News You Really Need To See: “Thailand’s Political Tensions Are Rekindling Ethnic and Regional Divisions”

“Thailand’s Political Tensions Are Rekindling Ethnic and Regional Divisions”

The New York Times, April 13, 2014, p.A9

“Thailand is the land of the Thais, of course — but also of the Lanna, Lao, Mon, Malay, Khmer and Chinese, among other ethnic groups subsumed into the country over the centuries.  Eight years into Thailand’s political crisis over the influence of the prime minister’s family, some of those ethnic identities are resurfacing.  The country’s political divisions roughly follow the outlines of ancient kingdoms and principalities, rekindling bygone impulses for greater autonomy from Bangkok. … Banners strung across roads in the north calling for secession have been among the most extreme expressions of the north’s bitterness toward Bangkok.  The northern Lanna kingdom, including Lamphun, was annexed by Bangkok in 1899, and for decades its people have spoken a dialect distinct from the Thai officially recognized and promoted by the central government.  At the time of annexation, the region had its own written language, which used a different alphabet from Thai.  Less radical have been proposals for devolution of the centralized powers of the government. … Three governments supported by northern and northeastern voters have been removed from power since 2006, one — Mr. Thaksin’s — by a military coup and two in highly politicized court judgments. …[F]rom a political standpoint, the Thai electoral map already shows two Thailands: The north has consistently voted for the governing party in recent elections, while the south has either voted against the party or obstructed elections, as protesters did in February.  Both sides warn of civil war if tensions escalate.”

Quickie analysis:   A good look at the fault lines of the current political crisis that is bringing Thailand to a standstill.  Without a cohesive national identity, are devolutionary pressures a natural consequence of a movement away from monarchies and authoritarian leaders?

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