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CRISIS STATE

The anti-government protest movement in Thailand that appeared to have been waning has picked up again. Two things have contributed to the sudden rush of adrenaline —one, the entry of rice farmers into the protest and two, the steady peeling away of the veneer of peacefulness. Although farmers in north Thailand remain loyal to the Yingluck Shinawatra government, those in the south, where the Democratic Party rules the roost, have turned rebellious. They allege that they have not been paid for months for the rice bought by the government while the authorities claim that the unrest is to blame for the disrupted payment. Even in peaceful times, the Shinawatra government was having problems in passing off its rice subsidy programme as a success. Rice bought from farmers at almost double the market price was proving unsaleable in the international and domestic market. The national anti-corruption commission — suspending hundreds of Pheu Thai party legislators for their alleged unconstitutional behaviour — is on the verge of acting against Ms Shinawatra for the botched rice subsidy programme. The pending judgment is another headache for the prime minister, who, despite having received an overwhelming vote in the recent elections, is unable to form the government because the electoral process is yet to be completed in south Thailand, where the Democrats will not let that happen.

Meanwhile, in Bangkok, the protest is growing more violent with every passing day. The emergency declared by Ms Shinawatra to help the elections take place smoothly has failed to prevent protesters from assembling or besieging government offices. The open provocation has led to clashes like the one that killed four recently. With the government immobilized and the democratic process suspended, Thailand runs the risk of turning into a dysfunctional state. Apart from the threat of a military takeover, there also looms the fear of an economic crisis. Would the Democrats risk taking the blame for all that?