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Drawing Lessons From The Aborted ASEAN Summit

April 12, 2009



The latest summit of the ten leaders of ASEAN has gone pffft with thousands of red shirted protesters seeking the ouster of the current prime minister nearly overrunning the swank summit venue in the resort city of Pattaya.

President Arroyo herself had to be evacuated by helicopters as were the other heads of state.

As the news accounts have it:

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the embattled Thai prime minister who has faced a week of large-scale street demonstrations, declared a state of emergency to secure the departure of leaders from Southeast Asia, China, South Korea and Japan. The emergency decree was lifted once the leaders had safely left Pattaya, a resort town about 90 miles southeast of Bangkok.
The cancellation of the meeting was deeply embarrassing for Thailand and a missed opportunity for Asian leaders to discuss the severe economic downturn that is causing some of the region’s export-dependent economies to contract.
The shutting down of the summit meeting was the latest bold gesture carried out by street demonstrators in Thailand. Royalist protesters, the archrivals of the group that raided the beach resort here, shut down Bangkok’s two airports late last year, severely damaging the economy and stranding hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors. Both groups have separately succeeded in blockading the prime minister’s office, the seat of government.
The subtext of the country’s political crisis is an ailing king and disagreements about the future of the monarchy, friction between opposition politicians and a powerful influential military and, not least, an ailing economy.
The country’s political crisis, now three years running, pits lower-income supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in a September 2006 coup, against the royalist elite that backed the coup.
The protesters who raided the venue on Saturday wore red, the color of backers of Mr. Thaksin, who since being convicted of abuse of power in a highly politicized trial last year has remained overseas.
Protesters said they were angered after being confronted early Saturday by pro-government demonstrators, and clashes ensued.

From here in Manila the picture is that of creeping mob rule with an exiled ousted leader pulling the puppet strings.

There are key lessons  Filipinos can draw from the events in Pattaya as the Philippines prepares to hold elections 12 months from now to replace a grossly unpopular regime.

Here’s hoping that the primary lesson, the need for a government to have a reservoir of political capital borne out of good governance is taken to heart by the next administration.

Secondly, the misuse of so-called people power to promote the narrow, self-serving agenda of politicians who, having betrayed public trust when they held the reins of power, seek to hoodwink the unwitting or witless masses yet again in the 2010 elections.

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