Monday, 13 April 2009
'Mobocracy' and the Land of Smiles
"I believe the darkest days in Thailand's history are yet to come, as we see no swift solution to ongoing divisiveness," said Prinn Panitchpakdi, an Asia-Pacific analyst.
Today is the Thai New Year, Songkran. For the uninitiated, it is a wonderful celebration that marks the end of the dry season and heralds the start of the wet season with much frivolity. Whole communities take to the streets and propel water by whatever means possible at anything that comes within their visual range. Overloaded pick up trucks stacked with barrels of water drive the streets soaking anyone and everyone with indiscriminate, non-confrontational splashes of new year cheer.
These are the scenes that I have witnessed today in Phuket but the same can not be said of Bangkok. News bulletins are beaming in to my computer screen showing a violence and escalating anarchy on the street of the kingdom's capital. The 'Red Shirts' as they are colloquially know, have been part of highly organised and intricate anti-government campaign calling for the current government to step down. Their campaign has been thrusted forward in recent months and one can't help feeling that an attempted revolution is not far away. If this were to occur, it would be Thailand's nineteenth revolution in sixty years, and the fifth change in prime minister in four years. Political unrest and instability are becoming the norm for this country which is bad news for the fragile economy and wafer thin infrastructure.
Thailand's immediate future will depend on the ability of the Thai army to hold their nerve in the face of petrol bombs and extreme violence. The army have been firing off rounds from M16 assault weapons over the heads of riotous protesters today pushing tensions to a dangerous cliff edge.
The red shirts vitriol is being massaged by the ousted former prime minster Thaksin Shinawatra who is in exile as a result of a corruption conviction he recieved in 2008. Mr Shinawatra has been giving tele-conferences to crowds of thousands on the street via video links from Dubai, stoking the flames with incendiary language and imagery.
The next few days are critical and its impossible to predict what will happen with a very real possibility of more bloodshed or worse.