Democracy: Yingluck out! Wall Street Journal & New York Times cites “Judicial Coup” caused

A few weeks ago the World Bank talked about a global learning crisis, and a few days ago the Nobel prize economist Sticklitz talked very much about the same. But for some country, like Thailand, little learning takes place. It had been about 80 years since absolute monarchy was abolish, but Thailand, seem to be forever going round and round, between dictatorship vs democracy. What do the Thais wants? Well, poll and research on the issue, has been going on for about 20 years now, and all those polls and research, on the long-term to medium-term opinion, says about 70% to 80% of Thais want democracy, with the rest, some form of dictatorship.

The Following is from The Wall Street Journasl

Thailand’s Aristocratic Dead-Enders

The royalists who can’t win an election stage a judicial coup.

May 7, 2014 12:52 p.m. ET

Royalist forces struck another blow against Thai democracy Wednesday when the country’s Constitutional Court staged a judicial coup and removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. Her supposed crime: having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago. For the third time in a decade, this unaccountable institution controlled by the aristocracy has removed an elected leader for dubious reasons.

The justices’ meddling rewards the bad behavior of the ironically named royalist Democrat Party. It boycotted the general election in February after several of its leaders led street protests aimed at overthrowing democracy and installing a ruling council made up of the country’s elite.

In March, the Constitutional Court nullified the result of the election on the grounds that protesters prevented it from being held on the same day across the country. The opposition has blocked a revote, leaving the country in political limbo with a caretaker government. Now that the court has removed Ms. Yingluck and nine other ministers from office, Deputy Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan will soldier on. But the National Anti-Corruption Commission might remove him too.

The situation would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. The conflict has emboldened extremists on both sides who threaten to start a civil war. That would pit rural parts of the country, particularly in the north, that support the populist Shinawatra family against the pro-royalist urban areas and the south.
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The stand-off is especially bitter this time because the royalists have backed themselves into a corner. The pro-Shinawatra forces won the last five elections, so new elections are unlikely to change the outcome. The military, which last staged a coup in 2006, is divided and reluctant to seize power again.

That leaves the aristocracy with institutional power centers guaranteed by an undemocratic constitution created by the military junta in 2007. The Anti-Corruption Commission and several other bodies can also stymie the will of the voters, but the Constitutional Court is the key because it has blocked all attempts so far to revise the constitution.

It appears the only near-term solution that will preserve Thailand’s fragile democracy and avoid bloodshed is a negotiated settlement. The Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva opened the door to talks two weeks ago, and Ms. Yingluck welcomed the move. If the aristocracy’s prerogatives are guaranteed and the Democrats given a few posts, it’s possible that the conflict can be shelved for a few more years.

However, such a peace will remain precarious because the two sides hold fundamentally incompatible visions for Thailand’s future. Ms. Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra upset the country’s feudal order when he mobilized ordinary Thais to demand real power in 2001. That genie can’t be put back in the bottle, even if the Shinawatras are purged from politics.

The Constitutional Court’s decision this week is a last gasp of the old regime, discrediting itself as it fights to hold back the forces of democracy. One can hope that a wiser leader will emerge from the royalist camp who will realize this and stop trying to overthrow democracy. While the Democrats may be unable to win elections in the near term, they can still wield considerable influence and restrain the worst populist impulses of the pro-Shinawatra camp. For now, though, it appears the aristocracy is not ready to give up its claim to a divine right to rule Thailand and accept the more modest role of loyal opposition.

The Following is from the New York Times

The Opinion Pages | Editorial (source)

A Coup by Another Name in Thailand


MAY 8, 2014

A decision by Thailand’s highest court to remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office is almost sure to send the country deeper into crisis. Pro- and antigovernment groups are already massing for more protests that will further divide the polarized country and further disrupt an already weak economy.

In a decision that smacked of bias, the Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that Ms. Shinawatra and several other ministers could no longer serve in their positions because, it said, the prime minister had abused her power when she reassigned a government official in 2011 and gave his job to a relative. Ms. Shinawatra was replaced by an acting prime minister who is one of her former deputies. It was the third time the justices have removed the head of the government in recent years using dubious legal reasoning; in 2008, the court removed the prime minister, who also belonged to Ms. Shinawatra’s political movement, because he accepted payments to appear on a TV cooking show.

Opposition politicians, some of whom brought the court case that led to Ms. Shinawatra’s dismissal, have been campaigning for months to remove her government and replace it with a team of unelected officials who would then carry out reforms, so far unspecified. Separately, the National Anti-Corruption Commission began proceedings on Thursday to impeach Ms. Shinawatra in connection with a subsidy program for rice farmers. Those proceedings could eventually result in her being banned from Thai politics altogether.

Many of Ms. Shinawatra’s troubles are of her own making. Unrest and violence, which has claimed about 20 lives, began in November after she tried to push through an ill-conceived amnesty law that would have pardoned her controversial brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, and others involved in the country’s political conflicts of the last decade. The current crisis is also fueled by longstanding regional and class divisions that have been exploited by both the Shinawatras, who have cultivated the support of more rural and poorer Thais in the north and northeast, and by their opponents, who tend to be based in the south and in Bangkok.

The latest ruling will do little to calm the waters. A national election is tentatively scheduled for July 20, and as it comes closer, the antigovernment protesters who have been in the streets for months are likely to be joined by red-shirted supporters of the Shinawatra family. Thailand, which has managed to grow despite its chaotic politics and frequent coups, appears to be approaching a breaking point.

But more protests will not solve anything. What the country needs now is compromise and reconciliation. In the past, the country’s king, who is 86 and ailing, or its army often stepped in to resolve political conflicts. Now, neither appears able or willing to do that. That makes it all the more important for both sides to come to their senses.

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