Saturday, May 22, 2010

Special Report: Understanding Thailand's Violence

The smell of burning tires clogs your nose as you hear sickening cries of people shot and maimed in the normally peaceful streets of Bangkok Thailand. In the past months hundreds have been killed and wounded as protesters fight for their right as Thailand moves from a constitutional monarchy to a representative democracy. There is no doubt that this is also a war of cultural and class change.

Thailand’s history begins when Tai-Lao people migrated from China around the 10th century. Soon the Thais established their own states however internal and external warring was common over the next four centuries. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya emerged to solidify the people ruling for three centuries and eventually being toppled in the late 1700’s by Burmese armies. Shortly after Thailand was liberated and a new capital city called Bangkok was established. Many European colonial powers threatened in the region in the 19th and 20th centuries but Thailand survived as the only nation to never to have colonial rule.

The “Revolution of 1932” transformed the Government of Thailand from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The cabinet was presided over by the prime minister and in 1946 Bhumibol Adulyadej succeeded his brother as king and continues to reign until this day. He is the longest reigning king and very popular with the poor and rural peoples due to his many social improvements.

In 2001 Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came to power and though he was popular with the rural poor for his social programs, his rule came under attack due to several charges of human right abuse, suppression of a free press, conflict of interest, anti- monarchy, and corruption. While out of the country in September 2006 parliament dissolved government and as General Boonvaratglin led a military coup.

A general election on December 23rd, 2007 followed restoring a civilian government which had close ties to Thaksin. In June of 2008, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protested against the government by occupying government ministries and disrupting air service at Suvarnabhumi Airport. This protest ended when the courts dissolved the government because of reported election fraud. These protesters are known as Yellow Shirts. If you watched the news during that time many of the protestors wore yellow shits to show their allegiance to the king. Many Thais wear yellow shirts on Monday because this is the King’s special color due to the date of his birth. Another notable fact; this group is made up largely of Bangkok’s upper class and elites.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), better known as the "Red Shirts" are those who are supporters of Thaksin and his policies and include a large proportion of working-class and rural-based Thais. When the elected government of December 23rd, 2007 was dissolved the Red Shirt movements formed to protest this action. The Red Shirts are angry that the former government that they supported was forced to dissolve. They call this a “judicial coup” because it appears that the elite powers including important army figures manipulated the government for political purposes.

With growing tension between the established government and those representing the poor and disenfranchised protests continue to turn bloody. To add to this complicated situation King Bhumibol Adulyadej who has been the stabilizing force in Thailand since the 1940s is now very old and in failing health. His heir apparent to the throne, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, has not inherited his father's popularity and is seen as a spoiled playboy who does not carry the same concern of his father.

The UDD say they will disperse if the deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban turn himself in and face criminal charges over a clash with troops in April that killed 25 people. The UDD has already accepted a date for new elections to be held on November 14th, 2010.

Please continue to pray for this nation and people. With nearing sixty-eight million people their hope lay in the fledgling evangelical church. Great gains have been made flowing out of the tragedy of the 2005 tsunami. Pray that these present struggles will cause Thais to rethink their present and eternal future. Things learned from the tsunami caused the formation of a national strategy called, “National Plan 2010.” Three Thai Christian denominations, TEC, EFT and TCB, have yoke together to implement evangelical strategies in 76 provinces and church planting in 927 districts. The four aspects of the “National Plan 2010” are creating a prayer network, training and encouraging evangelism & church planting, community social welfare or service mission, and leadership development. There is great opportunity to develop partnerships between North American churches and the denominations of the national Plan.

LAST MINUTE UPDATE: “Though we know the problems here are not over, and this has caused a deep divide among the Thai people, God is at work in this city. Last night a Thai friend said she saw the CEO of a Thai company on T.V. sharing about God’s love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. She said that he boldly shared about Jesus. God is using this situation for His glory and He is giving His church an opportunity to be a bright light to many who are longing for change.” – Gregg Nicholson, UWM Missionary

This is your investment. This is your joy.

Mark Szymanski

If you would like to join our financial support team you can send contributions to: United World Mission, PO Box 602002, Charlotte NC 28260-2002 and write ACCT# 11013 in the memo line. Further info about on-line giving and other programs see UWM.

* The picture is from the Daily Mail, United Kingdom office.

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