Bangkok Still Very Dangerous
Anti-government protesters ended an eight-day siege of Bangkok's two airports yesterday but warned of more crippling protests if ruling MPs form a new government. But ruling MPs moved to reconvene parliament next week to elect a new prime minister, likely to be the next flashpoint in the three-year battle between a democratically empowered rural majority and Bangkok's influential middle-class elite.
Bomb squads, cleaners and technical staff have moved into the international airport to make it ready for a partial resumption of flights tomorrow morning, the 81st birthday of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Sondhi Limthongkul, a prominent anti-Government leader, said he is ready to call thousands of protesters in the People's Alliance for Democracy back to the streets at any moment, regardless of Tuesday's dismissal of the country's prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, and his party.
"It means no proxy government of the Thaksin regime," said Mr Sondhi, referring to the ousted and exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been convicted of corruption. Mr Somchai is Thaksin's brother-in-law. Mr Sondhi, a wealthy media proprietor, repeated demands for the creation of "new politics" that would see a winding back of democracy in the country.
"The PAD will return if another proxy government is formed or anyone tries to amend the constitution or the law to whitewash some politicians or to subdue the monarch's royal authority," he said.
Analysts in Bangkok say the court's decision to dismiss Mr Somchai and his party over electoral fraud gave the anti-government protesters a face-saving way of ending their occupation of the airports after they had come under intense pressure from business groups losing an estimated $130 million a day.
The protesters also wanted to lift the blockades before King Bhumibol's birthday. Many Thais hope King Bhumibol will call for an end to increasing bloodshed in the country in a speech to the nation on the eve of his birthday.
The airport blockades and Mr Somchai's dismissal have further polarised Thai society. One of the greatest risks to stability, they said, is if pro-Government "red shirts" who are angry over Mr Somchai's dismissal lash out violently against the alliance. PAD protesters have been the target of a series of recent bomb blasts.
Government MPs continue to have a huge parliamentary majority - 282 MPs to the opposition's 165 - and have the numbers to form a new government.
The outspoken Health Minister, Chalerm Yoobamrung, has emerged as favourite to be elected prime minister under the banner of a new party, Puea Thai (For Thais).
Whatever new government is formed is likely to be loyal to Thaksin, making it unacceptable to PAD protesters. That is why this Thailand turmoil is unlikely to be over. The situation in Thailand is mind boggling. You can have as many elections as you want but it is likely that the government elected will be the one still linked to Thaksin. That's because the rural voters still see Thaksin as "good" and a "hero". He has wisely won their hearts by catering to the whims of the rural population. Speaking as an independent party, Thaksin is a crook, and of the highest order. Hence city folks do not want anything in government that still has links to him. Its a sticky situation because here is one instance where a democracy should not work as the bad guys will still get in.
What are the chances that the PAD will get elected? Its not very good unfortunately. The rural folks will need to vote differently for PAD to get in. Government MPs continue to have a huge parliamentary majority - 282 MPs to the opposition's 165 - and have the numbers to form a new government.
Even the respected King can do very little, he has to respect the democratic elections. I do believe that the King would like to support PAD in this matter. But that would compromise his position. If the ruling government is re-elected, expect bigger protests which will come to an even greater boiling point. One way which I can suggest to overcome the current turmoil is for the King to speak out and ask the rural folks to vote in PAD - how likely is that??!!!The Bank of Thailand delivered its biggest ever interest rate cut Wednesday in an aggressive move to buoy economic growth that has been hurt by domestic political turmoil and the global financial crisis. The central bank slashed its policy interest rate by 1% to 2.75% Wednesday. The rate cut was bigger than analysts expected. The rate cut comes a day after Thailand's constitutional court ordered the dissolution of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's ruling People Power Party and banned the premier from politics for five years.
The anti-government alliance claims Thailand's rural majority — who gave landslide election victories to the Thaksin camp — is too poorly educated to responsibly choose their representatives and says they are susceptible to vote buying.
It wants the country to abandon the system of one-person, one-vote, and instead have a mixed system in which most representatives are chosen by profession and social group.Pro-Thaksin politicians have been pushing to amend the constitution to allow Thaksin, who is also banned from politics and convicted on corruption charges, to make a comeback.
p/s photo: Aum Patcharapa Chaichua