Thailand - Smiles turned upside down (October 12, 2008): by Christopher Snyder
This week was very hard on Thai people. Several Thais died during a police action to control the people protesting the current government. We can ask the question "does the PAD have the right to protest". I guess the question is kind of mute because the government, namely the military and the police have allowed to hold protest these last few months. As a US citizen living in Bangkok the fact that the protestors have been allowed to control the government house seems absurd. This truly would never be allowed to occur in the US. But Thailand has a different type of government, a democratic democracy, with many parties and a king. This is a huge difference in American politics that only really has two parties and people vote on one president every 4 years.
To add to the complicated situation in Thailand, the ousted prime minister, Taksin and his wife (and Family) still retain huge political power even though they are living in exile in the UK. Their power seems to come purely from money. Ex-PM Taskin used his political power and turned it into wealth for him and his friends. His political power came from his campaign promises to the people outside of Bangkok which led to his election. So, while he was PM he had to make it seem that the people living in these areas benefited. Yes, they benefited directly by decreased taxes or a new blanket or other some such item. However, the amount of wealth distributed to the people was very small compared the amount of enormous wealth which went to his friends and family instead of making its way by unimpeded economic forces.
Money, while is a huge influence everywhere in the world, is an even bigger power base in developing countries such as Thailand. Taksin has so much power that the newly chosen Prime Minister is his brother-in-law, being married to his sister. I also understand that this sister of Taksin's is also the currently in power party leader, which was elected by the majority of the people of Thailand and happens to be Taksin's old party renamed. However, the election is also in question, where the former party leader was found guilty of voter fraud, or buying votes.
About a month ago the Prime Minister Samak was found guilty of accepting money from a second job as a TV host of a cook show. He couldn't remain Prime Minister but could be elected back into office by parliament. It even looked for a short time that parliament was going to do just that, but they didn't and since then Samak has had other charges levied on him. He will not be getting back into politics any time soon. Samak was supported by Taksin but made huge political blunders such as bringing Thailand close to fighting with Cambodia over the border line surrounding the Preah Vihear temple which was settled in 1962 by the World Court. The Thai People always felt cheated about this and PM Samak had "solved" the problem in a one day meeting with the Cambodian leader about six months ago. There has been a military build up on the border near this temple in the last few months...
The current Prime Minister, Somchai, is a much different person than Samak in that he seems meek and mild and thoughtful. The only problem is his ties to Taksin are undeniable.
This past week two important things happened.
1. Former Prime Minister Taksin and his wife formally ask for asylum in the UK. To grant them asylum the UK the Taksin's must prove that the charges currently levied on them by the Thai Courts are politically motivated and it is dangerous for the Taksin's to return Thailand.
2. The second thing was people died on the streets of Bangkok. Protestors, protesting the government for the things I mentioned above and more. The protestors were trying to prevent PM Somchai from addressing his newly formed cabnet. An official ceremony that could have been given elsewhere. The current government has been governing from temporary offices in the old airport for the last several months anyway.
Are the two related? Probably, but I really do not know. The sad thing is to the outside world Thailand seems like it might be unsafe to visit to their long earned vacation and the people of Thailand no longer seem to be smiling as nearly much which has turned the "Land of Smiles" into the "Land of Concern".
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Christopher Snyder is the Founder and Managing Director of Asia Products LLC and currently is living in Bangkok, Thailand.
He writes on a variety of topics including current events, politics, and travel ideas. He manages an e-commerce store buying products to sell on http://www.asiaproductsllc.com. He is documenting some of his more interesting travels in his Asia Travel Ideas website : http://www.apllc-connect.com.