THE removal of Thailand’s beautiful, bright and US-educated Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not solve the kingdom’s political crisis. It even prolongs it.
Her government and political party, the Pheu Thai, are extremely popular, If elections were held today, she and other Pheu Thai members would again win a majority that would allow them to form a government without having to form a creaky coalition with other parties.
Her and her party’s popularity is born of their being pro-poor and unashamedly populist. That is why their constituency is made up of the people in the rural areas, they who make Thailand a great rice, fruit and vegetable producer-exporter, and the growing population of urban poor in Bangkok and the other cities.
She inherited this popularity from her brother, the effective former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, who used to be the top police officer (like Philippine politics’ Ping Lacson).
The forces of the other side, however, the elite of the Kingdom of Thailand, who had lost their hold on political power to Thaksin, disliked and vilified him as a corrupt person. They hated him even more for being a successful businessmen and industrialist, one of his successful corporations being a leading IT and cellphone transnational corporation (which his sister Yingluck had a hand in managing).
The elite, which could more often than not count on the military, ousted then PM Thaksin through a military coup in 2006.
But the Bangkok-based elite political establishment’s three successive governments after Thaksin’s removal failed to rule Thailand satisfactorily. This was largely because Thai politics since the coup has been shaken endlessly by the parliamentary war and even street battles between the Reds, the pro-Thaksin movements (supported by most of the population) and the Yellows, the elite Thaksin-haters and their followers.
For years, the elite political factions tried to make it legally impossible for former politicians and officials associated with Thaksin to run for office. Finally, in 2011, with the new pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party, Yingluck—who at first did not really want to go into politics—ran, calling for reconciliation and a better-governed Thailand. She won by a landslide. She formed a government as prime minister with coalition-party partners in 2011. But actually the Pheu Thai won enough seats in parliament to form a government without depending on coalition partners. The first time in Thai history that this happened was when her brother Thaksin won at the head of his party.
Under PM Yingluck Thailand enjoyed political stability in 2011, 2012 and the first half of 2013, because it seemed that her serious effort to unify her country and to govern democratically was making an impact.
Alas, by the second half of 2013, the elite political establishment had to make a move or lose their political influence forever. So the demonstrations, disruptions of normal life, by the Yellows began and continues in Bangkok. These protests have sometimes been bloody and deadly.
At the same time—just like here in the Philippines—lawsuits against her and her Cabinet members and party mates were filed. Then yesterday, the suit before the Constitutional Court—which in Thailand has the power to remove the highest officials and even ban them from politics and government service forever—achieved the elite’s desired result.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra was ordered to step down, having been found guilty of violating the Kingdom’s constitution when she transferred a security official to another assignment.
She denied the charges, saying: “Throughout my time as prime minister I have given my all to my work for the benefit of my countrymen . . . I have never committed any unlawful acts as I have been accused of doing.”
The court did not, however, make it a total defeat for the pro-Thaksin and pro-Yingluck party and movement. For Pheu Thai members will continue as the caretaker government, with Yingluck’s commerce minister assuming the prime ministership.
But the political reforms that Yingluck has begun and campaigned for simply must be made—if Thailand is to be a true democracy.