By Ray Fleming

ONE year ago the streets of central Bangkok were a bloody battlefield between the red-shirted supporters of the rural and urban poor and the Army acting on behalf of the conservative governing Democrat party. The red shirts wanted the next general election brought forward because of unrest in the country but the Democrats refused. After a year's waiting the election took place last Sunday when the Democrat party was soundly beaten by Puea Thai, a party embracing the red-shirts and led by Yingluck Thaksin, the sister of the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The state of democracy in Thailand was made clear when the Army generals declared publicly that they had no intention of interfering with the result declared on Monday. The fact that they felt it appropriate to make that statement showed that they consider they have the right to interfere -- and might do so if they do not like Puea Thai's policies. The 44-year-old Yingluck Thaksin has no serious political experience and even with a comfortable majority faces several difficult problems -- not least whether to invite her politically experienced brother to return to Thailand despite his questionable conviction for corruption which led to his exile. The old elite of Thailand, backed by the Army, would almost certainly resist any return by Thaksin who is revered by many who voted for the Puea Thai's victory.


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