No good news in Thailand yet as polity remains divided

Last week’s protests in Bangkok hit normal life in the Thai capital. For Thais, politics never used to be an important issue in the past but now people from all walks of life are discussing the political developments since they impact their daily lives.

Fact file on the shooting of Thailand's protest leader Sondhi Limthongkul, founder of the Yellow Shirts royalist movement. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has urged people to remain calm after a week of deadly protests and an assassination attempt on a political activist pushed the nation to the edge of chaos. (AFP Photo)

Pech Thamkeratikul, an employee at a private company, said what happened in Bangkok was not a democratic protest since it appeared to be an effort to create trouble and the frighten people by blockading roads, seizing buses, burning tires, and threatening to highjack LPG tankers.

Ms Thamkeratikul thought the situation escalated because the government acted too late in the beginning. Since the situation happened when Prime Minister  Abhisit Vejjajiva was in Pattaya, the government should review the situation and try to improve security. “It seemed like the government is too lax with security,” she said.

“It is not justified for the government to say that there is no demonstrators in other countries invade the conference venue.”

“This (the government’s inability to control the situation in Pattaya) is a big minus for the government since the Asean Summit is an international forum that when the news spread, the country’s image is totally ruined. This should not have happened.”

With violence in several places around Bangkok, Ms Thamkeratikul could not visit her mother who has been in hospital for several weeks with a kidney problem.

Fluke Inboon, an 11-year-old boy who lives with his mother and cousins in Bangkok, said the demonstration ruined his plans to spend time with the family. 

“It saw people arrested at home. I cannot go out to see a movie and we have to order delivery,” said the disappointed boy who looked forward to his day-out during Songkran, the New Year.

Fluke’s father, who works in a province called Rayong 200km east of Bangkok, had to delay a visit home since relatives told him not to travel to Bangkok as planned on Monday at the height of the demonstration.

A grocery shop owner in Chantaburi, another eastern province, was so angry at hearing the red-shirted leaders on television that she hit the screen with her shoe.

“I slapped their faces several times,” said the woman who has closely monitored the political developments in Bangkok on TV.

A shop selling kitchenware in Chantaburi said it gets customers from both sides. “Some want any other color except red while others demand only red baskets,” the owner said.

A Bangkok resident said in typical Buddhist fashion the situation is the result of “karma.”

When the Democrat Party was in the opposition, it supported the yellow shirts because one of its MPs was a leader of the yellow shirts.

After the Democrat Party formed the government, it is facing protests from the opposition similar to what happened last year.

“The greatest casualty of the situation is the country,” the Bangkok woman said. “My salary has been cut because of the airport closure. I don’t know if there will be more pay cuts because of Songkran.”

“I don’t know when the Thai economy will recover since I see the political divide has not yet ended,” a political observer who asked not to be named said.

Reported by Somporn Thapnachai A SGGP freelance from Bangkok

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