Red Democracy, Yellow Democracy: Political Conflict in Thailand: Jim Ockey Backgrounds the Recent Crisis in Thailand and Warns That the Current Calm May Not Persist

By Ockey, Jim | New Zealand International Review, November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Red Democracy, Yellow Democracy: Political Conflict in Thailand: Jim Ockey Backgrounds the Recent Crisis in Thailand and Warns That the Current Calm May Not Persist


Ockey, Jim, New Zealand International Review


In the past, popular demonstrations were aimed at bringing about democracy. This time it is about the nature of democracy.

(A Yellow Shirt leader) (1)

Over the last five years, there have been frequent political struggles in Thailand, led, on the one side, by Yellow Shirt demonstrators and, on the other, by Red Shirt demonstrators. Most of the analyses of the recent political conflict in have focused on social divides, with many Yellow Shirts coming from urban areas and Red Shirts from rural areas. Others have focused on class differences, noting that many Yellow Shirts are middle class, while many Red Shirts are poor. While these characterisations are certainly accurate, to think of the conflict in only these terms is to overlook one of the most troubling aspects of the conflict: it has also divided many communities, and even many families. These types of divides are more personal, and thus in some ways more worrying, and yet cannot be explained by class or geography. To explain this aspect of the conflict, we have to examine the concerns each side has with the political process.

We can trace the origins of the current political crisis back at least as far as the Asian Financial Crisis, which began in Thailand in 1997. The financial crisis hit when the Bank of Thailand was unable to defend a weakening baht, and its value was halved overnight. Having used up most of its foreign reserves in its failed defence of the baht, the Thai government then turned to the IMF for help. Although Thailand was facing recession, the IMF insisted on austerity policies as a condition of the loan--the opposite of the stimulus packages generally used during recessions--and the recession deepened as rich, middle-class, and poor Thais all suffered heavily. Only a few who had substantial investments and assets denominated in foreign currencies prospered.

The Asian Financial Crisis had a profound impact on Thai politics. Many among the rich had previously supported several political parties, to ensure they would have a voice in government. As wealth eroded, they began to limit support to one party, leading to a consolidation of the party system, and a division of the wealthy according to political party. Many of the poor struggled to get by, highlighting the need for a safety net in times of crisis, and setting the stage for populist policies. It was the largely new middle classes, however, that felt most vulnerable, as they struggled to hold on to their hard-earned status. They fixed blame on the political system, and particularly on vote-buying and corruption. This deepened the divide between the middle classes and the poor, who, the middle classes believed, undermined democracy by selling their votes, and between the middle classes and the rich, who bought the votes, and then gained the investment back through corruption in office. Thus the Asian Financial Crisis set in place the social divisions that would be evident in the later political crisis.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In 1997, middle-class concerns were addressed in a new constitution, ratified shortly after the financial crisis. The new constitution established a series of commissions and courts (made up of middle-class technocrats) with the ability to investigate corruption and disqualify candidates for election, or remove politicians from office, up to and including the prime minister, in some cases on limited evidence. The constitution also required a university education for election to the parliament, effectively excluding the lower classes from the parliament.

Thaksin's rise

The first election under the 1997 constitution took place in 2001. Among the parties contesting this election was a new one, Thai Rak Thai, led by telecommunications tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra. He put together a party made up of many former MPs, offering to help finance their campaigns in return for joining his party, so that his new party had more former MPs than any other party. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Red Democracy, Yellow Democracy: Political Conflict in Thailand: Jim Ockey Backgrounds the Recent Crisis in Thailand and Warns That the Current Calm May Not Persist
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.