Having lived in Thailand for the last two years I have experienced their military coup of 2006 as well and their path back to democracy. The coup was bloodless and the only person I am aware of getting hurt was a taxi driver who rammed a tank park in the street because he was frustrated with it being in his way. The Thai people’s path back to democracy was well planned and quite structured by the military who was governing Thailand after the coup. Initially a new constitution was written that afforded more protection against governmental abuses. This constitution was accepted by the Thai people through a referendum vote. After accepting this constitution, the people then had a general election where the same ruling party (renamed as the PPP Party) that was ousted by the coups was voted back in. This party was voted back in for several reasons; one being the people living outside of Bangkok was enamored with the promises of money through governmental programs and tax cuts. The second reason was, as it turns out, there was vote buying, which we found this out in a recent conviction of the leading party’s leader of voting fraud.
The current Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has made some huge political blunders both internally and internationally such as bringing Thailand close to fighting with Cambodia over the border line surrounding the Preah Vihear temple which was settled in 1962 by the World Court. The Thai People always felt cheated about this and PM Samak had “solved” the problem in a one day meeting with the Cambodian leader about six months ago. There has been a military build up on the border near this temple in the last few months…
So … between the conviction and some actions and decisions that are not particularly cared for by the general population many Thai People are not happy with the current Prime Minister. The opposition party is staging protests and has been for the past 3 or more months (as of early September 2008). Peaceful protesting is a healthy expression of democracy, when the government allows people to express themselves in the open. The protests became unhealthy last week. The protesters were met with a rival group of “anti”-protesters supporting the current government. The two groups clashed and resulted in a death and over 40 injured people. The clash led to a “state of emergency” declaration by the government causing concern for the situation throughout the world.
But to put things into perspective, Thailand is still a very peaceful place to live, for everyone. The clash of political groups was an isolated event and seems to be remaining just that. Thai people should be commended for not allowing the situation to get out of control and allowing the violence to escalate. The emergency declaration, however, is worrying people wishing to visit and therefore hurting the economic situation here by impacting tourism. So we are all waiting to the politicians to solve their conflicts so Thailand can return to “the Land of Smiles”.