Leading article: At the edge of the precipice

Share
Related Topics

There can be no doubting the seriousness of the situation in Thailand. Not only is there a real possibility of the stand-off between the army and the protesters escalating into a bloodbath that could spread to the rest of the country. There is also the sense that the confrontation in Bangkok reflects a division within the Buddhist kingdom that can no longer be contained, even if descent into total violence is averted this time.

On previous occasions the eruptions have been quelled either by army coups or by the intervention of the King, the 81-year-old Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose position and personal standing have been such as to force the combatants to withdraw in the interests of stability.

It is still possible that either course could now resolve the situation, at least in the short term. The army, having been initially hesitant to join the fray, has now committed itself to clearing central Bangkok of the protesters, even at a considerable cost of life. At the same time the King, although in declining health, remains a force which could bring the parties together, should there be the will to do so.

Neither of these forces are as strong as they were, however. The army itself is unsure at the top as to how far and how fast to proceed against a civilian uprising which its lowly-paid conscript soldiery may be reluctant to fire on. The police are standing aside. The King is clearly ailing and has tried to keep out of recent political disputes for fear of making the crown appear partisan.

If this were a simple battle between the rich and the dispossessed, pitting the forces of democracy against autocracy, as some would suggest, the issues might be clearer and the course more predictable. But it isn't. The Red Shirt protesters would claim the need for new elections and the return of the ousted former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, as a road to a democratic future. But Thaksin himself is as much a representative of the old, corrupt elites as the present government, as opposed by many of the middle and educated classes for his furthering of nepotism and billionaire's populism as he is loved by the rural poor for his subsidies and grants.

With descent into chaos now facing both sides, there remains some hope that the worst can be avoided. The protesters are now mooting talks. The army is still hesitating. The King could still use his authority to impose a compromise. It is to be hoped so, for without a return to talks and a change in direction by army and protesters, Thailand is staring into the abyss.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...