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Asia

Opinion: Thailand needs to change

Only when the scenes of brotherhood that followed the street clashes in Bangkok lead to far-reaching social changes will Thailand be able to become a stable democracy, says DW's Rodion Ebbighausen.

The street clashes in Bangkok are over. On government's orders, Thai police dismantled the barricades and cleared the way to the government's power centers. The adversaries in the power struggle now lie in each other's arms.

Rodion Ebbighausen

Rodion Ebbighausen of DW Asia

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made the right decision by pursuing a strategy focused on easing tensions. The wave of protests can now continue peacefully, instead of being violently broken up at the barricades. Yingluck is aware that her government enjoys the support of the majority of people. This makes her so strong that she can withdraw the security forces without having to fear for her government's survival. The call from opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban to continue the struggle appears to be adrift.

The end of the protests, as long as it is not disturbed by a desperate act of violence, can mark a new beginning. In the long term, Yingluck should use her strength to unite the deeply polarized Thai society. The reconciliation process, which has so far failed to produce concrete results, must be undertaken seriously. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before the next round of street riots erupts.

Thailand has been striving for more democracy since 1992. The Southeast Asian nation has been undergoing radical changes ever since. The upheavals during this period led to several crises, which deepened the divisions between people. The old elites find it hard to give up their privileges and to accept the majority vote. The ruling party of the Shinawatra siblings finds itself often unable to resist the lure of populist promises.

On the path to unity, both sides will have to make unpalatable compromises. Yingluck will have to stop consulting her exiled brother as a "gray eminence" on Thai politics. Only then will be a chance of regaining the trust of political opponents. The yellow shirts, on the other hand, will have to accept that it is the majority that sets the country's direction.

Both sides must overcome their widespread friend-enemy thinking. In a democracy, the political opponent is not an enemy that must be destroyed. It is about uniting the majority of citizens with better arguments. There is always a possibility that today's opposition parties make up tomorrow's government. Therefore, the political struggles must not be carried out in such a way that they make reconciliation impossible.

Yingluck can now prove how strong she really by sticking to her offer of dialogue even after the protests wane. From a position of strength she can admit mistakes and make offers that do not humiliate the opposition. Only then can Thailand find the path to a form of democracy that is suitable for the country.

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