Opposition Raises Specter of Civil War in Thailand

Opposition Raises Specter of Civil War in Thailand

CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- Thailand calls itself the Land of Smiles, and is known for its tropical beaches, beautiful mountains, good food and friendly people. But that may soon change. While the happy-go-lucky image of Thailand may be hard for many to shake, political observers -- and the government -- are beginning to take the possibility of a civil war much more seriously.

On April 21, Jakrapob Penkair -- a key leader of the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and reputedly the man behind this month's violent protests in Bangkok and Pattaya -- announced in a BBC interview that the struggle was not over. The UDD, Jakrapob said, would begin using different tactics, possibly even armed attacks. "I believe the room for unarmed and non-violent means to resolve Thailand's problem is getting smaller every day," he told the BBC. He went on to call for new general elections to allow a democratically elected government to take power.

Jakrapob was previously a spokesman for Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup and currently in exile. He was subsequently a minister in the People's Power Party government, until he was forced to resign in May 2008, due to charges of lèse majesté for giving a talk critical of the country's monarchy at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Rather than turn himself in to the government, as many other UDD leaders did after the protests were crushed on April 13, Jakrapob fled to an undisclosed location abroad.

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