Where Do We Go From Here?
So the airports are reopening, and quickly. Just in time for HM The King ’s birthday. No matter that the General Manager of the airport said it would normally take at least a week to check the systems and security. And someone else said it would be 15th December. And someone else said it could take weeks or months. A lot of people here like to talk, even if they don’t actually know what they are talking about or have any facts to back up what they are saying. The most important thing is to get their name in the media. But anyway, the hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers who have been held hostage for a week finally know that they have the prospect of returning home within a few days, as quickly as the airlines can clear the backlog.
The airports are being given back to the public by the PAD because the courts have ordered the Prime Minister and many of his party, and members of two others that form the coalition, to stand down because of vote buying in the last election. This is a significant event in the history of Thai politics, because all parties have always indulged in vote buying, whether it was offering 100 baht or so or a free chicken dinner. No matter that the people could just take the money or meal and vote for the opposition anyway. Thais never look beyond the first step, at the consequences of what they do, as the siege of the airports so clearly demonstrates. The only thought was to occupy, with no thought of the consequences. Because can anyone really believe the PAD wanted, deliberately, to put maybe 1,000,000+ Thais out of work. Anyone who thought things through would have realised what the results would be. But then, many of the PAD are middle class and the elite, and it is always the poor who lose out while the bosses stay put. So perhaps they did know and just didn’t care.
As I've already written, the only way the airports could be released from the grip of the PAD terrorists was when they themselves decided to leave. But why were they there in the first place? Everyone knew that the court decision was to be made this week, and it was understood what the verdict was likely to be – that the PM would be ordered to stand down. So why take over the airport to demand his resignation instead of waiting a week longer, knowing they were going to get their wish and he would be gone? They overwhelmingly damaged their own cause, making many of those who previously supported them turn away in disappointment and disgust. And their tactic, used by Saddam Hussein and others, of using women and children as human shields, was nauseating. By enticing, bussing, such people to the airport, the PAD knew they could never be attacked by the police or armed forces. Why they would so damage their own cause and image, as well as the reputation of Thailand all over the world, when ‘victory’ was only a week away is one of those mysteries we foreigners could never hope to understand.
So where do we go from here? Will the people responsible for the anticipated loss of many hundreds of thousands of jobs and the heamoraging of billions of baht from the economy be arrested? No. Will those responsible for wrecking Thailand's image and decimating the tourism industry be punished? No. Having seen that any bunch of thugs can easily take over the country's most important infrastructure without anyone lifting a finger to stop them or to resolve the situation, will any country or business have any faith that the country is a safe and stable place to do business? No. And has the PAD actually won? No.
The PAD has decided to leave the airports because the court decision has allowed them to save face by pretending they have won. The PM has gone, but the government they so despise as a puppet of Thaksin has not. Nothing has actually changed, nothing at all. As I wrote after the last election in a submission entitled Post-Election Blues, ‘The military coup achieved nothing, except to put the conflict on hold for a while … it is a near certainty that demonstrators will return to the streets …. what is clear is that the country is still as divided as it was 18 months ago’.
And it still is, of course. Perhaps even more so now that the courts have ruled to disband a democratically elected party. Of course, in a banana republic such as Thailand that is a democratically elected but crooked and corrupt party. Let us make one thing clear. Pretty much all the politicians in Thailand are corrupt. They are not there to serve the people as they are in more advanced societies. They are there for their own benefit, to gain face and cream off as much money as they can from any scheme they can get involved in. The courts are only now, at the prompting of HRH earlier this year, beginning to take a stand against such practices. The vote buying this week, the conviction of Thaksin and his wife for corruption and tax evasion respectively a few weeks ago, are early examples of trying to drag Thailand out of the 19th century.
Whether that will continue or not, who knows. The aim of Thaksin’s supporters is to stamp down the judges as they believe their ex-leader when he says that the courts themselves are corrupt. Can you believe the arrogance of someone calling the courts corrupt when his own lawyers were jailed for offering them a bribe. It takes the breath away, doesn’t it. But he has millions of supporters because, as well as being corrupt like all the others, he alone did something to help the poor, which make up the vast majority of the Thai population. That’s what the PAD just don’t get, or don’t want to know. The PAD can demand as many new elections as they like, and the result will always be the same because there are more poor than there are rich. Pandora’s Box has been opened and it cannot be closed again, no matter how much the PAD may protest.
Will they therefore give up their fight? Will it snow in Bangkok at Christmas? The deep rift, the chasm, in Thai society will continue, with rich against poor, the haves against the have-nots, for the foreseeable future. There will continue to be, as there have been for years now, clashes on the street as those with opposing and intractable views fight for what they believe in. There is no middle ground here, no opportunity for compromise. Nothing has been resolved. This is not the end. It is only the end of the beginning.
You're very right when you say that this issue is far from resolved and there is a long, long way to go…