Standoff leaves Thailand facing bleak, unstable future

By Andrew Buncombe

Suthep Thaugsuban. Photo / AP
Suthep Thaugsuban. Photo / AP

The photograph of the two men was nothing less than remarkable.

One of them was Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the protesters who for months have been demanding the ousting of Thailand's Government. The other was Surachai Liang-boon-lertchai, an appointed member of the Upper House of the Parliament. Behind closed doors, these two unelected individuals discussed the future of Thailand's democracy.

The image summed up the sad situation Thailand finds itself in: while the elected Government works from makeshift offices because protesters have prevented them getting to official premises, the leader of the demonstrators dropped into the Parliament building for a private conversation he hoped would help bring down the Administration.

Last week, protesters secured a prized scalp when a controversial court ordered the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her Cabinet after finding her guilty of abuse of office. The court said the remainder of the Government could stay on until elections on July 20.

But Suthep, 64, and his supporters in the so-called People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) demanded Yingluck's successor resign immediately and said he wanted the Senate to appoint a premier to head a people's council. That's why sought the intervention of Surachai.

The PDRC's crowds have now laid down a protest site outside the UN office while the Red Shirts, who largely back the Government, are also camped out and similarly refusing to go home.

The crisis dates back to the ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's elder brother, who was first elected in 2001 and forced out by a military coup in 2006. Since then, three more Governments led by allies of Thaksin have been elected and then forced out by the controversial Constitutional Court, established by the coup regime in 2007.

The PDRC's leaders appear to have given up on electoral politics. They insist there is no point taking part in further polls until there are reforms because they believe the process is rigged.

What makes the situation more hopeless is the main opposition group, the Democrat Party also appears to have given up on democracy. Under the leadership of Abhisit Vejjajiva it has been allying itself with the PDRC and boycotted an election Yingluck called in February.

Meanwhile, Thaksin, 64, also unelected and unaccountable, continues to pull the strings of both the Red Shirt movements and the Pheu Thai Party from exile in Dubai. He knows if an election goes ahead, his side will almost certainly win.

- Independent

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