Protesters organized by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) took over and shut down Thailand’s main airport, outside Bangkok, days after forcing the Thai parliament to suspend its session. PAD protesters helped force out populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra two years ago, and now they want current Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law, to step down. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
The PAD’s strategy “may yet prove effective” in forcing Somchai out, said Tulsathit Taptim in Thailand’s The Nation, but it’s going to harm the once-sympathetic group. Watching them strand innocent bystanders at the airport is like seeing “the transformation of Skywalker into Darth Vader.” The PAD needs public support—it’s losing it by “holding air travelers hostage.”
“The damage to the PAD,” said the Bangkok Post in an editorial, is nothing compared to how the PAD is hurting the country. The group’s “ill-conceived disruption” of air traffic will cause immense damage to Thailand’s crucial tourism industry. “The PAD has the right to peaceful demonstration,” but this “comes closer to terrorizing the public.”
Whether its tactics are successful depends on how the army reacts, said Simon Roughneen in Switzerland’s ISN Security Watch. It might well side with the “elitist and anti-democracy” PAD over Somchai’s “corrupt puppet administration.” But whichever way it goes, Thailand will remain split between the PAD’s urban base and the rural voters who support Somchai and Thaksin.
That’s why the PAD’s self-proclaimed “final showdown” is bound to have sequels, said Hannah Beech in Time. Thaksin was convicted of corruption and his party faces dissolution due to vote-buying, but his popularity in rural areas means that his camp will probably win the next election. Whoever wins this round, be ready for “the Final, Final Showdown.”