04/14/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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Government protests called off in Thailand

by Weena Kowitwanij
Demonstrators were surrounded by army. Over past few days, 2 protesters have died and over 100 been injured in clashes with security forces. Support for Thaksin begins to waver. Doubts shroud his democratic ideals.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Union for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) protesters who have occupied areas of the Thai capital for days have decided to call off their protests which demanded the resignation of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Today at 11 am (local time), UDD leader Vera Musikapong, announced the cancellation of the protests around parliament.  Over 70% of those present agreed with his decision, (almost 5 thousand people). The decision was propelled by the massive army presence surrounding the demonstrators with the red shirts, supporters of ex Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who promised a safe corridor for those wishing to abandon the demonstration.

Over recent days tensions had mounted following the protesters success in blocking the ASEAN summit in Pattaya, which soon became a source of national shame.  Guerrilla warfare broke out in the capital.  The government was forced to declare a state of emergency. Two people, one 30 years-old, the other 50, were killed in clashes between demonstrators and ordinary citizens.  A mosque was set on-fire and 100 people were seriously injured.  It is still unclear whether the two victims were killed by the army. Popular support of the so-called “red-shirts” is sliding fast, because of the shame they have brought to the nations, the fact that they destroy harmony and overturn cities and traditions.  Yesterday was Thai New Year, Songkran, and feast of the elderly but all celebrations were cancelled.

An Assumption University poll reveals that more than 72% of those questioned believe the UDD protests have damaged the nation;  81.3% is against Thaksin’s current politics that anything goes on the quest to regain power; 64% supports the government.

Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in 2006 accused of corruption.  He now lives in forced exile, but many charges await him in Thailand.  His wealth has been confiscated, his possessions frozen.  Only days ago in a TV appearance Thaksin incited the demonstrators to overturn Abhisit to build “real democracy”.

The debate at the centre of all this is of course democracy: if Abhisit’s taking of power after weeks and months of angry street protests and parliament blocked, is democracy,(with the support of the army); if Thaksin’s government that counted on a 4/% majority was democracy.  This stopped any investigations into the workings of his cabinet.

Prof. Sombat Dumrongthanyawong, dean of Nida University, gives an example of the ambiguity of the slogan “democracy”: “Taksin’s action does not show what he did is for the democracy as he has claimed.  Thai people do not really understand the word ‘democracy’ which is not just the election; it should include the realization of the authentic aim i.e. for the peace and happiness of all”.

 

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