Ex US Ambassador Critiques Thai Court Action
Dec 2, 2008
NOTE TO READERS: I don’t normally follow Thai politics so closely, but follow my exclusive interview with Thaksin, the former leader in exile, readership of Thai-related items has shot up.
William Itoh, US Ambassador to Thailand under Clinton, warns of negative impact from the Thai court action. Itoh, now a consultant for McLarty & Associates, wrote this in an email to Chris Nelson of Samuels International Associates.
Do you agree with Itoh’s analysis? Whether you agree with Itoh or not, interesting to see how the events in Thailand are viewed from overseas.
The Constitutional Court’s decision today to ban the PPP from politics and force the resignation of PM Somchai Wongsawat may be seen as a victory for the elites and anti-Thaksin forces but at what cost?
After the court decision the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) declared an end to the occupation of both Bangkok airports, following their withdrawal from Government House last week. PAD hailed the court’s decision which ended the short tenure of Somchai (Thaksin’s brother in law) as prime minister, but warned that if the “anti-democratic” forces continue in power they will return to the streets.
The mis-named PAD, which has rejected the concept of one man, one vote as the basis of parliamentary government, thus continues to threaten mass demonstrations to advance their political aims.
Meanwhile, the members of the PPP not banned from politics (i.e. all but the 59 members of the party’s executive committee) will regroup under the banner of the Puea Thai party and will try to create a new government. Parliament may reconvene next week to try to reconstitute itself and elect a new prime minister.
If these attempts fail, new elections will follow but not for at least 60 days (MPs must be members of their political party for at least 60 days before taking their seats).
In today’s Constitutional Court decision, the elites have again succeeded in bringing about change, this time using the courts to remove a prime minister associated with Thaksin (PM Samak, Somchai’s predecessor, was forced to resign over corruption charges).
In the political drama of the past few weeks the military have remained on the sidelines, hoping to avoid further damage to the army’s reputation following the 2006 coup. The police have been either unwilling or incapable of removing the protesters, underscoring the perception that PAD could do what it wanted where it wanted, and highlighting the weaknesses of the government.
The drama will continue as parliament seeks to reconstitute itself. All will look to the King’s birthday speech on Friday for inspiration if not guidance and direction.
In the meantime Thailand’s reputation has suffered immeasurably. The occupation of the airports which stranded over 300,000 travelers has generated incredible media coverage. Thailand’s reputation as a stable and economically prosperous country which welcomes tourists, businessmen and students has been severely damaged.
I recall the haze from the forest fires in Indonesia in 1998 which reached Phuket. A single photo in the New York Times resulted in the cancellations of thousands of tourist bookings. I can only imagine what the impact of the recent media coverage will have on the Thai economy.
All the best, Will