ELIZABETH NAAI WRITES – Thailand’s Democrat Party leaders are using momentum from the country’s current protests to further their own, longstanding cause: The overthrow of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinowatra and the dominant Pheu Thai Party.
Protests first erupted between royalists (locally coined as “yellow shirts”) and those loyal to Thaksin (the “red shirts”) over a recently withdrawn blanket amnesty bill.
In the streets of Bangkok, and across the country, thousands of flags wave in protest of the current government. But protestors are divided over the proper course of action; those who agree with the Democratic Party want to overthrow the current government, while others merely want to address perceived abuses of power by current officials.
Loyal to the monarchy, and the self-proclaimed champion of democracy, the Democrat Party demands democratically elected Yingluck and her administration be replaced by royalists councils. Suthep Thangsuban, the former deputy prime minister, called for a people’s revolution, reiterating his party’s dedication to “peaceful methods.” But, he added, “if [the yellow shirts] don’t succeed, then I am prepared to die in the battlefield.” Determined to overthrow the Thaksin regime, current party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva chimed, “if the [protest] leads us to win the battle, we won’t hesitate to resign with unity.” Meaning they will join the fight on the street.
Forget unpaid bills like the United State’s October 2013 shutdown; Democrat Party leaders are urging people to physically shutdown the government. Protestors stormed government ministries — water and energy supplies were shut off at the Army facilities and the Thai PBS station was overrun during Yingluck’s broadcast, prompting her immediate evacuation. Both red and yellow shirts speculate it’s a ploy to incite military or judicial intervention, which has historically discredited governments in Thailand’s past.
Despite a string of recent disappointments and political blunders from Yingluck’s government, many protestors disagree with Suthep’s motives and means, criticizing them as anti-democratic. Democracy is “rule of the people,” and 15 million people willed Yingluck and her Pheu Thai Party into power in 2011. The irony of the Democratic Party’s proposed style of “democracy” is that it will only perpetuate the winner-takes-all politics that initiated the protests.