In Thailand, a People’s Coup Against Democracy

In Thailand, a People’s Coup Against Democracy

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Thailand's political scene descended into chaos on Tuesday morning when supposed pro-democracy protesters stormed a television station, took over government buildings and blocked roads in an attempt to force the downfall of a democratically elected government. Samak Sundaravej, a generally unpopular prime minister, has stood firm but resisted using heavy-handed measures that could easily see the return of a military-led government.

Oddly enough, a violent response may be exactly what the protesters, led by members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) want. PAD leaders have called the protests "the final showdown" and machetes, sling shots, golf clubs and possibly at least one gun were seized from protesters in an abortive early raid on a television station on Monday night. The PAD's moves on Tuesday followed all the usual steps of a coup: seizing a media outlet; blocking main roads into the capital; and taking over key ministries and the seat of government. Samak has accused the protesters of trying to incite a coup and wanting "bloodshed" in the country.

Samak has reached a form of accommodation with the military after his People's Power Party won elections in December 2007, ending 15 months of military rule. Although Samak would be within his rights to invoke an emergency decree put in place by the military government before leaving office, no one is anxious to see a suspension of democratic government.

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