12/16/2013, 00.00
THAILAND
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Bangkok: Army intervenes to ensure “fair” elections, opposition divided over turnout

First cracks appear in anti -government camp over whether or not to participate in early elections called by the government. Official confirmation that the army supports the vote and is ready to intervene "if it is not free and fair". AsiaNews sources speak of "major tension" behind an "apparent stalemate." One wrong step is likely to trigger a "violent revolution " .

Bangkok (AsiaNews ) - The main opposition party in Thailand met this morning to decide whether to participate in the elections, called by the government in recent days to ease the protests in Bangkok and in other parts of the country . However, the anti-government front is beginning to show some division and some protest leaders call for "reform" of the system, prior to the voting process. At first the protesters, backed by the capital's economic and financial elite, rejected the proposal of the polls, calling for the formation of a "council of the people" entrusted with the task of eradicating the influence of the "Thaksin regime " from the country. In fact , the goal of reform is to stop the electoral successes of the Shinawatra family - first Thaksin then his sister Yingluck - who have dominated the pools over the least ten years due to consensus among poor urban areas and among the peasants of the north .

At the beginning of the month all the MPs of the Democratic Party (the main opposition) resigned , some of them, including former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva joined the protesters. The party leadership has not yet announced whether it will participate in the vote on February 2, but it is clear that the boycott of the polls would deprive the election of legitimacy, fueling instability and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, the Army - the real " gray eminence " of the nation - has finally intervened after maintaining a position of strict neutrality. General Nipat Thonglek , Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defense , said that the army "wants the vote on February 2 ," and if there are "signals" that "it will not be smooth running" the army will be ready to intervene to make things "free and fair". He did not , however, want to clarify what he meant by this statement in more detail.

To date, the army had remained neutral, but over the last 80 years has been the protagonist of at least 18 coups. The military leaders advocate the establishment of the nation, a "generic" term used to indicate that "generals, monarchists and upper middle class" are close to the current opposition represented by the Democratic Party . Military sources report that behind the protest leaders Suthep Thaugsuban there are two powerful retired generals : former Minister of Defense Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan and the former head of the Armed Forces Anupong Paochinda , who have a long history of enmity with Thaksin Shinawatra .

AsiaNews sources in Bangkok, speaking on condition of anonymity, say that "the situation appears to be stagnating", in the Thai capital,  with the opposition agreeing to meet economic powers , institutional leaders , police and army chiefs to assess what steps to take in the immediate future . However, the apparent calm hides a "major tension" and developments in the immediate future remain " highly uncertain ." The financial and economic leadership of the country insists on "dialogue" and a peaceful resolution of the political struggle , but the " uncompromising" front led by Suthep Thaugsuban , rejects any mediation. The anti-government leader " is breaking the law and continues to incite people," relying on "the staunch support of the army ." In the past, the military would have already taken steps to resolve this impasse, today, however, it seems that the fronts in the fight "are controlling each other." The fear is that a gamble or an armed intervention "may set the tone for a violent revolution", with " dire consequences for all."

Behind this climate of tension and unease, says the source , lie " the two souls of the Thais : the Buddhist, that practices self-control and the pursuit of peace, combined with a fiery temper , which leads to expressing ones' emotions in a violent manner". This is further fuelled by "an uneasiness brought by modernity, which imposes  the model of having everything at once and creates frustration . The people want dignity, respect and representation, but there is a [ minority ] who hold the power and prevent change" .

The anti -government protesters - a mix of members of the middle class, royalists and people from the south - are the largest to be held since 2010, when the kingdom was shaken by a series of riots that ended in bloodshed and death 90 civilians. The protesters want the resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra , accused of being a "puppet" in the hands of her brother Thaksin , the billionaire and former prime minister in exile to escape a two-year prison sentence. In reality, the current government was democratically elected in 2011 and 28 November last easily survived a no-confidence motion tabled by the opposition in Parliament (297 votes against 134).

 

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