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Thailand in crisis again

Thailand will be virtually absent from the Asean Summit in Myanmar this weekend following a ruling by its Constitutional Court on Wednesday to dismiss premier Yingluck Shinawatra for abusing her power in pursuing the interests of her Pheu Thai Party and family.

The constitutional ousting of the sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will only deepen the country's political turmoil. Foreign observers of the pro- and anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok have been tuning into the political soap opera for months now. The behaviour of protesters has reached levels of hysteria, culminating in the blockading of polling stations to prevent fellow citizens from voting in February's election.

Wednesday's court verdict is a victory for Thaksin's political enemies, the Bangkok-based political elites. But elements among them are still hesitating over the decision to go ahead with elections in the near future, worried they still won't be able to convince voters that Thaksin and his family should play no further part in Thai politics.

The whole nation will no doubt once again pay dearly for the inability of the political elite to resolve its internal conflicts. The Bangkok-based political establishment has failed in every effort to defeat the populist Thaksin in general elections. They condemn the business tycoon as a politician who abuses democracy to accumulate wealth and power for himself and his family. But are Thaksin's enemies any cleaner and better qualified to rule Thailand?

The 10-member Asean has handed the privilege of hosting this weekend's summit to Myanmar President Thein Sein as a reward for bold political and economic reforms that have ended five decades of isolation for his country. Though in the infancy of democratisation, Myanmar deserves the honour for the giant reform steps it is taking.

The Nay Pyi Taw meeting will be tinged with humiliation for Thailand, a founding member of Asean and once a model of development and democracy for the region, looked up to by its neighbours Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

The outside world is making efforts to convince Thailand's warring political camps to choose reconciliation, but compromise looks no closer despite the prolonged dispute's severe impact on the economy, including tourism. Meanwhile the populace is being held hostage to power-hungry politicians who disguise their self-interest behind a mask of democracy.

It is saddening to see a great nation and a great people suffering under their leaders' seemingly endless conflicts.

Thailand is admired the world over for remaining independent of colonial influence and for its diverse, rich culture. At present, though, its tolerant and cultured people have become victims of their intolerant and loutish leaders.


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