Democracy is the only way forward in Thailand
Thailand's political crisis has reached a critical juncture. The removal of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra after the constitutional court found her guilty of abuse of power has been branded a judicial coup by her "red shirt" supporters. Tens of thousands will take to Bangkok's streets from today to show disapproval, probably pitting them against triumphant "yellow shirt" opposition demonstrators who for six months have been pushing for the government's removal. Without a hastily worked out compromise by all stakeholders, the possibilities of more violence or another military takeover loom.
Yingluck's backers have good cause for claiming her dismissal was more about politics than judicial independence: it is the third time in a decade that judges have removed a democratically elected leader in questionable circumstances. Her crime was having hidden motives when she transferred a senior bureaucrat three years ago; her brother, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was found guilty of a similar charge by the supreme court. Thai courts have a long history of rulings that favour the Bangkok aristocracy and business elite, who comprise the core of the opposition. The Shinawatras' support base is in the rural north, where their popularity has guaranteed victory in every election since 2001.
The opposition's inability to take power democratically has led it on a destructive path of undermining democracy. Its proposals for an appointed governing council and the removal of the Shinawatras from political life are democratically unacceptable. Similarly, suggestions that King Bhumibol Adulyadej or his heir, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, should intervene would undermine royal neutrality.
While the monarchy should not initiate a solution, the rivals could ask for its mediation and help. But the opposition and its supporters have to first accept that all Thais have to have equal rights and democracy is the only viable way forward. Unless that happens, Thailand's future can only look bleak.