As the reality of the economic crisis starts to settle in around the world (yes, it is real and yes, it is going to hurt), people start to think about their jobs, their security and their neighbours and many people are beginning to conclude that they are very unhappy about the whole thing. This is resulting in several things, the first of which is rioting. In many European countries already, crowds are starting to engage in public disorder in protest at the loss of jobs, juxtaposed with the scenes of corporate greed which have become familiar. The second manifestation of unhappiness is a combination of nationalism and xenophobia – as so often, this is aimed at migrant workers. In Britain, strikes are breaking out in protest against a non-British company running a power installation which sub-contracts all its work out to non-British workers who are imported as required. The nationalism aspect is starting to emerge in America as the ‘buy American’ provisions in President Obama’s economic stimulus package – the Democrat party there has long held a streak of trade protectionism and it would not be surprising to see that become influential in the months to come, especially if the situation does not start to improve very soon (which it will not).
Will these things start to occur in Thailand? Well, there has always been an element of casual bigotry in Thai society aimed at migrant workers from neighbouring countries, specifically Burma [Myanmar], Laos and Cambodia. Many of those workers suffer from abuse of different kinds anyway and it would not be difficult to imagine this becoming intensified.
Also, there is a tradition of strikes and protests being brought to Bangkok and these are likely to increase as more jobs are lost – especially when it will not be clear to most workers involved why their jobs have been lost and even more so if employers do not meet their obligations for compensation.
It is reasonable to assume that the military forces will step in and take severe steps against striking workers if they are considered to be a threat to public order.