'Yellow power' wins, but what of democracy?
Have you ever heard of a flowering tree with the elegant name of ratchaphruek? Native to tropical Asia, it has hanging clusters of fragrant yellow flowers. Hence the English name "golden shower tree."
It is Thailand's national flower. According to a Thai government website, the shining yellow symbolizes Buddhism and is also the color of Monday, the day on which King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born.
Crowds wearing that special yellow have tossed the nation into turmoil. On Tuesday, a week after a Bangkok-based anti-government organization began a sit-in at international airports, the Thai Constitutional Court, which tends to take an anti-government stance, ordered the ruling People Power Party to disband and also ousted Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat. The administration was toppled at last.
More than 200,000 foreign visitors remain stranded in Thailand, including students who have run out of money, tourists who have used up their medicines for chronic illness and Japanese who are impatient to return to Japan so that their children can take entrance examinations.
For these people, yellow must seem like the "color of annoyance."
Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a target of criticism by the anti-government protesters, was toppled from power in the 2006 military coup.
However, in last year's general elections, a party affiliated with Thaksin scored a landslide victory through the strong support of farmers. Fearing Thaksin's reinstatement, the anti-government group, which is supported by the former ruling class, resorted to force. The situation soon led to bloodshed with pro-government supporters.
Singing victory songs, the anti-government protesters are trumpeting their success as a citizens' revolution. But the damage to Thailand's international reputation and domestic economy is serious. Angry cries of "What are they doing?" must have been heard in many languages. Many Thais were also embarrassed by what must seem a national disgrace. But the police were slow to act, apparently intimidated by the "yellow power."
Thankfully, the yellow-clad protesters are now withdrawing from the airports, untainted by the color of blood.
I've heard that King Bhumibol, who has been on the throne for 62 years, and the armed forces are usually expected to quell political crises. Regardless, elections must triumph over unlawful blockades. Otherwise, it means the defeat of democracy.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 3(IHT/Asahi: December 4,2008)