working on this na. Not edited, not typoed, not corrected. My Thai lanugage skills are insufficient to read much, but I am still trying to get a handle on the politics in Thailand. It is hard getting a sense of Thailand from afar. So if I get something wrong or you disagree please forgive me, Truthfully I am just trying to make sense of it myself.
Thai means free. Thailand... To the westerner this is at odds with the way the government is described.Oddly the government is described in contradictory manners as either a military dictatorship or monarchy. Even Constitutional Monarchy is a stretch in a land that has frequent coupes and sbustantive changes to the constitution. Neither of these descriptions bother me too much unless they include specific language that says Thailand is not a democracy. From my sense this is not true. Oddly even most Thais disagree with me on this.
In order to come to an understanding we need lots of information. I hope I get it right.
The King The King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช or พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาภูมิพลอดุลยเดช is a constitutional monarch. Although extremely wealthy, his power is derived from the love and respect his people give him. While some of this love and respect may come from nationalistic tendencys, most seems to be because he has earned it. He never seems to flaunt his power. He uses it to provide stability, growth and a sense of purpose and pride for the country.
(wikipedia)The King was born in the United States. When he was born he was not a likely candidate for the throne even though his uncle was king. He recieved his high school diploma with a major in French Literature, Latin and Greek in Switzerland. He then started studying science at the University. His brother King Ananda Mahidol was killed by a gunshot to his head. Bhumipol Adulyadej ascended to the throne in 1946. He returned to Switzerland to finish his education.
Among the king's noteworthy accomplishments are several patents, he won a gold medal for sailing in the Fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in 1967, and he has played with such jazz legends as Benny Goodman, Jack Teagarden, Lionel Hampton, Maynard Ferguson, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and has written (at least) two books.(/wikipedia)
The king wields his power very little day to day. In times of crisis he is often the crucial player. Most notable was the crisis in 1992 where the leaders of opposing sides were shown televised in an audience with the king where they appeared on their knees as is the protocol with the king.
Violence in Thailand is seen as the ultimate sign of weakness, an inability to solve a situationby other means. It is beyond uncouth and sets you apart from ordinary people. This tendency keeps the military from using unlimited force. In order to maintain the respect of the people casualties must be kept to a minimum.
Protests that result in violence tend to be self limiting in Thailand. Calmer heads rarely meet violence with more violence in Thailand, although this can happen if it is seen as the only pragmatic solution. The instability brought about by the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts is in many ways a sign of decisions made that are completely unacceptable to portions of the population. The instability is not as great as it seems, and the expression of frustration is important communication even if the violence is deplorable.
Democracy is a pact between citizens to respect the rule of the majority. It functions well until the majority steps over the line of acceptability to the minority. When this happens the minority no longer accepts the rule of the majority and disorder is likely. The best fix for these troubles is probably comprimise between the opposing sides although an iron fist of the government is sometimes the result. It is easy to simplify democracy and see it as one person/one vote, but really it is more analog than that statement. How much someone favors something and how much the disagree has an impact. The protections of idividual liberties in the US seems designed to prevent the majority from forcing unacceptable impositions on the minorities.
While the upheavals in Thailand are disturbing, one should not assume that the country is in complete chaos or that there is no rule of law. It is very hard to get a good broad opinion of the state of affairs in Thailand from an arm chair in the West. If you visit Thailand stay away from protests or political gatherings. Your presence is unlikely to have a positive effect.