Sawatdee Kha from Thailand
As I’m sure many of you are aware, Thailand is all over the news again. For the last two weeks, it’s been because of the latest round of demonstrations against the government, demonstrations which turned violent at the beginning of the week. One man was killed and several other people were injured then, yesterday, two university students going to another demonstration were shot by PAD thugs passing on motorbikes. Luckily, they both survived. Why is this happening now, you might ask? Well, it’s wrapped up in the naivety of many Thais and the rampant corruption that infiltrates every corner of Thai politics.
Two years ago, Thailand had a military coup. The coup was backed by the rich, so mostly by Bangkokians, to get rid of then-Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. At the time, most Thais in Bangkok were thrilled about the coup as it was widely known that Thaksin was a corrupt Prime Minister who was stealing money from the people. A year later though, after the military government had practically run the country’s economy into the ground, people weren’t so happy.
Then, we had an election, and Samak Sundaravej was elected Prime Minister. At this time, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (the PAD) started their demonstrations against the government again. This time, because they said Samak Sundaravej was a puppet of ex-Prime Minister, Thaksin, and was only holding the Prime Ministership until Thaksin could return to Thailand and take over. That might have been the intention at the beginning but my sense is that’s not the situation now. Samak seems to see himself as Prime Minister making decisions and not as a puppet of Thaksin. He’s also insistent he will not resign, no matter what the PAD decides to do.
Now, the PAD, for all their talk about wanting to ‘save Thailand from corruption’ are just as corrupt as the present government, if not more so. They are backed by the rich, the military and the royalists and their goal is to take democracy away from Thailand. Their latest idea is that democracy doesn’t work for Thailand, “because the poor get to vote and they vote the wrong way” (huh?) so they want democracy thrown out. In its place, their will be a parliamentary form of government where government officials will choose 70% of Thailand’s politicians and Thais will only be allowed to choose 30%. Now, as Thais don’t trust most of their politicians anyway, why would they want them to choose other politicians for them?
The main problem is, the PAD (run by wealthy business men who see democracy as a threat to them and their profits) are pulling in hundreds of thousands of Thais who are badly-educated, often poor, and don’t have any clue about what a government really should be. They also believe everything the corrupt leaders of the PAD are telling them.
The present Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, has been in office for seven months. Not long enough to make any major changes, yet many Thais think he should have done so already. They also don’t understand the meaning of democracy – one man one vote – and regardless of whether or not you think that man voted the ‘right’ way, that’s not your place to decide (and certainly not your place to stop it!).
Overall, Thailand is a mess right now. It’s politically unstable, deeply divided and not a place where anyone in their right minds would think of investing. These demonstrations have already caused the Thai economy to lose billions of dollars. Tourists from all over the world are cancelling trips, ports are being closed so goods cannot come in or leave, foreigners are taking money out of Thailand, and international businesses that once planned on opening factories here are now building them somewhere else. All of this caused by the PAD, who say they love Thailand. If they love Thailand so much, why are they trying to destroy it?
As a foreigner, who is only here temporarily, it saddens me to see Thailand going through so many terrible events and having their democracy so badly damaged. Unfortunately, with neither Samak or the PAD willing to back down, it looks like this state of affairs could go on for a long time. Meanwhile, Thailand’s economy will continue to suffer and poor Thais, who are always the ones affected, will suffer along with it.
Sorry this is such a gloomy letter, but there’s not much happy stuff to report this week. Hopefully, next week will be better!