Bangkok Burning, Ctd

A reader writes:

In your post about the mayhem in Bangkok you have a quote from a report by Patrick Winn where the word terrorist is put in quotes.  I do not believe it is improper to refer to the "red shirts" as terrorists. During protests last year the same organization of protesters hijacked natural gas trucks and threatened to blow up a mosque.  This occurred at Phetchaburi Road Soi 7.  I used to stay in a condo that my wife's family owns at Phetchaburi Road Soi 11.   (A soi is a smaller road off of a main road.)   Furthermore, the former general who was killed during a NYT interview recently had threatened an insurgency similar to what is going on in Southern Thailand, where Islamists have been waging a terror campaign for several years targeting teachers, schools, police and the military.  If that does not qualify them as terrorists I am not sure what does.

I might also draw your attention to two recent editorials in the Bangkok Post: "Red leaders all miscalculated and are losing" and "Put an end to this rebellion."

Another reader takes a different side:

I’m perplexed about the complete absence of any mention of “democracy” in the coverage of what is happening in Thailand.  The Red Shirts are motivated by the belief that Abhisit’s government is illegitimate, and from the standpoint of democratic principles, they have a strong case.

Whatever his ethical failings, and regardless of what one might think of his policy approach, Thaksin’s political difficulties stem from the fact that he posed a threat to the interests of the military and the monarchy.  The military intervened in 2006 to remove a government that unquestionably enjoyed a popular mandate, and the courts have twice dissolved parties connected to Thaksin on grounds that could just as easily be applied to Abhisit’s party.  A lawfully elected prime minister was smeared by the establishment as “Thaksin’s mouthpiece,” and ultimately was forced to step down because…no joke…he received compensation for an appearance on a televised cooking show.

The current government has no basis for claiming a mandate, and its legitimacy has been further undermined by a widespread belief that it was formed as a result of military pressure on the junior coalition partners.  The chief demand of the Red Shirts is the dissolution of the Parliament and the holding of an early election, which would settle the question of legitimacy.  Abhisit and his military sponsors have refused to accede to that demand because they fear (with justification) that Thaksin’s allies would win again.

The current battle will decide whether the people of Thailand will be free to choose their own leaders, or will be forced to accept as their leaders only those who are willing to safeguard the privileged position of the traditional establishment.  This is a classic struggle for democracy, and it is only right that it should be framed as such.