Wednesday, April 9, 2014
THAILAND IN CRISIS
Mass political protests have spread around the country, and the opposition has increased efforts to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The crux of the problem is that PM Yingluck is the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire tycoon who himself was ousted in 2008 and lives outside the country. He is hated by the country's elite and middle class, but supported by the rural and working classes. This recent uprising was sparked by the ruling party plans to introduce amnesty for the exiled Thaksin. The opposition People's Alliance for Democracy wear yellow, the national color, while the ruling supporters don red. This photo was taken on Sunday:
This was a pro-government rally, so they, too, march the streets.
Worse for me, the downtown area around my hotel, the Sheraton Grande Sukhamvit, was occupied by protesters until this week. Thankfully, they have since moved on to Lumpini Park. Rossini's, my favorite Italian restaurant in my hotel is temporarily closed, and the Sheraton is edgy. What am I doing here, anyway?
There have been 19 coup attempts since 1932, so this kind of unrest is almost a national heritage. I remember a couple of decades ago when I was in town to meet with energy officials, when there was a stalemate, and the ruling Thai government could not officially communicate with the U.S. Embassy. I actually served as a messenger between the two governments for a couple of days. These were the days when the air pollution was horrendous, and a two mile trip could easily take an hour…or two. I was also here in the Fall of 2008 and left just in time before both airports in Bangkok were occupied and shut down for more than a week. This certainly makes me wonder if I should leave as soon as possible before riots re-start this weekend. In 2010, 90 people died in these protests.
RETURN FOR THE LATEST NEWS! I haven't yet had a chance to walk the streets, and I'd better remember not to wear red or yellow.