The attack on a PAD rally by pro-government thugs in Udon Thani is a disgracefully violent escalation in Thailand’s political standoff. In a democratic system everyone has a right to peaceful protest, and protesters have a right to expect police protection against violent attack. Those responsible for the attack on the PAD rally should be pursued, charged and dealt with by the courts.

The PAD leadership must also take its share of responsibility. As I have argued before, the PAD is not content with protest within a democratic framework. Their strategy is to keep pushing the system until it breaks. They have openly courted military intervention. They have stoked nationalist passions which have bought Thai-Cambodia relations to the brink of conflict. And they have explicitly rejected the expression, and resolution, of political differences through electoral processes. If Thailand’s political system has taken another turn away from the peaceful resolution of difference, then the PAD leadership must share part of the blame.

If indeed Udon Thani’s political thugs have caused the death of a PAD protester, then they have given the PAD a martyr that its undemocratic and increasingly discredited cause so desperately needs. Thuggery and madness!