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REST EASY

No matter how ugly the political conflict, how reckless the street fight, the whole of Thailand can go into a photo-freeze, complete with smiles, festoons and buntings, in an instant. It happened in December last year on the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, when anti-government protestors and the riot police exchanged roses instead of blows. It has happened again with the onset of the famed Songkarn. Instead of flags and placards, people on the street now sport water cannons to douse passers-by with water in keeping with the countryís happily subversive ritual of cleansing on the eve of the new year. For at least seven days, the country will forget that it is in the thick of a political crisis and make little issue as people die in hordes in the midst of drunkenness and revelry. Yet, the dourness of the political scene could not be very far from the mind, especially since Thailand seems nowhere close to resolving last yearís crisis. Days before the anti-government protests went on a holiday, the movementís leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, seemed to initiate a final push by reminding people of the significance of Songkarn.

That job may have already been taken over by the anti-corruption and judicial bodies in Thailand that have targeted the government of Yingluck Shinawatra for allegedly unconstitutional actions. Thailandís latest Constitution goes back to 2007, when the anti-Shinawatra lobby was in power, and bears this lobbyís fears about democracy being used as a tool by Thaksin Shinawatra to monopolize politics. Ms Shinawatra used the overwhelming majority enjoyed by her Pheu Thai party in parliament to change the balance ó take the legislation that tried to turn the senate from being a semi-appointed body to an elected body. Unfortunately, that has made the anti-Shinawatra lobby more nervous and vengeful. The current crisis is the result of this tug of war. Given the cases lined up against Ms Shinawatra, thanks to the unusual enthusiasm that the judiciary and anti-corruption bodies have displayed in initiating them, it is unlikely that Ms Shinawatra, the caretaker prime minister, will be able to hold on till the next government is in place. The February elections have been nullified and Thailandís election commission is unable to slate elections before another five months. All that points to an enormous turmoil in Thailand. It is good that the country is taking a break now.