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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 26-May-2011
26-May-11 News -- Thailand election portends more ethnic clashes

Web Log - May, 2011

26-May-11 News -- Thailand election portends more ethnic clashes

Thaksin Shinawatra's sister may become prime minister

Thailand election portends more ethnic clashes

Thailand's politics have certainly been colorful, both figuratively and literally. And now the next exotic comedy scene is occurring. As Thailand approaches elections on July 3, the opposition Pheu Thai party is putting up the beautiful Yingluck Shinawatra for prime minister.


Yingluck Shinawatra
Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck is the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in an army coup five years ago. He is currently in exile to avoid a two-year jail term for graft, according to Reuters.

Thailand's last last generational crisis war was the bloody Cambodian "killing fields" civil war, followed by the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, in the late 1970s.

This war split Thailand along its traditional fault line: The fair-skinned Thai-Chinese, market-dominant minority living mostly in Bangkok and to the south; and the vast majority, the poor dark-skinned indigenous Thai laborers, mainly from farms in Thailand's north and northeast.

The fault line between the classes has turned into the now-famous rallies between the "yellow shirt" Úlites and the "red shirt" laborer class. In particular, this led to the bloody massacre of red shirts in Bangkok last May, leaving behind an enormously bitter class division. (See "24-May-10 News -- Les Miserables of Thailand at a turning point.")

The massacre followed nearly a decade of game-playing at the national level. Thaksin Shinawatra, the hero of the "red shirt" indigenous Thai class, became prime minister in 2001, and was reelected in 2005. With the red shirts having three times the population of the yellow shirts, it was obvious that they were going to win every election. Thaksin was overthrown in 2006 by the army. Thaksin's party won the next election, but the winner was removed from office because he had hosted a cooking show on TV. (Really!) Another Thaksin ally won the next election, but he was forced from office by large "yellow shirt" rallies. Along the way, the courts ruled that other Thaksin allies should be banned from office.

The Úlites finally got one of their own elected, prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, in the Democrat Party.

But now it's time for another election, and the Pheu Thai party is putting up Thaksin's sister Yingluck as their candidate!! Who could make this stuff up?

It promises to be a very unpleasant campaign. The general secretary of the Democrat Party has said that Yingluck is not a real candidate, and has accused three other senior members of the Pheu Thai party of terrorism, according to the BBC. Pheu Thai party leaders have filed a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division, accusing the Democrat Party leaders of defamation under the Criminal Code, according to the Bangkok Post. They've also asked the Election Commission to dissolve the Democrat Party.

The consequences of a Yingluck victory

Ever since Yingluck has gotten into the race, the Pheu Thai party has been rising in the polls, and there's a chance that the party will gain enough seats in Parliament to have a governing majority.

What's interesting about this situation from the point of view of Generational Dynamics is that it's possible to see in real time how a country moves from one civil war to the next one, decades later.

After the last war ended in 1979, Thailand went through a generational Recovery era and part way through an Awakening era with the war survivors trying to guarantee that there would never be another war. But starting about five years ago, the young "yellow shirt" Úlite minority began taking steps to take power away from the "red shirts," eventually leading to violence in Bangkok last year.

The typical pattern is that there are alternating periods of violence and peace, with each period of violence worse than the previous one, until finally there's full scale war after a few decades.

If Yingluck's party gains a governing majority, then the Thai-Chinese Úlites will not tolerate it this time, any more than they did the last time. In particular, they will not tolerate the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra to govern. This will surely lead to another round of political conflict, followed by real violence.

The possible victory of Yingluck Shinawatra is a fascinating development, but it portends real ethnic conflict in the "Land of Smiles."

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-May-11 News -- Thailand election portends more ethnic clashes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-May-2011) Permanent Link
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