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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May was kept on as Home Secretary by David Cameron in his post-election Cabinet reshuffle (EPA)  

The Only Way is Ethics: Rights to privacy and free expression will always be at loggerheads

Will Gore
The handling of the tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd in 2006 by Thomas Cook was appalling  

Thomas Cook case was a failure of heart

Danny Rogers
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine