August 29, 2008

Protestors in Thailand

If you come from a culture where protests are not every day occurrence such as I do, it is a bit daunting to hear on the news that national television station has been sieged and forced to go off the air for a short while, that protesters are storming government buildings and surrounding the prime minster's house. Yet that is exactly what has been happening this week in Bangkok.

Walking down the street near the major shopping centers, there is nothing to see out of the ordinary -- well maybe a new pair of shoes to examine or another tasty Thai pastry to buy and nibble on. But no protestors. At Chulalongkorn University, my economics students are non plus about the whole thing. "Not to worry Professor. It will all work out. " "They are always protesting and upset against the government."

Nevertheless, the pictures are scarey on television. The idea of a government being overthrown is concerning. Heck, we just are beginning our election process. We throw mud in advertisements and words in debates but we don't normally storm government buildings. But that is exactly what is happening in Thailand.

So what's it all about. The People'sAlliance for Democracy (PAD) is an anti government group who believes that the current government headed by Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej is a puppet organizational for the previous government. Sundaravej's government has only been in power since the first of the year. the protests have begun to spread. To put pressure on the government, PAD blocked roads to airports at two top tourist destinations in Thailand, leaving many people stranded.

While some media claim this is a move for democracy, it may not be. According to other sources, the PAD is
backed by media tycoon and multimillionaire Sondhi Limthongkul. Despite its name, the PAD is a vehicle primarily for the urban middle and upper classes, described by the Bangkok Post as the “blue blood jet set.” they want to maintain traditional ways and have the ruling elite remain in power. According to the Economist, this is an argument against one political group which is popular among the poorer, rural majority of Thais and the rich opponents—a group of mostly elite Bangkokians. Each is defending "their type of democracy. It is democracy if you get what you want. So maybe it is a bit like in the U.S. with Republicians representing big business and democrats representing the masses. HMMMM

Regardless, it is a bit scarey being here. I'm glad I didn't book a flight to Phukit this weekend for a holiday. I don't think I will be touring government facilities any time soon. But still the shopping is nice, the people genuinely friendly. But it still too darn humid and hot.

Vandra in Thailand