Friday, December 20, 2013

Yingluck, Auk Bai!

A Thai woman leans out of the window of a pickup truck and screams "Yingluck, AUK BAI!!" (Yingluck, GET OUT!! - the chant of the anti-government protestors.)

The anti-government protests are still going on in Bangkok. Things have calmed down from the near riots the city endured a few weeks ago, but there are still thousands of protestors camped out at Democracy Monument and Suthep Thaugsuban still makes incendiary speeches there calling for the end of "Thaksinism" and for the "caretaker" government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, to resign. 

Both sides have held forums on reforming Thai politics. 

Suthep's supporters want the election to be delayed until the political system is reformed. They propose Thailand be run by an appointed council of professionals from all walks of life until reforms have been made. 

The government suggested going ahead with the election (currently scheduled for February 2) with reforms taking place after the election. 

Suthep and his supporters say that's not acceptable. That's where things stand. The election commission announced today that the election would go ahead as scheduled. It looks like Thais will go to the polls on Feb. 2. 

February 2 is only six weeks away. There's a lot to be done before the election and a lot that could go wrong and derail the election. 

One big question mark hanging over the election is the role of Thailand's Democrat party. (The Democrats are the opposition and haven't won an election in the last 20 years.) Suthep was a long serving Democrat member of Parliament (and former Deputy Prime Minister in the Abhisit administration in 2010) until he resigned at the beginning of the protests. Most of the Democrats have joined him on the protest trail and called for reform before elections. It's still not clear if the Democrats will participate in or boycott the election. 
Suthep Thaugsuban walks through the crowd at Silom this afternoon. He was given a hero's welcome. 

If they participate they will almost certainly lose. Pheu Thai (the ruling party) is still enormously popular in the countryside. If the Democrats boycott they will also lose because they will have absolutely no role in the future government, not even as backbenchers. My guess is that people will be staying up late in Bangkok this weekend trying to plot the Democrats strategy going forward. 

Candidate registration is Monday, Dec. 23. The protestors have hinted at trying to obstruct the registration process. If they succeed, the election could be thrown into turmoil. 

Thailand is never a boring country. Now it's a really interesting country. 
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