Yingluck’s plight same as Assad’s
Thailand has never really had much to learn from Syria — until now.
The two countries began diplomatic ties back in 1956. That was 58 years ago and relations are still limited. Trade between them accounted for US$183 million (5.9 billion baht) in 2009, according to the latest records posted on the Thai Foreign Ministry’s website. The information on the web is brief as there isn’t much to talk about. But there will be from today — at least until July 20.
The two governments share similar problems and are using the same tactics in the hope that they can resolve their respective turmoils.
Over there in the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has set an election date of June 3. That is barely a month away from now. Right here, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her caretaker government have successfully pressed for new polls to be held on July 20. It is less than three months from now. The two leaders were greeted with pretty much the same reactions from their opponents.
What is happening in Syria is much, much worse than the Thai political turmoil, of course. The country is deeply divided and in civil war for three years, which has killed at least 150,000 people and driven several millions to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Rebels and government forces are slugging it out everywhere, including the capital Damascus, which looks more like a war zone than a city.
Mr Assad hopes the election will resolve his country’s future and save him from attempts to bring him down and rid him of power. The election will be a formula to kill off all chances of the rebels. Syria’s parliament speaker, Mohammed al-Laham, insists the polls must be held on that day and urged officials to promptly prepare for them.
The rebels are showing no hesitation about disrupting them with promises to attack all polling stations. “If they do those elections, we will threaten every polling area and you will see — no one will go,” one rebel told The Financial Times.
Ms Yingluck probably shares the same hopes as her Syrian counterpart. She and her Pheu Thai Party long for a quick election. The sooner it is held, the better it will be for them. Settling for July 20 with the Election Commission last Wednesday is not that bad.
Holding an election seems to be the only option available for the embattled prime minister and she hopes to achieve political legitimacy after the polling date. That was impossible back in Feb 2
after the polls were nullified by the Constitutional Court after anti-government demonstrators blocked many polling stations.
With the possibility of seeing her fate sealed either by the National Anti-Corruption Commission on the controversial rice-supporting scheme or by the charter court on the illegal transfer order which sent the career of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri spinning, winning the election will be the only way for her and Pheu Thai to prolong administrative power. At least Pheu Thai has a better chance than other parties of coming first in the poll as they did in 2011, and before that when her brother Thaksin was still popular.
The problem is that all the conditions which crippled the Feb 2 polls are still around. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee still vows to topple Ms Yingluck as well as repeat its Feb 2 efforts. The Democrat Party also has already hinted at another poll boycott. The only major political group that is keen to go back to the polling booths is Pheu Thai.
At least Thailand is unlikely to see on July 20 what is likely to happen in Syria in a few weeks — massive, deadly violence at the polling stations.
The Syrian president is certain that his Ba’ath Party will come out the winner in the elections next month. Ms Yingluck and Pheu Thai members also expect their party to celebrate another victory.
But what happens after the election in Syria is likely to indicate what Thailand will encounter after July 20.
Elections held amid deep, bitter conflict can never work. Syria will show that to Thailand.
Saritdet Marukatat is digital media news editor, Bangkok Post.
Digital Media News Editor
He is Bangkok Post's Online Editor and is in charge of all online content.