Sunday, February 09, 2014

Turmoil in Thailand–My View of the Situation.

I have been following the political crisis in Thailand very closely. My interest in the situation is due to the fact that I am married to a Thai and have both family and friends in the country. They are on both sides of the issue, some support the government, others the protesters. I can speak a little of the language. Let's call my fluency level; enough to make the in-laws careful about what they say around me because they aren't entirely sure what I do or don't understand, and I tend to surprise them once in a while.

I have been alarmed (but not really surprised) to see the Western press and punditocracy trotting out the very simple and simplistic narrative that what is happening is that a bunch of anti-government mobs (a very loaded word) are trying to overthrow a democratically elected government and that it's the Bangkok "elites" versus the rural poor. It's an easy narrative and also a very lazy one. Reality is, as usual, a lot more complicated than that. Very few of the people, if any, in the Western media opining on the situation are actually on the ground in Thailand and talking to the parties and that being the case they are getting the story entirely wrong.

One person who is on the ground and talking to the protesters and their leadership is writer and war correspondent Michael Yon. He is posting throughout the day at his Facebook page and if you want to know what is really happening, in near real-time, that is the place to go.

The main body of the protesters are represented by the People's Democratic Reform Council or PDRC. The Western press has been portraying the protesters as "violent mobs," most likely because they are being fed that line by the government and are too lazy to question that narrative. In reality the protest sites have more of the atmosphere of a series of block parties, complete with food stalls, live music and speeches, than a bunch of unruly mobs. These are the kind of people the Thai government claims are terrorists. Quite a bit different than the press accounts would lead us to believe, no?

There has been some violence. So far 9 protesters have died and a little more than another 600 have been wounded, 3 just this evening in an M79 grendade atttack ( as I write this on my Satrurday morning, 14 hours behind the events) at the Chaeng Watthana protest venue. All of these attacks have been by "Red Shirts" who are on the side of the government, or "Black Shirts," also on the side of the government (and widely thought to be former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatara's private enforcers), on the protesters who are armed with nothing more than whistles. So violence all goes almost all one way. The Red/Black Shirts have been employing hit-and-run tactics, firing guns and grenades into crowds of unarmed people, exactly like tonight's grenade attack. PDRC is allied with another group, Kor Por Tor or KPT (People and Student Network for the Reform of Thailand) who have been serving as guards at the protest sites. They will fight, but only if provoked, and they have taken casualties. The PDRC protesters have done nothing violent to bring violence upon themselves.

One Red Shirt leader, quoted in this Daily Telegraph article, is Ko Tee:
"If anyone doubted the abyss into which Thailand could be heading, Ko Tee - who has been accused of orchestrating grenade attacks on anti-government marches in the Thai capital - is the living proof.
"I want there to be lots of violence to put an end to all this," he said. "I'm bored by speeches. It's time to clean the country, to get rid of the elite, all of them."

To me Ko Tee sounds like he wants to be the second coming of Pol Pot (and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he has more than one Che Guevara T-shirt in his drawer). He is a very dangerous man.
So, how did things come to this pass in Thailand? In a word, corruption. There will have to be a part two to this post but I wanted to paint the scene as I see it now.
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1 comment:

chris Muir said...

Yon's the man.