Monday, January 15, 2007

Eye On Thailand

Thailand's middle-class has key role to play in country's return to democracy

By Channel News Asia's Indochina Correspondent Anasuya Sanyal Posted:
15 January 2007

BANGKOK : It's been anything but "politics as usual" in Thailand with a year of unrest that has yet to be resolved.

Though this type of political instability is considered a pattern of sorts, at the heart of it lies the middle-class who is wealthier, better informed and more political than ever before.

"We cannot overlook that Thailand democracy has been very much alive and developed through the role of middle classes," says Associate Professor Surichai Wun'gaeo, Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University.

The Thai middle-class has had an active role in politics over the last decade, from the so-called "mobile phone mob" that brought down the Chawalit Yongjaiyudh government in 1997 to the street protests that led to Mr Thaksin's ouster last year.

The series of peaceful gatherings at the Royal Grounds were attended by many facets of society. They eventually culminated in Thaksin's short-lived resignation and the September 19 coup. It was a drastic turnaround for this stratum of society who was initially strident supporters of the CEO-turned-politician.

"They were the first to turn against him. They realised that there were vested interests and a very high, increasing level of corruption during the Thaksin regime," explains Korn Chatikavanij, Deputy Secretary General of Democrat Party. But the resulting post-Thaksin government has left some disillusioned.

"I'm disappointed because the upper classes are playing political games with each other and that creates problems for other people, not them. It's not good for anyone," says one Thai man.

The future political allegiance of Thailand middle-class voters is uncertain, but the overwhelming majority is hoping for clean elections and a swift return to democracy.


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