Never would you think of the peaceful Thai people as street demonstrators, sit in protesters, and water ballooning rioters. It would seem that peaceful Thai smile and gentle bow would enable eternal peace and prosperity to a gracious and grateful host nation. We have always been treated most wonderfully in this country of “A Thousand Smiles”.
But, now Bangkok, its largest city and seat of government, is in the throes of total chaos, disruption of business, public transit standstill, and outward hostility and violence by both sides of this politically waged war. A great city has forever tainted their image in this millennium. With the economy rather unremarkably in slow recovery, it comes as a particularly inopportune time.
First, the two sides of this battle are not what it seems. The current government and Prime Minister are labeled as corrupt. Always true to some extent, the Thais and many of people in SE Asian countries, firmly believe ALL politicians are crooks. They just decide to vote for whoever is the lesser of two evils, much like we do in the United States.
The Red Shirt people want to abandon the current government leaders and parliament by holding new elections. The Red Shirts are reportedly supported by the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed billionaire now in exile. Locals say he alone is financing and directing this entire protest and call for a new government.
Truth be told, most people in Bangkok and rural Thailand in general, loved the man. They knew he was corrupt, but he got things done. He used his own money to build schools in areas where they were needed, especially in the poorer countryside. He rid the government bureaucracy of lifelong “do nothings” to streamline government duties and services. He got the new airport opened after years of stalling and chaos. He became a hero to many.
This despite having been involved in several scandalous tax and corporate dealings, both for himself, and his “holding company” run by his son.
These insights from an expert, Ric Browde, who travels there often, and has a business in Chiang Mai:
I hope this finds you well … and also that my answer below does not leave you even more confused than you might have been.
I have been watching the events of Thailand closely, and unfortunately the fears that I have expressed for the last several years have come true, and the country has basically erupted into civil war between the rich and educated versus the rural poor – who ironically are lead by Thailand’s richest man and most corrupt demagogue, Thaksin Shinawatra.
My gut feeling is this bloody disturbance will last between two more weeks and a month, until the Thai king finds himself forced to make a public stand and give one particular side his support (his wife is a known yellow supporter). However the King is in his 80’s and in the hospital. The news media are being quite cagey in their reports on his health which leads me to believe he is terminally ill. If the King should die before he endorses one side or the other everything changes and all bets are off.
If the King’s eldest son, who is not very respected, is crowned King there could be a gross escalation of the violence and the entire institution of Thai monarchy and government could be easily overthrown by Thaksin. If, as some are predicting, his eldest daughter is instead named Queen, then I would expect a lasting peace, with Thaksin kept in exile, new elections and a new PM, perceived within Thailand as a more legitimate, government installed.
In conclusion, we have been fortunate to visit Thailand many times. We have enjoyed most everything there, custom tailoring, great food, friendly people, a rich and vibrant culture, and we have made many friends. Let’s hope we can someday, return to this land of a thousand smiles.