Friday, October 10, 2008

A Quick and Dirty Analysis of the PAD Conflict

*All photos copyright*
From a happier time at government house with the PAD protesters - September 2008.

The following is a quick and dirty analysis of the current crisis revolving around the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) using a 'presenting', 'proximate', and 'structural' framework.

The presenting problem; Protests.

The proximate factors, according to the United Nations, are "likely to contribute to a climate conducive to violent conflict or its further escalation, sometimes symptomatic of deeper problems." And, the following examples are taken from what the Thai public has expressed and I don't necessarily agree with all but they do provide the needed wide scope of issue that people feel are the problems.

In addition, it is useful to divide these into categories such as Political, Social, Economic, and Security yet some issues can be present in multiple categories.

The proximate political factors are:

  • Resentment towards Thaksin
  • Fears of a puppet government
  • Debate of about the nature of democracy
  • Dissatisfaction with people in power
  • Constitutional amendment
  • Political polarization
  • Protecting the monarchy
  • Protecting Thai political culture
  • Political process dissatisfaction
  • One vote, one person
  • Dis/Reconstruction of the political system
The proximate social factors are:
  • Resentment towards Thaksin
  • Protecting the monarchy
  • Political polarization
  • Protecting Thai political culture
  • Mistrust
  • Mass media manipulation
  • Aggressive mood
The proximate economic factors are:
  • Corruption
  • Economic stress
  • Conflict of interests
  • Feeling of economic insecurity
  • One vote, one person
The proximate security factors are:
  • Reprisals/Punishment/Treason
  • Control of the mob
  • Limited capacity for conflict in Thai society
  • Mass media manipulation
  • Protecting the monarchy
  • Mistrust of security forces
The structural issues, according to the UN, are the "pervasive and long standing factors and differences that become built into the policies, structures and culture of a society and may create the pre-conditions for violent conflict." For this data, I have made extrapolated the deeper issues, from the proximate, that are driving this conflict.

Importantly, if a solution is to be reached, it essential to address the structural causes of conflict rather than the presenting or proximate issues in the conflict. If only changes are made to proximate issues then the conflict might momentarily deescalate but it will not go away. This factor, would also explain why the protests have been a reoccurring since 2004.

The structural social factors are:
  • Polarized social classes of rich urban and poor rural
  • Nepotism/corruption
  • Conflict avoidance in Thai society rather than confrontation and resolution
The structural political factors are:
  • Debate over democracy - manifest in PAD's inability to gain political power
The structural security factors are:
  • Inconsistencies in the justice system
  • Limited capacity for conflict mediation
The structural economic factors are:
  • Economic disparity
  • Corruption
What is essentially important here is that neither the dissolution of government or the acceptance of PAD's thoroughly anti-democratic idea of 'new politics' would help solve the crisis.

No matter what happens in over the coming days and weeks in Bangkok it will not resolve the conflict because the structural problems causing these protests have not been addressed and the cycle of protest and violence will continue.

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