I have little interest in Thai politics but I often find them forced onto me. I live in Bangkok city centre where protests have become a regular backdrop and in truth I don’t really mind them. They don’t really hinder my lifestyle and even if they did, who am I to grumble; the protesters’ cause is more important than my cancelled KFC delivery or wakened midday nap. With the protests on my doorstep I find myself passing regularly picking up groceries or on the walk to the skytrain / metro. Note the protests on Sukhumvit Road are extremely safe (now) and positive and I weirdly enjoy passing through them, it’s like a party out there but admittedly it’s not so easy carrying 14 liters of Cataholic Cat Litter through them (as I did earlier). Anyway here’s some pictures from today at Asoke Interchange, the beginning of ‘Shut Down Bangkok’ a potentially long stretch of ongoing protests on Sukhumvit Road.
In defense of my fellow Bangkokians, the Rich vs. Poor is an irritating misconception of the protests, a version I hear a lot when speaking to those with little interest. Rich vs. poor, Elite vs. farmers, Dictatorship vs. democracy and while it is somewhat true it is also very wrong. You could just as easily say it is the educated vs. the ignorant, the empowered vs. the manipulated, the slightly less corrupt vs. the corrupt. There are many dimensions to this divide but in the end much of it boils down to a battle of egos and the heavy manipulation and corruption which has plagued Thai politics since the beginning. For this reason Bangkok has become a stronghold for these protests; because Bangkokians are better informed and wiser to corruption. It is hard to argue, people in poverty are easily bought and people less educated are easier manipulated hence they are easier to win the support of. Well educated and wealthy not so easy. Corruption is therefore prevalent in the less developed areas of Thailand and while it may not be supported or controlled by political parties it does undoubtedly exist. Voters often know little more than what number to vote. The image below shows the absurdness of it all, myself high-fiving a hill tribe elder wearing a Pro-Government t-shirt. She would happily go out and vote for this government, if she could, but she can’t because the Government refuses her the right to Thai citizenship despite living there 50+ years.
The current protests are to Restart Thailand; in hope to remove top tiers of control and to rid of the old egos which have proved deeply divisive in the past, the faces which overshadow actual politics and political parties on both sides. Until this happens protests are likely to continue as always, the same old circle, potential coups from military and the scaremongering and violence of rogue reds. As an onlooker I don’t really support either side but there will always be those who I can’t help feel sorry for, probably the least likely as well. The current Prime Minister who has been handed a poison chalice to only now feel the brunt of it. The army who in no means wanted this situation but, as always, are forced to deal with it while continually being bitten by the bitterness of the North. Of course there the honest politicians who just want to get on with things. Most of all I feel sorry for the victims of past protests who now feel betrayed having watched their leader push for his own amnesty over justice for his followers. There are a lot of victims in this scenario but some I don’t feel sorry for are the current protesters, who in no doubt are the future of Thailand, maybe not today but one day as the corrupt politics of Thailand will be left in the past. Let’s just hope it is sooner than later. This rare act of decency, honesty is a small sign of hope.