Repression, Not Reconciliation – “Political Education Sessions” & Supression Efforts In Pro-Red Areas

The BBC has published an article by Vaudine England titled Divided Thailand seeks elusive ‘normalcy’. The main point they are making is essentially that while it seems that Thailand has returned to normalcy – an impression that the Thai government is working very hard on creating – behind the curtain, things are not so harmonious.

Some key points:

  • the government still persists that there is a conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy, although teams of hundreds of detectives have failed to provide specifics
  • Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, which managed the government’s response to the protests, still exists, and insists security must remain tight.
  • A state of emergency still holds sway over Bangkok and six other provinces – allowing for arrest without charge, censorship and other controls.
  • Despite this, at least two explosions have occurred in the centre of Bangkok, killing one person and injuring others.
  • “Things have quietened down on the surface but the issues are still very raw, they are lurking underneath” – political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak
  • Dr Thitinan believes the government is pursuing repression not reconciliation.
  • “The army […] have fanned out in pro-red areas for pacification and suppression efforts” – Dr Thitinan
  • political education sessions are being held in every province
  • “This time communities are divided, families are divided, workplaces are divided, companies are divided, even government offices are divided. This is a deeply divided country, a deeply divided city.” – Governor of Bangkok, Sukhumbhand Paripatra

Troubles In The Country, Troubles With Eastern & Western Neighbours, Hotels Suffering

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.

Yesterday, 19 red leaders and supporters have beenindicted on terrorism charges.

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.

Thai-Cambodian Conflict

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.

Thai-Myanmar Conflict

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.

Sex Museum

The first Asian sex museum has opened. It’s a lot less kinky than you would think of course.

Silent Anger In Isaan

David Streckfuss published an article in the Wall Street Journal that is very critical of the current government’s strategy. Worth a read, specially in terms of how it portrays the current situation in Isaan:

Fearing arrest or worse, many leaders have fled the region, gone underground or remained silent. They worry they are being watched and that their phones are bugged. Many are reluctant to meet with journalists or human-rights groups. There is a perception among red shirts that the government can do virtually anything it wants under the emergency law.


Left without access to red-shirt radio or television, many families have chosen to listen to nothing at all. They say watching the government-controlled news or even reading the newspaper upsets them too much.


The silence and the appearance of normality in the northeast, however, is deceiving. They mask feelings of fear, frustration, disgust and anger.

Historically, the mood now is not like after the coup in 2006 or even after the military crackdown in 1992 when scores of demonstrators were reported killed. It is more like Thailand after the bloody suppression of students at Thammasat in October 1976.

But best to read the whole thing here: Life Under Abhisit’s Thumb: The Thai government cracks down on dissent in the restive northeast

Military targeting journalists?

Reuters reports that a foreign journalist was shot during clashes between the protesters and the military. The journalist was reported to be:

“standing between troops and protesters when he was shot. He had been holding a video camera. Blood was seen streaming from his hand when he was carried away by protesters.”

He was carrying a camera and blood was streaming from his hand? I wonder if the military intentionally shot the cameraman in the hand or arm to stop him from filming the conflict.

In a separate article, a France24 journalist was reportedly shot in the leg. This shot also sounds like it was intended to stop the journalist from doing his work. I’m not sure if these two journalists are the same person. One was said to be bleeding from his hand and the other shot in the leg.

This other article indicates that at least three journalists have been injured. It definitely sounds like the military could be targeting journalists which is definitely a violation of human rights since journalists are in no way a threat to anyone.

Post-Red Shirt Thailand

Giles Ungpakorn’s latest piece in The Guardian lucidly and clearly explains the ideology behind the (possibly) now completed pro-democracy red-shirted protests. He rightly demonstrates the class-based nature of the demonstrations and the desire of the great majority of the Thai population to have the opportunity to vote for a government of their choice, without the old ruling elites using the courts to preventing this from happening.

Khun Giles was one of Thaksin’s strongest opponents (and a legitimate one not a bunch of corrupt liars like the columnists in The Nation, to take an example almost entirely at random); I, of course, as I feel obliged to point out from time to time, work for Khun Thaksin indirectly.

Various writers have been considering the red-shirt pro-democracy protests as part of a much deeper revolutionary process (including certain people enjoying intellectual freedom not possible in Thailand). According to this argument, the demonstrations and particularly the cancellation of the ASEAN summit, have put into train a series of events which can no longer be halted and this will change the social contract within the Kingdom. It is still illegal to discuss these changes for a person such as myself who lives in Thailand. That will probably tell you all you need to know about the situation.

Another implication from this line of arguing is that the current Democrat-led coalition is to be consigned to the dustbin of history – not just that they will be deposed but that their fate is no irrelevant. The puppet Abhisit will surely be told to resign in due course and other senior members of the government – their performance in the recent crisis has been abject and Thailnd’s international reputation has plummeted. I think we all knew the value of Abhisit and his past performance – it will be an interesting test of the cockroach-like nature of the Democrat party [next two sentences deleted on second thoughts since telling the truth in Thailand remains dangerous]/

In terms of violence, I have said many times that I do not condone it from any source. I notice that the international media are following the Democrat spin that only two people were killed and their inference, despite evidence, that they were killed by red shirts. Let us hope that a proper investigation of this incident takes place – the MO strongly suggests that it was provocateurs who were responsible.

Religiously minded people might console themselves with the idea of Abhisit in hell with the names of the six red shirts killed by the army (perhaps more) inscribed on his heart.