Unrest in Southeast Asia
Over the past few years Thailand has struggled with social unrest as a result of dissatisfaction with various cadres of mid-level government. Protesters known as “Red Shirts” have been involved in escalating conflicts with the state, most recently resulting in the deaths of 11 protesters and 4 soldiers in Bangkok riot yesterday.
The Thai monarchy, one of the only governments in the region to never have been dominated by a European power during the age of colonialism, has evolved into a parliamentary democracy similar to that of many European nations over the past several decades. This transition has not been without struggle, however, as much of the destabilization resulting from wars, coups, and economic collapse in surrounding Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar has flowed over its borders. Despite the constant threat of uprising and war, the Thai leadership has managed to keep its nation free and relatively unharmed by these conflicts.
Recent election series, consistently seen as undemocratic and illegal by a segment of the population, have raised the ire of protesters on several occasions over the past few years, and calls for ousting of the Prime Minister amid allegations of fraud are becoming ever more shrill. As the king grows old, the power of the Monarchy fades, and the nation moves into the ever-more-crowded, ever-more-competitive Southeast Asia of the 21st century, will Thailand be able to keep its position as the level-minded, even-tempered observer amid the sea of Asian chaos? I hope so.