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Letter from Thailand: October 1, 2008 – PAD Protests Against Somchai Wongsawat Continue

PAD "peaceful protesters" armed with batons and sticks

 

Dear Reader,

Sawatdee kha from Bangkok, Thailand.

Well, at the moment, after our latest round of political turmoil, it’s actually been quiet in Bangkok now for a couple of weeks. The People’s Alliance for Democracy is still protesting against the new Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, but the demonstrations are much more relaxed than before as Somchai is actually a quiet, polite kind of guy so there’s not much to complain about right now.

Of course, he is ex-Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra’s, brother-in-law and half the country is upset by that. In true Thai fashion though, as long as the Prime Minister is polite and non-confrontational (regardless of whether he does anything or not) he will be pretty popular.

Weather-wise, it’s been dismal. It’s still raining every day, both morning and night, and has been doing for almost six weeks now. It gets seriously old being drenched in the morning on your way to work and soaked again on your way home. Thai friends tell me the weather in Thailand is getting worse every year and they all blame global warming. However, this isn’t stopping them from sitting in their cars for three hours a day in huge traffic jams, even though a more globally responsible alternative would be the skytrain or underground.

This week in the news, the main story from the US has been the $700 billion bailout. Overall, it looks like this will only have a small impact on the Thai economy. The Thai stock market has remained pretty stable through all of the uproar of the last week and, after the financial crisis in the 1990s, Thailand diversified its export business. Instead of relying on the US for most of its business, it concentrated on increasing exports to Europe and to other places in Asia.

As most other economies are not likely to fail like the US economy is going to (the bailout is a short-term stop gap and won’t help the US economy for long), then Thailand is not likely to experience a huge crisis. Thai economists think the Thai economy will be sluggish through the end of the year (sluggish being an 8-10% growth in exports rather than the 20% projected at the beginning of the year!). All I know is, half my friends in the US cannot find jobs, and all my friends in Thailand are turning jobs down because there are so many out there. I know which country I would rather be in at the moment and it’s not America.

In entertainment news, Thai TV fanatics are now holding their breaths to see if Mai Sarasas and Oliver Faivre will be the next Thai team kicked off the Amazing Race Asia. Natalie Glebova and Pailin Rungratanasunthorn, the other team from Thailand, were eliminated last week (thank God, because Glebova is an idiot and supremely unqualified to represent Thailand!) and nobody I know thinks Mai and Oliver will last much longer.

Hopefully though, there won’t be an elimination this week as there have been too many too soon into the show and a lot of people I know are losing interest in it.

Well, that’s pretty much it from a very rainy Thailand. Hope you have less rain than we do and that the heat isn’t killing you either! Until next week…..

Sawatdee kha from Thailand