Thailand has suffered from a long period of unrest that has seen government buildings occupied, streets brought to a halt by protesters, and now increasing acts of violence against anti-government protesters, though it remains unclear who is carrying out the acts. Given the magnitude of the situation, the propensity towards violence may have been unavoidable. With tensions boiling over, however, it’s fair to wonder if Thailand has reached a breaking point.
Thailand: situation escalating
Violence against protesters is now becoming more frequent. The most common attacks involve gunmen randomly spraying bullets into crowds before escaping on motorbikes. So far, at least 8 people have been killed, including a police officer. Numerous other people have been injured in the attacks.
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Opposition leaders are accusing the government of sending and supporting the attackers who are now attacking the swelling crowds of protesters, especially in the early evenings when crowds reach their highest points. So far, the government has denied involvement and it seems unlikely that government officials desperately trying to keep a handle on the situation would risk backlash and a potential collapse into de facto anarchy if crowds should grow violent.
Opposition leaders themselves are also being targeted. A grenade was lobbed at the house of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, though he and his family were not home and no one was hurt in the attack. Abhisit is now a prominent member of the protest movement seeking to push Prime Minister Yingluck from power.
There is speculation now that the Thai military could eventually be spurred into action. While Thailand does democratically elect a parliament and prime minister, power ultimately resides with the King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Traditionally, the military has sided with the King and it is believed that in the past the King has approved of the overthrow of the Thai government. The Royal Army last overthrew the government in 2006, ousting current Prime Minister Yingluck’s brother.
Elections coming but may offer no relief
Currently, elections are slated for February second. Many protesters and the opposition “Democrat Party” have called for a boycott, however, with Yingluck almost certain to gain reelection. Apparently, the opposition does not want an election, but instead an overhaul of the government system itself and the appointment of an unelected “peoples’ council”.
Protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck resign, however given that she still commands the approval of the majority of the Thai people, it remains unclear how the situation will resolve. Thailand now finds itself caught in a deadlock that may soon boil over.
If violence does break out, the military would likely step in and take control of the country in the King’s name. What would happen next is difficult to project, but given that the King did not support Prime Minister Yingluck’s brother in a similar situation, it is likely that she would be permanently removed from power.