Another year and another warning of a drought leading to a possible water war as peasant farmers search for the means to stay alive. Dams and reservoirs are apparently at only 66% capacity and too much land is under cultivation for available water resources, according to the Royal Irrigation Department.
Milton Osborne, writing about Cambodia in 1966,* observed this about the Cambodian countryside:
“There was much that was deceptive about the Cambodian countryside. By the middle of the rainy season and for some two months after the rains had ceased the omnipresent green of vegetation and foliage gave a false impression of abundant water and lush fecundity. In fact, Cambodia was a country where water was readily available but away from the rivers and with only a limited amount of artificial irrigation vast areas of land were unproductive. Almost every basic guide to Cambodia noted the sparseness of human settlement. Considerably less than half of the theoretically arable land of the country was cultivated. For very good reasons. Much of the land that was not farmed was not irrigated and without irrigation the risk of crop failure hung like a recurrent but unpredictable phantom before any cultivator who was foolhardy enough to ignore the uncertainty of the monsoon rains. No exaggeration is involved in the simple but always potentially devastating fact that should the rains not come in their normal fashion a Cambodian peasant farmer could face not just want but famine.”
Did that misery and despair contribute to the victory of the Khmer Rouge and subsequent events?
In Before Kampuchea: Preludes to Tragedy (Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2004), p.130.
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.