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Is Thailand on its way to becoming a failed state?

Updated On: Sep 05, 2006

Just a few months ago when the NRC report was released in early June recommending proposals on how to manage the Thai South to prevent the country from becoming a failed state, former Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun, has come out to announce the possibility of Thailand degenerating into such a situation.

One would think that the Thai people would ignore it and dispel it as doomsday prophesying. However, since Anand is a highly respected public figure given his success as former prime minister and current Privy Council president, people are taking notice.

The Bangkok Post supports Anand’s prognosis, saying that as Thailand freefalls “into its worst political polarisation in years… the volatile situation, if allowed to continue unchecked, could degenerate into violence similar to the bloody October 6 incident three decades ago”.

Similarly, the National Press Council of Thailand has thrown its weight behind Anand and met last week “to issue a joint statement today to air their concerns about the dangers posed by the political divide and the potential of a conflagration similar to the October 6 incident”, the Bangkok Post reported. These fears, it seems, are not ungrounded given the police indifference when violence arose during recent political demonstrations.

For the country’s woes, everybody blames Thaksin. Former NRC chairman Prem Tinsulanonda told the Thai Air Force that it was “the duty of every soldier to ensure that bad people are not allowed to rise to or stay on in positions of power… [Such that] respecting your elders should not be allowed to breed tolerance for senior but bad figures [as] the armed forces should set an example in reprimanding bad people”.

The Nation put it pointedly that “Thailand's vibrant democracy has been undermined to the point that it is on the verge of collapse”. It further adds that Thaksin has “proceeded to undermine constitutionally sanctioned watchdog agencies, intimidate the bureaucracy into bending to his will, muzzle the media and bend rules and regulations to his advantage. His tactics have been aimed at monopolising political power and then perpetuating his grip on it, so that his self-serving agenda could be pursued unchallenged and his personal gains maximized”.

The Nation also snubs Thaksin’s desire that a victory in the upcoming elections will exonerate his failures as the Thai people have “woken up in time to realise that democracy has a lot more to do with political values calling for honest leadership, sound governance, public accountability, effective checks and balances and a free media, than it does with winning elections through vote-buying and electoral fraud”.

At a Thammasat University symposium on political reform, leading politicians, academics and social thinkers all felt that political reform is only possible if Thaksin is absent.

The Southern situation continues to worsen as the NRC proposals were ignored by the present administration keen on using force to restore peace, and the rest of Thai society is divided and antagonistic with political rallies that may become more violent. All these do not augur well for Thailand, as the ominous signs of becoming a failed state and wasting all those years of democratic and economic progress becomes more prominent.

Sources:

Moving toward a bloody showdown? (Bangkok Post, 4 September 2006)

'No changes with Thaksin' (The Nation, 4 September 2006)

43 groups of academics call on Thaksin to leave politics (The Nation, 3 September 2006)

Southern army chief holds meeting with bankers in deep South (The Nation, 3 September 2006)

Outlawed group backs Sonthi's call for dialogue (The Nation, 3 September 2006)

Insurgency backers to gather for peace in the South  (The Nation, 3 September 2006)

Anand sounds a wake-up call (The Nation, 1 September 2006)

Prem: Bad leaders are doomed to failure (The Nation, 1 September 2006)