Sunday, December 22, 2013

Trials in Egypt and Demonstrations in Thailand

While we're preoccupied with the religious beliefs of some old yokel here in the United States, things aren't going so well in places like Egypt and Thailand.

NBC is reporting an Egyptian court has sentenced Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma, and Mohamed Adel to three years of hard labor and fined the trio what amounts to $7,200 apiece. They were convicted of breaking a law passed in November which requires any and all public demonstrations to be pre-approved by the police.

Douma is no stranger to the lockup. Deposed president Mohammed Morsi chucked him into the slammer for six months after he called Morsi a criminal. Maher on the other hand was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the Arab Spring movement which ousted Hosni Mubarak. Apparently in Egypt, it doesn't matter who is in charge. If you're the pesky pro democracy sort you are a prime candidate for the big house.

The report notes Mubarak has been released from prison by the military backed government, but still faces charges. Morsi on the other hand is currently residing in a cell somewhere awaiting trial for terrorism and conspiring with foreign interests against Egypt. He was the first freely elected head of state in the 5,000 plus year history of Egypt. He lasted about a year in office before the military, emboldened by mass demonstrations--you know, the kind they don't allow any more--ended that brief experiment.

In January there will be a vote on a new constitution and following that another presidential election. If he wants it, the leading candidate will be General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. He is the public face of the coup that over threw Morsi and potentially another in a long line of military men in charge of the most populous Arab nation in the world.

Meanwhile in Bangkok tens of thousands of demonstrators hit the streets demanding the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Ms. Shinawatra is the younger sister of former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra. He was elected to office in 2001, but the military decided the nation would be better off without him in 2006.

It was hardly an unprecedented occurrence. NBC reports the Thai military has staged 18 coups since 1932.

Ms. Shinawatra has called for February elections, but the main opposition party is boycotting them. The reason why is a little tricky.

The head honcho of the opposition is named Suthep Thaugsuban. He not only wants the Prime Minister out, but a suspension of democracy and the establishment of an appointed, people's council to run the country. There is no word on who would actually name the council membership, although it is probably better than even money Mr. Thaugsuban would gladly volunteer for the job.

The rub for Thaugsuban and the opposition is they know they can't win a free election. NBC points out the opposition base is mainly centered in Bangkok and is made up of the urban middle class, bureaucrats, arch conservatives and military leaders. However the Shinwatra base is rural in nature and she and her brother are still "wildly popular" in large portions of the country. In fact opponents of the elder Shinwatra have in the past accused him of--see if this sounds familiar--buying the votes of the poor by providing cheap credit, health care, and subsidies.

Yes, once you let the hoi polloi into the voting booth, God only knows who they'll elect. Just ask certain parties both here and in Egypt. 

Well, sometimes you have to correct the mistakes of the electorate, after all they aren't the brightest of bulbs. In Thailand the military, at this moment, is saying it will stay neutral. How long it will remain that way is anyone's guess. However, it is fairly easy to speculate a conference call or two has already been made from a planning room in Bangkok to Egyptian military headquarters.

Hey, sometimes a little how to advice is necessary. Besides, it is always good to make connections with like minded people. I'm sure there is a web site or two out there for just that.

It is a cold, dreary, day here on the southern plains. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. It is the optimist in me.

sic vita est


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