Thailand has a turbulent political history — it has seen 24 prime ministers and 18 coups
in the past 75 years. On 23 December 2007, voters again went to the polls but the result,
a strong vote for the People’s Power Party (PPP) that gave it the most seats but left it just
short of a majority, will not bring either the economic stability the divided bourgeoisie
craves nor meet the aspirations of Thai workers and the rural poor.
The election took place in a repressive atmosphere. The junta, in power since a coup in
2006 ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, deployed 200,000 soldiers and police
officers to maintain security. The vote took place under the junta’s new constitution, and
almost half the country was under martial law.
Little choice. The PPP was formed by supporters of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT)
party, which was dissolved by the military — its leaders banned from politics for five
years. Samak Sundaravej, a former Mayor of Bangkok who, in 1976, whipped up
reactionary mobs that stormed Thammasat University, leads the PPP. The party follows
in the traditions of TRT with a mix of nationalist economic policies to meet the needs of
a section of Thai business and populist offerings to its poor rural support base.
The Democratic Party, the other main contender, is the party favoured by the military.
A previous opponent of the military interference in Thai politics, it has lost much of its
credibility by its tacit backing of the 2006 coup. The recent election, like the coup before
it, will do little to improve the lot of the Thai majority.
All for show. The election was little more than a piece of window dressing for the
international community. The military retains immense power. It is pushing a new law
to entrench its role, allowing it to overrule civilian administration without the need to
formally declare a state of emergency. It is time to break the cycle of coups and weak
elected governments. Thai workers and peasants must look to their own ranks for
solutions — the parade of business leaders and generals is just a march to disaster.