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Thailand Protests

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Thailand Protests, Thailand’s government has rejected calls to delay February’s election, amid increasingly violent protests in which a policeman has been shot dead.

The Electoral Commission urged the postponement over safety fears for candidates on the campaign trail.

But government officials said parliament was already dissolved so there was no legal reason for a delay.

The protesters want the government to stand down and be replaced by an unelected “people’s council”.

In most other countries an attack on an official election site by protesters armed with slingshots and homemade bombs, resulting in the death of a police officer from a gunshot wound, would prompt a robust response from the authorities. A state of emergency perhaps, or the deployment of the army, as happened in Bangkok in 2010.

That this is not happening in Thailand – that protesters are free to block roads, occupy ministries and launch an assault on a stadium in which political parties were trying to prepare for a democratic election, tells you a lot about the polarised state of Thailand right now.

The police have a poor track record of crowd control, and are under orders to avoid serious casualties. They are also exhausted and demoralised after weeks of being pushed back by the protesters. They are seen by the protesters as partisan, favouring the governing party. They are shown little respect.

But there were also soldiers in that stadium, as there have been in other official locations attacked by the protest movement. They have stood by and let the police deal with the crowds.

Their refusal to act – the government’s inability to mobilise any show of support from an army that is still an important player in Thai politics, speaks volumes.

This government has shown it can win election after election. But it does not command the loyalty of the country’s most powerful institution, and that really limits its options.

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