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    Volume 9 Issue 21| May 21, 2010|

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Not as Smooth as Silk

Never has Thailand been so scrutinised under the global microscope. The country is being perceived as a failed state by the international community, especially because of the government's inability to enforce law and order over the past two months. With the 24-hour TV networks and online media constantly focused on the street violence, Thailand is no longer just dealing with the Thai public but the whole world. Whatever happens here is instantaneously transmitted around the world. In most cases, whatever has been reported and echoed outside the country has not been positive to Thailand's image and international standing.

Indeed, in the past few weeks following the violence on April 10 that left 25 people dead, there has been an outcry from the international community, especially regional and international human rights organisations, regarding the use of force against the protesters. Since then, the government has been on the defensive. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been very clear that his government will not fire at its own people, and has repeatedly assured everyone that strict rules of engagement will be enforced throughout the campaign to dislodge the protesters from key positions in the capital. However, once in the conflict zones, confusion has reigned and all hell has broken loose.

Militant elements among the protesters have been free to de-link from the main encampment because of well-coordinated and detailed strategies. If one goes back through interviews given by the red-shirt leaders and key politicians supporting them earlier this year, their comments are very revealing, as they predicted that bloodshed and guerrilla tactics would be deployed to bring the whole country to a halt. The aim is clear: To destroy the current administration. This is done not for the sake of democratic development.

It is understandable why the international community and human rights organisations are so concerned with the political crisis in Thailand - which used to be a poster child for democracy some two decades ago. Obviously, this country has serious social problems, especially the widening of the income gap between the haves and have-nots and other issues. But the government in power must be able to have an opportunity to deal with these issues.

Thailand is not a failed state. The UN Development Programme and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security recently released a report on progress toward the human security in the Kingdom. It was a good report. A failed state would not have a comprehensive human security agenda for its citizens. One of the most important items on the national agenda is to improve the quality of the political system so that it can address the ongoing political conflict. At the moment, Thai democracy lacks a dispute settlement procedure that addresses the social problem of inequity.

The next few days will be pivotal in demonstrating whether Thailand is a country that is in need of international assistance. Several international mediators have expressed interest in helping to break the impasse. They must allow the government to do its job first. So far, it has shown a good sense of responsibility in trying to protect and avoid further bloodshed. Indeed, it is due to this overcautious approach that it has been perceived as weak and ineffective.

The Nation, Thailand/AAN

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