Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Protests in Thailand

Protests led by Thailand's strangely-named "People's Alliance for Democracy" (PDA) are making headlines. Al-Jazeera offers a succinct picture of the group:

"Founded in 2005 by Sondhi Limthongkul, a former media magnate, the PAD is a disparate collection of liberal democrats denouncing corruption and authoritarianism, and right-wing royalists who would welcome military rule with royal patronage.The group's supporters are mainly urban, middle- to upper-class who are relatively rich compared to the majority of Thailand's rural population and are regarded as Thailand's traditional elite.

"Sondhi and the PAD advocate the scrapping of the one-man-one-vote system in Thailand and say only 30 per cent of parliament's members should be directly elected by the people.

"[The government's empowerment of the poor rural majority by implementing welfare programmes such as a universal healthcare scheme and cheap credit sparked fears in the country's elite that the wealth gap that gave them their lives of privilege could evaporate. So his elitist, royalist opponents exploited Thaksin's weaknesses: corruption, heavy-handedness in dealing with alleged drug lords, accusations of manipulating the media and rumours of plans to turn Thailand into a republic."

BBC had the following:

"The protests are led by the avowedly royalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which claims the government is corrupt and hostile to the country's much-revered monarchy."

"The PAD is a loose grouping of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class opposed to Thaksin, who was ousted from power in 2006."

"While in office, Thaksin's populist policies attracted enormous support from rural areas, and the old elite felt threatened. His power base was too wide, they believed, and they accused him of corruption and nepotism.Detractors also accused him of competing with Thailand's much-revered monarch, King Bhumibol, for the heart of the nation..."

The only context the NYTimes appeared to give in its headline story was on the second page of the article on the protests:

"The protesters, a loose coalition of royalists, academics and members of the urban elite, say they are frustrated with years of vote-buying and corruption. Many are also skeptical of Thai democracy in its current form and propose a voting system that would lessen the representation of lower-income Thais, whom they say are particularly susceptible to vote-buying."

No critique of the 'vote-buying' charge was offered, nor was there any critical engagement with the fact that Royalists are spearheading an organization called "People's Alliance for Democracy" when they are in fact trying to limit the franchise. The NYTimes is pretty terrible on foreign affairs.

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