January 23, 2014


The government of Thailand imposed a state of emergency in the capital as demonstrators and chaos on the streets continue to push Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration toward the brink of disaster. Only 11 days remain before snap elections on February 2. The question on everyone’s mind is: Can the country make it?

The turmoil on the streets of Bangkok has ebbed and flowed for many weeks now, but as elections loom the opposition protesters have become more aggressive and violent. The state of emergency has done nothing to quell street demonstrations. Ms. Yingluck was forced to flee a meeting at the Defense Ministry after protesters swarmed the building. In the government heartland in Thailand’s northeast, gunmen unleashed a hail of gunfire at Kwanchai Praipana, a leader of the government-supporting Red Shirts, wounding him in the shoulder and thigh.

Against this backdrop of mounting chaos, the Thai King, universally revered as a godlike figure, is slowly dying. King Bhumibol Adulyadej is 86 years old now and rarely appears in public. His name means ”strength of the land, incomparable power,” as Jonathan Head writes for the BBC: “In the minds of millions of Thais [he is] a repository of virtue and calm when all around they see greed and chaos.” When he last spoke to his people in December, he implored them to settle their differences for the sake of the country, for everyone: ”All Thais should realize this point a lot and behave and perform our duties accordingly, our duty for the sake of the public, for stability, security for our nation of Thailand.”

But the “Lord Above Our Heads” can no longer perform the duties of his office. He is weak and tired and has no answers to the questions his people are asking. To make matters worse, no institution or individual is poised to take his place.

I’ve been following this via Michael Yon’s tweets, and it doesn’t look pretty.