And So It Goes….
I hardly know where to begin when reflecting on the recent events in Bangkok. Over the past few weeks it was hard to escape the reality that this was all going to end in the mother of all train wrecks. That of course is exactly what happened. What’s amazing is that the death toll wasn’t higher. As it was, the bloody butcher’s bill was hard to comprehend. The damage to property was enormous, but not as bad as the damage to Thailand’s reputation. It will be a loooong time, if ever that TAT will ever convince foreigners that Thailand is anyone’s definition of The Land of Smiles.
So, who’s to blame for this debacle? Well, let’s start with the Red Shirts. These folks gave up any moral high ground they held when they stopped being political protestors and started behaving like thugs and hooligans. They of course were entitled to march, hold rallies and set their grievances before a national and international audience. (Not that free speech as we think of it in the west actually exists here.) If they wanted to camp out in Lumpini Park, so be it. What they were not entitled to do is shut down the center of the city for months, inflicting economic hardship on thousands of innocent people.
As for building barricades and stockpiling weapons, well let’s just say that the radical element of these poor sods must have been smoking something. What a delusion to think that a bunch of bamboo and burning tires was going to keep the army out if they were determined to break through. Oh, they had some weapons, but hardly anything to face down a military force.
When the handwriting was on the wall, and their occupation was obviously headed for disaster, these pathetic losers decided to leave on their version of a high note, namely burning down Central World and other important buildings. Well that certainly created a lot of good will!
A few weeks before the final debacle, Stick and I took an extensive stroll through the Red Shirt compound. For the most part, the people we saw were everyday folks who were trying to make some legitimate points. However, the leadership ranting on stage, (at a deafening volume I might add) were extremists of the worse stripe. Talk about foul mouthed! My Thai language lessons never included some of these words! It was clear that with these people at the helm, compromise was never going to be considered.
What ever your political opinion of Mr. Abhasit, he clearly left the door open for a way out of the conflict that would allow the Red Shirts a way to leave while saving face. The whole point of the demonstrations was to call for new elections. Mr. Abhasit agreed to new elections in November. The Red Shirt leadership had to know that it was impossible for the government to step down on the spot. A fall election was the best they could get. Instead, they chose to fall on their sword, and to drag everyone else down with them. Once again we see a shining example of Thai “flexibility” at work. “I want what I want. I want it now, and consequences be damned!” And so it goes…….yet again!
Even though I shudder to use the expression “fair and balanced”, there is plenty to say about the capability of the Yellows in the endless cycle of instability. Let’s start with the military coup of 2006 and the ouster of Mr. Thaksin. I have to laugh when I hear Yellow supporters accuse The Square Headed One of gasp……corruption! Well duh! Corruption is ingrained into every facet of Thai society. Everyone, from the Thai equivalent of the local dog catcher, to the highest level of government is either giving or receiving bribes…..Oh; I mean “tea money.” I once asked a Thai friend if every Thai official was corrupt. His reply? “Does a fish swim in water?” What your average Somchai and Somporn want to know about a politician is besides the fact that he is corrupt, is he going to do any good for me? For many poor Thais in the North and Northeast, Mr. Thaksin, while probably lining his pockets with loot, instituted programs that helped them eek out an existence. These include access to low cost medical care and loans for farmers and small businessmen.
All of this did not sit well with the Yellows who are to a great extent made of Chinese-Thai elites who wanted to protect their privileges. Many consider the millions of poor Thais as being too stupid to vote…..and of course they cried, “Oh, Thaksin bought all of their votes!” Ha! As if they never spread around any “walking around money”! Not being completely naive, I have no doubt that Thaksin did hand out plenty of cash…..but these folks would have voted for him anyway!
So having ousted Thaksin, the Yellows managed to have the Thai Rak Thai party disqualified from running for office. Unfortunately for the Yellows, it became clear that the majority of Thais would continue to elect Thaksin surrogates. Hmmm. What to do? Oh, have thousands of Yellow Shirts march on Bangkok! Have them occupy Government House and refuse to leave unless the government stepped down……and of course, and who can possibly forget…….storm Suvarnabhumi Airport and hold tens of thousands of innocent people virtual prisoners in Thailand. In the end, the Yellows got what they wanted. Oh what a glorious democracy Thailand is! Before the current troubles, the current government clearly was not ready to have an election. Why? Because they would lose! This is not surprising since there are more poor people in Thailand than rich ones.
And so the Red Shirts decided to pick a page from the PAD playbook. March, occupy, and refuse to leave until their demands were met……..and it might have worked too, if they had gone about it in another way. Instead they succumbed to the “Dark Side”, resulting in needless bloodshed and wanton destruction.
As for the future, well first we can look forward to the prosecution of those responsible for this mess. These criminals deserve everything coming to them, and knowing the Thai justice system, I fully expect they will get plenty. How long will it take to rebuild everything that was destroyed? I fear it will take a long time. Will there actually be elections come the fall? Who knows? If there are elections, will the government attempt to ban the Reds from running? Probably. If the Reds are allowed to run and win, will the Yellows accept their victory? Probably not. If so, we will soon find ourselves back where we are now, at unbreakable impasse. And so it goes, on and on here in the former Land of Smiles.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the leaders of the red shirts. Some of the shit they incited was nasty and some of their speeches – all of which are on YouTube – may come back to haunt them…