Thai Crisis As Seen From The North
I hope I am wrong about much of this.
But cannot help feeling that the current visual protest activity is like the ice berg. Only a small amount of the main problem is visible.
Fifteen years ago, very few rural folk of the Isaan or the Lanna regions had computers in their houses, TVs in their living rooms, pick up trucks in their driveways, tractors in their sheds or had the intellectual ability to pick up an English language newspaper and understand some of it.
One of the biggest changes in Thailand in my time has been the growing use of the English language.
For the first time in their history the rural population is somewhat educated and they do not like all that they see and hear. This particularly applies to comments made disparaging their intelligence or the fact that their vote should not count as equal. Statements could have been made 20 years ago and would have passed being uncomprehended, That has changed.
The current unrest in Bangkok could be settled easily in a day by the Prime Minister resigning in favour of the selected people's committee.
I have much sympathy for the embattled woman as she will be well aware that there would be a huge uprising in the North and North East if that happened.
She is between a rock and a hard place. If she stays she is blamed for being the reason, if she goes she will be known historically as the person who by her going allowed a blood bath.
The electoral process in Thailand can be compared to the Philippines. Nearly thirty years ago, President Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown and greatly discredited. And yet today, the Marcos name in the form of his children and his widow win any election they contest in the Marcos strongholds in North Luzon. The same is a feature with the Shinawatras. Although they are not local by blood and are fairly recent arrivals from China. It is rumoured they do not even speak the local language peculiar to the Lanna region. However they are considered "our people" by the Northern Thais. Politics in Thailand is very much based on clans and geography.
The people of Isaan speak a separate language as do the Thai Lanna people of the North. Along with the Bangkok Thais these 3 major groups have co existed well for generations.
Where to go from here? I understand from those with greater linguistic skills than mine that there is no direct translation for the English word " compromise" into the Thai language. Apparently the closest is " a middle way" but that is hardly equal to compromise. There is no Mandela languishing in a Thai jail that we know of.
During the present crisis the northerners feel they are being held back, and they are right. It is the correct decision in the avoidance of loss of life.
Nowhere in Bangkok does there seem to be a Thai person who has any time for the idea of partition or 2 separate states. They say it would hurt economically, I would say the present state of affairs is also bad for the economy. The much more serious subject is the growing loss of life. I fear that the usual collection of hotheads, that every country has, will have been watching their leaders on both sides break the rules. These fringe elements/ terrorists may well take advantage of the loose authority or power vacuum to do real damage as we saw when the Reds came to town in 2010.
In the meantime, life in the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai goes on. Except for the fact that the hotels are completely full as a spin off effect of tourists and travellers being diverted from the southern tourist spots. Of particular note is the presence of large groups of Mainland Chinese. Whereas many nationalities take little heed of travel warnings put out by their authorities, the Mainland Chinese are quite obedient when following travel advice published by their government.
Can the Reds be held back? I don't know. I do know that there are folk in Bangkok who fear a similar fate to the aristocracy during the French Revolution. Can it happen in Thailand? We certainly hope not. However the Thai people I have observed are extremely long suffering up to a certain point and all of us living here are aware of incidents of Thai men and women going completely off balance when pushed past their point of tolerance.
Huge changes have occurred in the rural areas of Thailand since the beginning of this century. Mainly in better education through social media, an increase in economic status and a sense of political empowerment. What happens next? We pray for peace but prepare for the other side of the coin.