Political Unrest in Thailand and Taiwan's Democracy
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 13, 2014
Summary: Recently Thailand's Constitutional Court accused caretaker Prime
Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of constitutional abuses and demanded that
she step down. Yingluck's resignation blew the lid off a political
pressure cooker. Once again anti-Yingluck Yellow Shirts clashed with
pro-Yingluck Red Shirts on the streets of Bangkok. Meanwhile the
Constitutional Court's highly political decision led to widespread
allegations that "the courts are owned by the opposition party," adding
to the chaos in Thailand.
Full Text Below:
Recently Thailand's Constitutional Court accused caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of constitutional abuses and demanded that she step down. Yingluck's resignation blew the lid off a political pressure cooker. Once again anti-Yingluck Yellow Shirts clashed with pro-Yingluck Red Shirts on the streets of Bangkok. Meanwhile the Constitutional Court's highly political decision led to widespread allegations that "the courts are owned by the opposition party," adding to the chaos in Thailand.
The leader of the Yellow Shirts is Suthep Thaugsuban. He has repeatedly urged people to besiege government agencies. He has demanded that the Yingluck government return power to "the people." The leader of the Red Shirts, Jatuporn Prompan, staunchly supports the Yingluck government, He has warned the court and the upper house that they may not arbitrarily appoint an unelected prime minister. He said if they did so it could lead to disaster, and trigger a civil war between the Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts. In recent years, representatives of the ruling and opposition parties have continued to confront each other in the streets. They have paralyzed society and have left Thailand's system of government twisted beyond recognition. The current standoff remains a powderkeg.
Street protests in Taipei recently led to clashes between supporters and opponents of the STA. The situation in Taipei is not nearly as bad as it is in Bangkok. But students who oppose the STA occupied the Legislative Yuang, invaded the Executive Yuan, and demanded concessions from the government. They occupied the streets and surrounded the Prime Minister's office in exactly the same way as the Yellow Shirts. Taipei is not Bangkok. Taiwan's political situation is not the same as Thailand's. But the street protests are similar. In both cases, the opposition refuses to abide by the results of democratic elections and the governmental framework. In both cases, the opposition is attempting to overthrow the government by waging outside the system protests. Endless struggle has led to chaos and made the country ungovernable. Today's Thailand reminds people of Taiwan.
First, in both cases the opposition claims to represent "the people." A minority attempts to hijack the majority. Suthep heads up the People's Alliance for Democracy. He represents upper middle class interests in the greater Bangkok area. He cannot compete at the polls with Yingluck, who heads up the Pheu Thai Party, and who represents the interests of grassroots farmers. Therefore, Suthep will use any excuse to mobilize the masses and protest the ruling party without end. HIs goal is to paralyze the operations of government in order to force the ruling party to step down.
For example, in January of this year, Yingluck attempted to promote an amnesty bill that would enable her brother Thaksin to return home. In response, Suthep launched a "Blockade Bangkok" mass movement. He occupied government buildings and roads, and forced the Yingluck government to announce early parliamentary elections. But during the February parliamentary elections, the opposition party persisted in its obstructionism. In many areas people were prevented from voting or counting the votes. This posed a dilemma for Yingluck. It also planted the seeds for the Constitutional Court's malfeasance ruling.
The anti-STA student movement on Taiwan also occupied the legislature and demanded that the government adopt the students' policy proposals. Students and mobs later laid siege to Zhong Zheng Precinct Station 1, by "walking past it." They demanded that the precinct chief step down. Lin Yi-hsiung initiated a hunger strike. Anti-nuclear groups even asked people to randomly block legislators' cars. They demanded that the government halt the project and lower the referendum threshold. If the government failed to meet their demands, they resorted to brute force to paralyze the government. This, apparently is the shape that democracy has taken on in Taiwan and Thailand.
Second, the opposition opposes everything out of spite. It uses issues the public raised to make political hay. Three years ago, Thailand underwent "1000 days of political struggle." Since then the main objective of Yellow Shirt demonstrations has been to topple Yingluck. A few days ago the Thai Constitutional Court accused Yingluck of unconstitutional abuse of power, and ordered her to step down. Minister of Commerce Niva has replaced her as caretaker Prime Minister. The international media however, has made clear that it thinks the court ruling favors the opposition party. The courts have long turned a blind eye to the Yellow Shirts' illegal activities. The National Anti-Corruption Commission also indicted Yingluck for dereliction of duty in rice subsidy corruption. If the case against her holds, Yingluck could face a 10 year prison sentence and the end of her political life .
Opponents of the government however think this is not enough. They have demanded that the government "return power to the people." They occupied several television stations, and forced them to cease broadcasting government news. The Yellow Shirts surrounded police cars, laid siege to the Prime Minister's office, and demanded the overthrow of the caretaker government within three days. Otherwise they said, they would occupy several major traffic intersections in retaliation. This anti-government mob chaos and anti-democratic maneuvering has of course provoked a backlash from the Red Shirts.
The anti-STA student movement on Taiwan has also led to such outlandish scenes. For example, student leaders demanded that the government convene a "citizens constitutional convention." But when the government agreed, the students immediately argued that the Ma government's approval ratings were too low, therefore it lacked legitimacy. They demanded that the convention be convened by civil society, and prevent industrial and commercial organizations from participating. They argued that Premier Jiang had "abused his executive power to bully the legislature," then demanded that he step down. Every time the opposition was given an inch, it took a mile. It was utterly indifferent to the destruction of social order. Taiwan and Thailand share this sickness in common.
They refuse to abide by the rules of the electoral system . They refuse to accept the election results. They resort to mass movements to "sanction" democracy, at the drop of a hat. This is the main reason Thailand's democracy has descended into chaos. Once upon a time , Taiwan's democracy embarked upon the same path as Thailand.
2014.05.13 02:13 am