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

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died aged 25  

Phillip Hughes: A sensational man, both on and off the pitch

Angus Fraser
Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party  

If people voted for policies, the Green Party would win the next election

Lee Williams
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?