Thursday, April 23, 2009

The battle of the shirts in Thailand

I don't pretend to be an expert on politics in Thailand.

Basically, the red shirts are supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawat, who was forced out of office by the army, allegedly because of corruption. For the most part they are rural poor. The yellow shirts, the People's Alliance for Democracy are fanatical monarchists who oppose Thaksin Shinawat and managed to pressure the previous government to step down. They are mostly middle-class.

It seems unfair that a government that was fairly elected should be forced out, the first time by the army and the second time by demonstors.

However, the part of me that feels nostalgia for Imperial Germany and Tsarist Russia leads me to a certain sympathy for the yellow shirts. They are supporters of monarchy and legitimate interests. They remind me of the religious middle classes who in the nineteenth century were distrustful of democracy.

The sad truth is that democracy does not always work. The previous Thai government may have been fairly elected, but was it good for Thailand? Most of its supporters were uneducated peasents. Surely the middle classes who support the yellow shirts have a better idea about the needs of their country?

Yesterday was the election in South Africa. I don't know if the results have been announced yet, but it is certain that the African National Congress will win. And it may be they will win the next election too. That cannot be good; yet that is what an illiterate electorate will come up with. The elections in Zimbabwe were certainly rigged, but even if they were not, we can be sure that many Zimbabweans would have voted for Mugabe despite all his tyranny. Across Africa, corrupt leaders have been able to exploit elections.

I am inclined to sympathize with the supporters of Thailand's elites rather than her rural poor. I guess that is the right-winger in me.

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