Thailand’s unrest


The situation in Thailand is becoming increasingly dangerous, as demonstrators call for the departure of the Southeast Asian nation’s democratically elected government.

So far, the Thai military, which sometimes intervenes with a coup d’etat when matters get out of hand, has stayed out of the fray between the demonstrators and the government of this relatively prosperous and peaceful country.

Last week, violence spread outside Thailand’s capital, Bangkok; at least three people were killed and 103 injured over the weekend. This week, police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons to defend government buildings.

The government is headed by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinowatra, sister of exiled Thai billionaire Thaksin Shinowatra, himself a former prime minister. The demonstrators alleged that the government is corrupt — but political corruption is a Thai tradition.

The opposition’s real problem with Ms. Yingluck and her government is that it believes her wealthy brother and his companies have used their money to put and keep her in power. This fact of life in Thai politics is not likely to change even if she agrees to step down.

The United States has an interest in events in Thailand, albeit not of a nature sufficient to justify U.S. intervention beyond counseling caution and reason as Thais try to unravel the problem.

Thailand has been a friend and ally of the United States since before the Vietnam war. Although it is a kingdom, it is reasonably democratic. The United States buys about 10 percent of Thailand’s exports and provides more than 6 percent of its imports.

Apart from occasional outbursts such as the current protests, Thailand is considered to be reasonably stable. As one of the major countries of Asia to which U.S. foreign policy is attempting to pivot, away from the war-prone Middle East and South Asia, Thailand is a valuable partner.

At the moment, there appears nothing for America to do except to encourage the Thais to resolve their differences without further violence.