There’s a thorough analysis of Thailand’s misnamed People’s Alliance for Democracy in today’s Financial Times and its role in what Duke University’s Donald L. Horowitz calls a “creeping coup“. The PAD is revealed as a front for what today’s NPR broadcast calls the unholy trinity of Bangkok’s monarchy, military and bureaucratic elite.
Analysts seem to concur with political economist Thitinan Pongsudhirak’s argument in the latest Journal of Democracy that Thailand’s democratic institutions are “too weak, divided, and politicized”. Thailand and the Philippines were Asia’s lead countries in the Third Wave of democratization. But the fear now is that a serious democratic regression or coup could have wider implications by setting a dangerous precedent:
The struggle, which along with the global financial crisis is taking its toll on the export-oriented Thai economy, will reverberate well beyond a country long seen as a model for developing economies gradually transitioning towards democracy. Any rollback – or even the widespread embrace of the idea that democracy has failed – could embolden traditional elites elsewhere to resist or even reverse democratisation. “If the old guard can roll back the clock and reclaim lost prerogatives, it will set a bad example for other transition countries,” says Mr Thitinan.
“The anti-democratic statements of some of the PAD people are quite breathtaking, and they need to be countered,” Bo Tedards, coordinator of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia, told Democracy Digest. “The previous movement against [former premier Thaksin Shinawatra] cloaked itself in democratic rhetoric, although they then mostly welcomed the military coup, which was also carried out in the name of restoring democracy. Now that fig leaf seems to have been dropped.”