Thai Expectations

By Philip Bowring in The New York Times

The chaos and bloodshed that erupted on Bangkok streets is a brutal reminder of the law of unintended consequences. The 2006 military coup that deposed the elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and subsequent use of the courts to keep his allies out of power, have raised a specter more dangerous to entrenched interests than Thaksin ever was.

The longer this confrontation between red shirts and the military-backed government continues, the less important will be Thaksin’s own role as opposition leader-in-exile and the more powerful genuinely radical forces will become. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s departure is now likely, which should calm the situation in the short term, but some of the conditions for the rise of leftist demagoguery or Peronist-style rightist populism clearly exist. Thailand is in uncharted territory and analysis of the many past coups and confrontations provide little guide to the future.

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