You should be paying attention to Thailand

My sources are telling me that it’s still business as usual in Bangkok and throughout Thailand, despite the death toll rising to three from anti-government protests.



The government has invoked the Internal Security Act, which is just short of martial law. It doesn’t prohibit free assembly, but it enables the police to maintain order as it sees fit. Tourists are not being targeted, but are advised to stay out of the demonstration areas, notably around government buildings, the police bureau and the Democracy Monument. Tourism business is normal in most areas in Bangkok, and definitely in the other key areas of the country like Chaing Mai, Pattaya, and Phuket.

Basically, this is a struggle between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and those who see her government as an extension of the corrupt government of her deposed brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, in exile in Dubai.

That’s why this is an anti-government protest, not necessarily a pro-democracy protest.

Ironically, Thaksin did much for the poor in the rural areas, whose sympathizers are known as “Red Shirts,” who also have the majority in parliament.

The anti-government crowd is lead by Suthep Thaugsuban (สุเทพเทือกสุบรรณ), who quit his parliament position to lead the opposition, the “Blue Shirts.” The Blues tend to be from the intellectual, educated elite classes. And, they do not have control of parliament.

The demonstrations began a month ago when the Yingluck tried to pass a “Graft Amnesty” plan that would have essentially allowed her brother back into politics. I saw a few “Stop Graft Amnesty” signs along the canals of Bangkok when I was there, indicating the widespread disagreement with the idea.

When the bill was stopped successfully, Suthep didn’t stop there, but went further, and called for the overthrow of the government.

It’s a move seen as sidestepping the majority of people that actually voted in more Reds than Blues into parliament, and therefore being seen as anti-democratic.

An overthrow of the government seems to be an over-reach of sorts, and calling for Yingluck to step down also seems presumptuous.

Some Thai political commentators are scratching their heads about Suthep, calling him a “false prophet.” It’s the reason why it’s hard to back the Blues 100p.

Most people, even at the demonstrations, seem apolitical, and part of a vast middle. They love the king, the country, and their religion (Buddah), and will say so. It’s the reason why they could have a month of demonstrations without any violence. 

But we have now reached a point where Suthep is forcing Yingluck to do something. Step down? Arrest Suthep? Dissolve the House? Thai moderates are distressed because they don’t want to see the violence of the past come back. But there’s this sense that Suthep is going for broke here, and willing to see how the inexperienced Yingluck will do things. Some suspect Yingluck is a puppet being controlled by her exiled brother. There have been some key moves in the military in the last few days to suggest that.

In the meantime, the King’s birthday is Thursday, a national holiday. As mentioned, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and everyone loves the King. It’s all the little people who muck up things with this political stuff.

It was interesting to be in Bangkok a week ago. Even then, things can take place in parallel universes in Thailand. On Loy Kraithong, a big floating lights festival, thousands were celebrating peacefully on the river at the same time 50K were at the Democracy Monument for a big turning point rally last week.  

Not sure how the death toll will impact demonstrators this week. It could bring people to their senses and force talks to unify the government. (So far both sides are digging in. Yingluck calls Suthep’s demands unconstitutional. Suthep says nothing’s negotiable).

Americans should be concerned because Thailand has been a good friend and ally. The country was expecting 1.13 million U.S. visitors in 2014, spending 79.5 billion baht (30 baht to $1) for things like weddings and special events (think “Hangover 2”), as Thailand tries to steal business from the Caribbean and other resort destinations.

Political instability is one more chili in the mix that no one expected.






LIKE  and FOLLOW us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media




And FOLLOW  on  Twitter     http://www.twitter.com/emilamok




BANGKOK– The chic thing in Thailand is to protest loudly for democracy by blowing a whistle on ruling class members that just tried to pass an amnesty bill to forgive themselves of their sins.


Its made whistles and whistle-blowing very cool in Bangkok lately, made even more so in that it actually worked.


The voice of the people blowing the whistle on the government was heard, halting the amnesty stunt in its tracks.


But that’s not all folks.


On Friday night, an estimated 50,000 people gathered at one end of Bangkok to hear the next step.


Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of Thailand’s democratic opposition group, called for an end to the current Thai government—beginning an impeachment process and signature campaign to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her top deputies.


As he stood at the Democracy Monumnet on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, thousands were a few miles away at the Asiatique center on the river, kicking off the  three day Loy Krathong Festival complete with floating barges of flowers and lights that will attract millions of Thais—and foreign tourists– to Bangkok.


It’s the conflicting picture Thailand doesn’t really want anyone outside to know about.

And the best thing that can be said are the protests and the government response has been peaceful and non-violent—for now.

Over the last few weeks, the country has been steaming over a legislative bill that would have granted amnesty to corrupt politicians dating back to 2004. The bill would have included amnesty for the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

Name sound familiar?

It doesn’t help that the main force behind the amnesty bill was the current prime minister, who just happens to be the sister of the now exiled leader.

The Senate rejected the bill. And the House may still bring it up, though a coalition has said it won’t bring it back.

But opposition leader Suthep seems willing to go for broke here, and use the momentum of the people’s passion to rid Thailand of every last remnant of the Thaksin government.

Suthep told the cowed Friday night that the amnesty bill was “only the tip of the evils of the Thaksin regime.”

I was in the crowd on Friday and it all reminded me of the “People Power” of the Philippines, which I covered in the 80s. Suthep may not seem like Cory Aquino, and the Shinawatras may not be exact replicas of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.  

But some people I’ve talked to aren’t shy to even suggest that the corruption of Thailand’s political past indeed approximates the evils of a dictator.

The whistle blowing also shows the people don’t seem in the mood to forgive.

The 50,000 at the Democracy Monument rivalling those at Asiatique may indicate that when it comes to forgiveness, the people of Thailand have something else in mind.

In the Loy Krathong Festival, people come to ask Ganga, the goddess of the river, to forgive all the transgressions of the last year as she sweeps up the floral krathong offerings.

But now that Thais have discovered that whistleblowing is real people power, they may not be so willing to let their political leaders off the hook so easily.



LIKE  and FOLLOW us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media

And FOLLOW  on  Twitter     http://www.twitter.com/emilamok