I have been following the recent violent conflicts in Bangkok with a lot of apprehension. This is exactly what i fear will happen. And it is already happening right before our very eyes. The PAD stormed into the Parliament Building to prevent the government from declaring its policy. They thought that by doing so it would prevent the government from being able to perform.
However, the government resorted to force and tear gas to disperse the crowd and several got hurt. There is a report that one was killed. Many policemen got badly injured too. After being dispersed for a while the protesters regrouped and got back to the Parliament Building again, this time holding the MP’s and senators inside. The Prime Minister climbed over the fence and was rescued by a helicopter.
The situation now is that the protesters have headed back to their stronghold at Government House. This is a very abnormal situation. The problem, as is clear to everybody, is that the PAD represent a minority of the Thai population. Instead of the normal politics where decisions are made through voting mechanism, we in Thailand are having one where the PAD does not accept majority rule.
This is a cause for a reflection. Usually in a democracy the majority have the power, but that does not mean that they can have total power to do what they please. The minority belong to the country too, and their rights need to be respected. In usual cases, this is expressed by some rights being guaranteed to the minority. Thus there has to be an effective legal mechanism to counter the weight of the majority rule.
However, what is happening in Thailand is a complication of this general picture. The PAD are clearly the minority, but they are the ones who hold much power since they consist of the urban middle class in Bangkok and the Southerners, who are relatively better off than people in other regions except Bangkok. The supporters of the government come from the North and the Northeast, which are poorer regions. So by refusing to submit to the rule of the majority, the PAD in effect is hijacking the whole process of democracy. They are struggling to retain their hold on power in the face of the growing force of genuine democracy.
And it is not that their rights are being trampled either. They are the privileged, and the problem in Thailand is that the farmers, the laborers, the lower rung of society do not have any chance at all to get ahead.
So the only way the problem can be solved on a long term basis is for the underprivileged to get the same opportunities and entitlements as do the urban middle class. What this specifically means is that the rural poor need to be given the same opportunities. There should be more massive investment in education, infrastructure, services, to the poor so that they become equal to those privileged urban people. This needs to be done soon; otherwise the problem will not go away.
At any rate, the event in Thailand signifies that something really monumental is taking place right before our eyes. Thailand will change beyond recognition as a result of all this. But it will take quite some time. Let’s wait and see…