Thailand’s War of Convenience with Cambodia
The Wall Street Journal shows a good understanding as to why the government of Thailand has been so reluctant to resolve the border dispute with Cambodia. While certainly both countries share the blame for making these violent clashes worse for their own political needs, the Thai Army currently has no interest in solving the crisis, and appears perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent soldiers to extend their political control over the country.
The military, palace and business elite all fear that supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will win their fourth straight general election. The last three results were annulled by a coup and court rulings, and the red shirt supporters of Mr. Thaksin have become increasingly restive as a result of their disenfranchisement. Even if their Puea Thai Party wins, there is a strong chance they will not be allowed to form a government. So further unrest later this year seems likely.
In this context, a fight with Cambodia might seem an appealing way out of the deadlock. A limited war with a much smaller neighbor could unify Thais, as the red shirts would feel pressure to get behind the military in a time of national crisis. Mr. Abhisit, who has never won an election and is widely regarded as a figurehead within Thailand, could be dispensed with, and elections pushed off until the glow of victory and massive public spending restore the Bangkok elite’s popularity. (…)
Thailand’s friends have a responsibility to dissuade the military from military adventures. It’s also time they addressed the root cause of the problem. This conflict is a sign that the nation’s internal political crisis is beginning to generate external costs, showing once again that Asean’s credo of noninterference in domestic politics needs to be tempered with an awareness that promotion of democracy is part and parcel of regional stability.