The situation in Thailand is not as black and white as The Post portrayed it in its Jan. 16 editorial, “Turning point in Thailand .” Neither side in the conflict comes close to representing democracy.

On the one side is a group led by the Shinawatra clan, whose greed and blatant corruption was too much even for a society tolerant of corruption. On the other side is a group whose vested interest lies in perpetuating a feudal patronage system. Both sides have gained power by manipulating the population through propaganda and empty promises or by using brutal force.

Thailand has never been a democratic country with rule of law, free speech and fair elections. Any criticism of the monarchy and the military — the two key institutions — will result in swift and severe punishment. Essential for the rule of law is an independent and effective judiciary; in Thailand the judiciary is cowardly and corrupt. All elections in the country have been marked by vote-buying and intimidation, particularly in rural areas. There have been 18 military coups in Thailand since the overthrow of the absolute monarchy in 1932.

The U.S. government is correct in approaching this powder keg cautiously and carefully.

Kawin Wilairat, Washington