Funston, John. (ed.). Divided Over Thaksin: Thailand's Coup and Problematic Transition. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009. 203 pp.
Singh, Daljit. (ed.). Terrorism in South and Southeast Asia in the Coming Decade. Singapore and New Delhi, India: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and Macmillan Publishers, 2009. 231 pp.
Funston introduces his volume by referencing a 2006 statement by then Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun who said that "If Thai society is divided and there is so much hate, and the environment is conducive to prolonging this hate, and to sustaining conflict it is frightening, very frightening." (p. xiii) Funston adds that under such circumstances, "If allowed to continue, the government would be unable to administer the country." (p. xiii) Contributors to his volume aptly describe Thailand as deeply divided politically, socially and economically. They go on to analyze the role that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra played (and continues to play) in creating a frightening level of hatred and conflict among the Thai citizens whose interests he was elected to serve. In fact, he was elected on three occasions with over 70 percent of the vote only to be ousted by a coup-de-star staged by the military and the Bangkok elite who were sickened by Thaksin's illegal financial dealings, e.g. selling "state" property for over a billion dollars while paying no taxes on the transaction to the government of Thailand
Contributors to Funston's book point out that the Thailand in which Thaksin was, and is a key political figure is a land full of hate and conflict and void of the traditional "Thai smile". Its conflict is two-fold with one being a clash at the national level that pits, on the one hand, the Yellow Shirts who make up a cadre of mainly urbanites who are commercially and industrially entrenched, relatively better educated, economically better-off and opposed to Thaksin's return to power in any form but particularly as head of a new version of the now disbanded party that he once led to political victory before the military-led coup that ousted him. On the other they are opposed by the Red Shirts, a counter group that is mainly rural, agriculturally based, relative less well education, less well off economically and adamantly in favor of Thaksin's return to power in some form. Thailand is a classic example of uneven development that is complicated by a weak government.
Thaksin and his supporters continue to urge his supporters to call for his return to power via "twitter and text messages" in which he constantly reminds them that "he is one of them"--a local Thai and not a foreign import. The divisions that separate Thai from Thai are fundamental, growing, irreconcilable, unpredictable and fraught with danger...