai-Thai, at the expense of the elite Thai-Chinese,the political fault line became sharp. The army, favoring the elites,staged a bloodless coup, overthrowing the Thaksin government in 2006.Thaksin left the country, and for a while became the owner of theManchester City Football (soccer) Club, one of the major sports clubsin Britain. Later, he went into self-imposed exile in Dubai, where heis now.

There were new elections, and a Thaksin ally, Samak Sundaravej, becameprime minister, but a high court sided with the elites and removed himfrom office because for years he had hosted a televised cooking show.(I’m not joking.)

There were new elections, and another Thaksin ally, Somchai Wongsawat,became prime minister, but he was thrown out of office by massiveanti-government protests and riots by the yellow shirt Thai-Chinese.

A Thai-Chinese ally, Abhisit Vejjajiva, finally was prime minister.But then in 2010 there were massive anti-government protests and riotsby the red shirt Thai-Thai. ( “24-May-10 News — Les Miserables of Thailand at a turning point”)

If all of that isn’t incredible enough, what happened next was evenmore incredible: Under the long-distance guidance of Thaksin, hissister Yingluck Shinawatra won the next election to become primeminister, promising to use ‘femininity’ to resolve disputes. ( “4-Jul-11 World View — Thailand’s Yingluck Shinawatra wins decisively”)

So now things have flipped back the other way again, and theyellow-shirt elites are rioting and protesting against the Yingluckgovernment. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the Thai-Chinese riots,has issued that 48-hour ultimatum, but surely he must realize that ifhe forces Yingluck to leave office, then the Thai-Thai will just winanother election. So what does Suthep mean when he says he wants “toreturn power to the people”? It may mean that he wants to take powerby force. BBC and Time

Thailand’s generational Awakening era

Thailand is following a typical pattern for a country in agenerational Awakening era, following an internal civil war.Thailand’s last generational crisis war was the Cambodian “killingfields” civil war that climaxed in 1979. Although that war occurredon Cambodian soil, the Thai were heavily involved in a supportive roleto both sides.

In the typical pattern, the two ethnic groups have a tense peaceduring the generational Recovery Era that immediately follows theclimax of the crisis war. We’re seeing a Recover Era today in SriLanka, following the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.During the Awakening era, political conflict between the two groupsturns to low-level violence. In the years that follow, periods ofviolence alternate with periods of peaceful coexistence following thesigning of a series of peace treaties. Each time a peace treaty isbroken, the violence that follows is worse than the last time.Finally, 50-70 years after the climax of the last crisis war, there isanother full-fledged civil war, and history repeats itself.

European Troika cancels bailout negotiations with Greece – again

The “Troika” of organizations bailing out Greece — the EuropeanCommission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the InternationalMonetary Fund (IMF) — have canceled plans to return to Athens onMonday to resume evaluation of progress on implementing the austeritycommitments that Greece has made to qualify for the 240 billion eurobailout already pledged. The latest tranche of that bailout paymenthas been held up for weeks because Greece still has to find another1.2 billion euros of savings in 2014. The Troika would like Greece tolay off more public workers, foreclose on more houses with delinquentmortgages, and sell off the government-owned weapons manufacturerHellenic Defense Systems (EAS). With negotiations put off again,Greek officials are now hoping to reach agreement with the Troika intime for the December 18 Eurogroup meeting of eurozone financeministers. Kathimerini and Greek Reporter

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