I am sitting here in the Midwest USA. It's cold (20 – 25 degrees F) with a nice gusty north wind to make it feel even a touch colder. There is a light dusting of snow on the ground, as well as some ice on the roads. It's at these times I like to think of Thailand – the hot, humid air, the beautiful scenery of green trees, blue ocean, brown beaches, the spicy food, and the wonderful women (shhh – don't tell my girlfriend !!).
However, given the current crisis, my love of Thailand has simmered a bit. I know the average Thai is embarrassed by recent happenings and doesn't agree with the methods being used by PAD, nor do they encourage the bombings of PAD protesters by the team in red. From the Bangkok Post -" More than 75% of respondents were ashamed of the red-yellow actions, and more than 65% agreed they were less proud of the country and 58% said they had not taken sides." I don't classify the occupation of the government buildings or the airport as terrorism, per se, but as a protest against the government. I'm all for free speech and the right to protest, but this time I believe it's gone too far.
I don't live in Thailand, so I'm not going to start pretending I know what it feels like to live there right now. I'm guessing that the average farang tourist or employee doesn't feel directly threatened by the antics of the protesters – after all, they are not protesting against farangs. Away from the airport and government buildings, maybe it would be hard for the casual visitor to tell anything was different (Stick – you'd know better than anyone) <Yes, you're right – Stick>. Of course, if the visitor wanted to leave, well, then they'd definitely be aware that things had gone south in a hurry.
Here is the crux of my post. Thailand has dug itself a hole – a deep hole without any way of getting out, aside from bloodshed. Obviously, PAD is not going to leave the airport or government buildings till the resignation of Somchai is official. It doesn't look like that will happen. UDD still supports Thaskin and has rallies of their own. Sooner or later they will meet, somewhere. And when they do, my bet is that blood will be shed. And that still won't solve anything. The police have shown that they are useless when it comes to cracking down on the protesters (and my guess is that they really don't want to). PAD has repeatedly stated that any attempt to remove them from the airport will result in violence, making any police action a guarantee of violent confrontation. It would be nice if the army would simply march in and remove PAD, but it looks as though they are in cahoots with them. I don't see the army ending the standoff at the airport.
So, what happens? If Somchai refuses to step down, PAD continues to camp out at the airport, denying incoming flights a place to land. If Somchai does step down, then what? Will Thaskin come back into power? After all, the poor farmers and the rural folks still love him and would vote him in, if he were allowed to run. If PAD has their way, neither will run for any government position. But the replacement won't be accepted by UDD, which will result in more protests.
This has damaged Thailand's reputation beyond repair, at least for the foreseeable future. The Thais have proven that they cannot provide security for their country, which would explain why the Muslim insurgency down south has continued unabated for years. If protesters armed with clubs can take over an airport and prevent the police from evicting them, then what does that say for security elsewhere in Bangkok or other tourist destination? The average non-sex tourist (oh, how I hate that connotation) that may have been thinking about spending a fair amount of money in Thailand won't consider going there now – there are plenty of cheap, warm, beautiful countries all over the world. Will the single male still arrive (if they can) or will they end up in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, or Singapore, looking for the girlfriend experience there instead? Heck, even countries that are thought of as being dangerous due to militant factions (Egypt, Israel, etc) at least do their best to protect the tourists that vacation there.
And don't forget about regular industry. Many businesses use airplanes as their choice for transporting goods as well as receiving them. With the airport shut down for however long, I can guarantee there are plenty of small businesses that will not make it, especially when one factors in the collapsing world economy.
And the people I am most concerned about – what about the poor bar girls? No tourists = no barfine, no money for the girlfriend experience, and no long-term sponsorship. They'll have to go back to farming, studying and the like. That's no good. When the girls go, so does the bar industry. Sad indeed.
As I stated before, I don't foresee a solution that does not end in violence. I hope that this can be resolved peacefully and diplomatically – but given what I have read and the amount of corruption and pocket stuffing that goes on, I'm not going to hold my breath.
My only hope is that the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej will convince both sides that their present course of action is not acceptable and that the Thais should work together to make their country proud once again. He is the voice of reason.
Like you, I cannot see any easy solution. And that is what makes the whole thing such a very real concern.