The Elephant in the Parliament

What is the Thai government to do when letting democracy take its course could lead to civil war?

01 July 2010
A ‘red shirt’ protester atop an elephant during Bangkok’s siege.
VIVEK PRAKASH/REUTERS

ELEPHANTS ARE EVERYWHERE in Thailand, symbolic at every strata of a Thai society that, following two months of violent protests that left 80 dead and 1,800 injured, has once again shown just how stratified the Southeast Asian country really is.

Whether you’re one of Bangkok’s purported ‘elites,’ ‘a yellow shirt’ loyal to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a ‘red shirt’ backing prime minister-in-exile Thaksin Shinawatra, or just someone who used to live in Thailand trying to link the red shirts’ demands for the government to hold fresh, fair elections and how those in power always manage to delay them: there is another elephant at large in Siam, the biggest one in the room—democracy itself. And this pachyderm is waiting to kick the Land of Smiles’ teeth out.

Since the 1932 revolution deposed then King Prajadhipok, a rarely broken chain of oligarchies and four coups d’état—the first of which ousted Thailand’s lead-off prime minister only a year after the monarchy went constitutional—have kept parliamentary circuits closed.

Dave Besseling  was the Senior Copy Editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Thailand Dave Besseling Bhumibol Adulyadej Thaksin Shinawatra King Prajadhipok Bangkok siege National Assembly
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