Thursday, December 18, 2008

Politics & Protests

It's a done deal! As of Monday, Thailand has a new urbane Prime Minister. The Democrat coalition held up and their candidate, Oxford-educated Abhisit won. Many Thais are already referring to him as "Their Obama." He's young, he's educated and he's smart. He has a reputation for clean politics and heaven knows Thailand can benefit from that.

The yellow shirts prevailed, in spite of Potjamon's phone campaign and Thaksin's last minute video message at a huge rally held in Bangkok trying to destabilize the process, or in his own words, "create social dislocation." At the important moment, the opposition votes remained intact.
The Bangkok Post article stated that "...he brings to the job a mannered civility that has been sorely lacking in recent dust-ups." But that may not be enough. The red shirts are promising more protests. According to them, democracy has been subverted by a judicial coup d'etat.

Like America's Obama, Abhisit has a formable job ahead of him to try and unite a badly divided country. His support is strong in the south and central parts of the country, but "Thaksinmania" still prevails in the northern regions. The threat of more protests and the potential subsequent violence is enough that the army chief is planning a peace-making mission to those areas to try and quell the unrest. As everywhere in the world, money and power are at the root of things.

He takes office as the 27th Prime Minister in a country where democracy is still evolving. Those of us living here who are tired of the corruption that thrived during the Thaksin years wish him well and hope he can bring some stability to Thailand. Thais just want the rest of the world to move beyond the images of mass sit-ins and airport closures and once again travel to the "Land of Smiles."

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