It’s mothers day, and the Queen’s birthday. Banks, post offices and many companies are closed today and people make a lot of merit.
The Irish Times has published an article yesterday titled Far from Bangkok, rebel Red Shirts prepare for a comeback – and the title does a good job at describing what it is about. The author basically writes that things are not as cozy as they might seem (or the government would like them to appear).
While there are no more protests on the streets, no burning buildings or snipers shooting from the roofs, the conflict that lead to all this is far from over.
Prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has effectively declared war on the reds since the Bangkok siege ended, drawing up draconian laws and reshuffling the government and military to strengthen the anti-rebel ranks. Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, a key figure in the 2006 coup, is set to take over as army chief.
The authorities have been given a mostly free hand to round up the rebels and their supporters – 40,000 websites have been shut down, according to the Bangkok Post; website users, operators and service providers have been arrested. The Red Shirts say some people have simply been disappeared. “It’s a witch hunt,” says Dao, who works as a foreign tour guide.
Many people in Bangkok on the other hand seem to be fed up with the thing and generally prefer not to talk about it – or be reminded about it. Sometimes it seems like they treat it like a bad dream from which they awoke, and if they forget about it, it will be over with. Unfortunately, the discontent among wide parts of the population, specially in the Northeastern and Northern provinces is still exists, even if it isn’t so notable in Bangkok.
Eric Ellis from the Sydney Morning Heral published an article titled Thailand’s Perfect Solution. In it, he quotes Finance Minister Korn:
He adds: ”There is a problem [that] people have moved from farms to factories. The rural poor have become the urban poor and in my opinion being urban poor is much worse, the living conditions are worse and your relative wealth is worse, cost of living – exposed to the attractions of wealth, which is a psychological issue.”
And he has made a very good and often overlooked point there. What’s more, even in the rural areas there is a stronger feeling of poverty. Sure, now they have motorcycles, pickups and mobile phones – but much of what used to make for the quality of life in the countryside is gone or undergoing changes.
As just one example – kids making bamboo rafts in a river was a fun thing to do. Now, many of these rivers are off limits, and there often is no bamboo left because the rivers have been turned into canals. The easy answer is usually to say that it’s villagers who profited from improved infrastructure, yet, very few villagers have filled their pockets with construction projects. So while being urban poor is much worse than being rural poor, even being rural poor is worse now than it was 20 years ago in many areas. Which explains why there is so much discontent and anger in a region that according to studies has the highest gross happiness index.
Korn suggests increasing the minimum wage – of course, it might then also be worth to invest some money into training workers better so they work more productively in the long run and provide more value to their employers. And a higher qualified work force might do some good for Thailand as a whole as well.
Meanwhile, there is a new episode of the Bangkok Podcast that talks about why Thai’s love white skin so much, which should be fun to listen to (I haven’t yet).
And Raimon Land has secured financing for the last remaining freehold land on Rajadamri Road for a luxury project overlooking the Lumpini Park.
After Cambodia called for outside mediators to help resolve the conflict, Thailand’s PM Abhisit declared that this was not necessary. And the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Committee postpones talk indefinitely due to documents not being ready.
There is some trouble on our Western borders too – although nothing new or urgent. The Myanmar government had shut down Mae Sot-Myawaddy crossing point since July 18 in response to Thailand’s embankment building on the Moei River which it accuses of changing the dynamics of the water flow and possibly leading to erosion on the other side of the river last year. Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said that the border closure costs 2.7 million US-Dollar a day.
Banyan Tree Sells Thailand Hotel
A subsidiary of Banyan Tree will sell one of it’s hotels in Thailand.
move will help reduce its exposure in Thailand.
This is in line with its strategy to diversify its assets away from Thailand, given the country’s increased political risks.
So while the hospitality sector seems to suffer (the hotels are caught up in a price war), CB Richard Ellis stated that the property market has not been impacted by the political turmoils.
The first Asian sex museum has opened. It’s a lot less kinky than you would think of course.