Thailand's political conflict deemed to continue after election

10:45, January 15, 2011      

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The general election in Thailand is envisaged to be held soon, possibly by middle of this year. But would the election be the key to reduce, if not eliminate, the state of polarization in Thai politics? Will the ongoing conflicts be solved and politics of post-election situation become more stable?

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said recently that he is likely to dissolve the parliament in April although his term will finish in December and will call for a fresh election. While analysts forecast that the general election may be held not earlier than April after the charter amendment receives the parliamentary endorsement or at the latest by October after the parliament approves annual budget for fiscal year 2012.

The decision of Abhisit government to arrange earlier election is viewed by many analysts as a way-out to avoid possible confrontation with the antigovernment "red-shirt" movement. The expected election will eradicate, to some extent, the conditions which once led to violence in Thai politics last year.

Parinya Thewanarumitkul, a law lecturer at the Thammasat University, told a local newspaper Naewna that "If the government continues to stay in the office, the pressure outside the parliament will increasingly grow and eventually lead to confrontation again. The declaration of the premier to dissolve the house in April will lessen the external tension at a certain extent."

Legitimacy of the Abhisit government has been questioned since the first day that the Democrat party took the office in 2008 as it was allegedly formed by the military in a military camp.

From March to May, thousands of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) had protested against the government, seizing symbolic Democracy monument and a central commercial district in Bangkok. Dubbed "red-shirts", the group sought to bring down the government they saw as elitist and undemocratic. Their political figurehead, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, has lived in exile ever since he was deposed in bloodless 2006 coup and was convicted of massive corruption in 2008.

Later, as the continued paralysis proved unacceptable for the government and the rest of public, the government decided to use force to disperse the protesters. Clashes between the military and the protesters led to 91 deaths and more than 1,800 injured. Some of its leaders and members have since been detained in prisons across the country.

Since then the "red-shirt" supporters still continue holding rallies at several emblematic places in Bangkok as well as other provinces in a bid to demand the government to organize general election, to release their detained members as well as to give them justice by clarifying the cause of death of the deceased.

If the Democrat party could form a coalition government again after the upcoming election, its government will be more legitimate and the "red-shirt" group becomes less justifiable to stage street protest as they do it regularly nowadays.

When asked whether the existing conflicts will continue in post- election politics or not, Prajak Kongkirati, a lecturer at the Thammasat University's Faculty of Political Science, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua that the election will ease political disagreement to some degree but will not completely end it.

"The forthcoming poll will alleviate political dispute as well as public resentment at a certain extent as a lot of people still feel the Democrat comes to power without legitimate process. Therefore, legitimacy of the government has been doubted over the past few years."

To the question whether the "red-shirt" movement will carry on protesting if the Democrat rises to power again, Prajak responded that "several remaining obstacles include the case of 91 deaths. The new government is duty-bound to answer questions regarding facts and justice as well as recently occurring violence."

According to Prajak's point of view, public dispute is acceptable in democratic society, so polarized civil society in Thailand is not uncommon phenomenon as it is witnessed in every corner of the world. However, conflicts between two civil societies that have developed into state of anarchy and then ended up in violence must have stemmed from disunity of state power.

The main cause of Thailand's political conflict rather centers at contradiction between the two ruling classes -- one gains power through democratic election, the other includes independent groups outside democracy.

He asserted that conflicts between ruling classes are key factors leading to political disagreements. The independent groups have so far tried to interfere in state affairs and undermine important political institutes. In the bipolar state, power struggling between the two political centers has created tension and finally led to violence.

Prajak's prospect of the post-election political situation shows that as long as basis problem has not yet been resolved, conflicts will remain.

"So long as the two groups keep wrestling for power and the trouble of bipolar state has not really been addressed, it is difficult to alleviate conflicts in civil society. The chance that the violence will resurge remains highly possible if this controversial political structure exists in Thailand."

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