Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ukraine and Thailand

Ukraine and Thailand are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, yet they are in the news these days for similar reasons. Both countries have major urban demonstrations going on that are calling for the legitimate, elected government to be replaced.

In Ukraine, the opposition to Pres. Victor Yanukovich has been calling for his resignation over his refusal to go through with a trade deal with the EU as a step towards joining the European Union, in favor of a trade deal instead with Moscow. The reason why he has balked is that Yanukovich represents the pro-Russian side of Ukraine, mainly situated in the east, while the pro-western side consists mostly of urban dwellers in Kiev and the Polish Catholic population in western Russia. There is no doubt that the Ukraine is split between these two populations. Not only that, but it is seen as Pres. Putin of Russia bullying Ukraine into rejecting EU membership in order to extend Russian influence over the Ukraine. Further, Yanukovich was elected to replace former pro-Western Pres. Timoshenko, but in order to silence her he had her arrested and held in a hospital prison for months. Following an agreement she was supposed to be released to receive treatment in the West, but at the last moment Yanukovich reneged on the deal and prevented her from leaving. Her supporters are protesting against Yanukovich and against Russian influence.

In Thailand, the opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister who was accused of corruption, was tried and went into exile, are demonstrating against his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who was duly elected PM in his place. They regard her as little more than a front for his control and they want to bring her down and prevent her brother form having influence in Thailand. Her opponents wear red and her supporters mainly in the countryside wear yellow, so there is nearly a civil war between the two groups. After weeks of protests that has brought Bangkok to a standstill, Yingluck dissolved Parliament and called for snap elections. But, the protesters are not satisfied, they still call for her to step down as PM within 24 hrs. How this situation can be resolved without major violence is unclear. At this point the powerful Thai Army is suppporting her as the legitimate elected PM of Thailand.

These situations are eerily similar to what happened in Egypt, when the Army overthrew the elected government of the Moslem Brotherhood leader, Pres. Morsi. There is no doubt that the leader in each case was democratically elected by a majority of voters, but the urban populations in each case, in Cairo, Kiev and Bangkok are determined not to be ruled by a leader of the rural majority.


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