I returned to Bangkok on Sunday night, greeted by news that the political protests had escalated and there had been fatalities the day before, the result of hot-headed Red Shirt protesters confronting students at Ramkamhaeng University. But that incident was only one facet of the ongoing political protests that have unsettled the city, and the nation, in recent weeks.
Today is the King of Thailand’s birthday, also known as Father’s Day here in the kingdom. It’s a national holiday and a very important one. And in respect to the country’s “Father”, the longest-reigning monarch in the world, even the various groups of protesters are taking a break and observing a respectful truce. But I fear it’s an “eye of the hurricane” sort of situation, and in the coming days more protests and conflict will once again take center stage.
What is it about Thailand and these bizarre protests? This time around we have idiots blowing whistles, hoping that this and other “peaceful” acts of protest will send the popular, democratically-elected Prime Minister into political oblivion. About five years ago we had the Yellow Shirts, a group of Royalists opposed to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his “Thai Rak Thai” cronies, whose protests expanded to the point where both of Bangkok’s international airports shut down operations for a full week.
And then three years ago came the real protest-a-palooza, the scary Red Shirts, a group firmly pro-Thaksin, who set up camp in Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong district — conveniently located next to the city’s biggest shopping centers — and protested for nearly three full months. But those were not docile protests, but shrill, confrontational, antagonistic rallies that spread like a cancer, infecting other parts of the city, shutting down more shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. We ended up having a city curfew, police officers and soldiers patrolling the streets with rifles. It was more than unsetting, it was fucking scary. I don’t hesitate to call the Red Shirt leadership a bunch of terrorists and thugs. They instigated, aggravated, and accelerated those protests to the point where they basically held the city hostage. Even when the government agreed to their demands to hold early elections, they still refused to leave their rally sites, now spread further to Chitlom and Lumpini Park. No, the almighty Red Shirt leaders wouldn’t back down, but they didn’t hesitate to put their supporters, mostly poor people from the country’s Northeast region, in harm’s way, and later they disingenuously played the victim card, moaning and crying for justice after some of those pawns were killed in an attempt to restore order to the ravaged heart of the city.
As far as I’m concerned this Red Shirt group is plague that has damaged Thailand, perhaps irreparably. And I don’t have any love for the Red-Shirt-backed Peua Thai government, led by PM Yingluck Shinawatra — a political novice with zero credentials to hold office, but hey, she’s Thaksin’s sister, so the party continues!
I read this half-baked synopsis of the current conflict on a major online news site yesterday:
The long-running political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based elite backed by the military and the palace against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin, a billionaire businessman-turned-populist politician.
Ah, the working-class poor “fighting the good fight” against their rich oppressors. Too bad that’s not true in this case. But that’s typical of the clueless international news media, trying to simplify a complex situation, and getting their analysis hopelessly distorted in the process. If I hear any more moronic references to “The Bangkok Elite” I’m gonna do me a tribute to Root Boy Slim: Boogie till you puke!
The Red Shirts might be a bunch of thugs, but the new breed of protesters that are involved with the current anti-government protests are also an unsettling group. They are not nearly as violent or confrontational as the Red Shirts, yet I find their protests nearly as disturbing. They are being led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a veteran blowhard who until recently was a secretary-general of the opposition Democrat Party, and a member of parliament. But he resigned from those positions to lead these protests and his rowdy calls to overthrow “The Thaksin Regime” and install a “People’s Council” as the temporary government have drawn a surprisingly amount of support. But I don’t trust this guy Suthep either. He strikes me just another creepy politician with ulterior motives, and I think what he and the protesters are doing will only cause more conflict and division. I don’t see a happy ending.
No matter how bad or corrupt the Yingluck government is, the fact of the matter is that her party won the last election by a landslide and they have the right to rule. Suthep and the Democrats have zero hope of winning an election at this point in time, so they seem to think that disposing the current government by other means is justified. Both sides kept blathering on about “democracy” when I suspect that neither group truly wants such a thing.
The Land of Smiles? Not any longer. Welcome to the land of Fuck-head Politicians and Shit-stupid Protesters!