Leading article: Thailand should remember Nepal

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The Independent Online

The scenes of chaos in the Thai capital, Bangkok, where the government has declared a state of emergency after protests forced the cancellation of an Asian summit, will inevitably lead to comparisons being drawn with events in Nepal. There, an embattled royalist government was slowly engulfed by popular protests, culminating in a Maoist revolution and the scrapping of the monarchy.

In Thailand, the monarchy is more popular, while the popular revolt is more fragmented. Nevertheless, comparisons exist. One is that the exiled Thai leader overthrown in 2006 with the palace's blessing, Thaksin Shinawatra, though no Maoist, is certainly a populist who does not shrink from employing the language of class war. As for the object of Mr Thaksin's ire, the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, its raison d'être is devotion to the royal family. But this has brought Thailand adverse publicity since it took power, as an increasing number of people have become caught up by the laws on lèse- majesté.

Mr Abhisit cannot claim the moral high ground when condemning the mobs whose protests have humiliated him. His democratic legitimacy looks dubious, having gained office on the back of street protests against the election victory in 2008 of a party seen as a front for Mr Thaksin.

Now he is threatened by the same instrument through which he took power. Meanwhile the country languishes, as valuable tourist income dries up. As for the monarchy, the institution that the regime intervened to protect, that is in danger of forfeiting its former popularity.

In hindsight, the palace, army and the urban elite would have been better off trying to cohabit with the crowd-pleasing Mr Thaksin. Now, they don't have that luxury. They can hardly welcome him back, for he would return in triumph as both martyr and dictator.

On the other hand, Mr Abhisit's chances of toughing it out look slimmer by the day. The only way out is new elections in which Thaksin sympathisers this time are allowed to win. The other alternative is the route that Nepal took, towards revolution. Hopefully, Thailand's rulers will reflect on the recent history of the Himalayan (former) kingdom, and compromise in time.