After several days of strong military pressure, and after several hours of battle against APCs, the Red Shirt leaders have surrendered and the protesters have agreed to go home. For now, the trouble is over, and the long process of cleaning up the mess can begin. This will mean: attempting to restore trust in Thailand as a holiday destination, as a place for foreigners to invest, and as a viable business environment. This will take time, most likely several years to fully recovery. However, have things really settled?
The grievances of the Red Shirts (real or perceived) have not been addressed. The Thai government has seriously damaged its own reputation amongst its own citizens and abroad by its use of force. The effect of all of the protest will not fade quickly.
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Monday, 3 May 2010
I have been continuing to follow the Red Shirt protest in Bangkok, and throughout the country of Thailand. As at the 1st of May nothing much has changed. Again, what has surprised me, and I suspect most people, is the resolution of the Reds. They have stayed the course. It is now ~6 weeks since the protests began, and after facing and dealing with many problems, and demonstrating great organisational ability, the Reds are still filling and blocking the streets of Bangkok. On the other hand, they have not achieved their goals. The Thai government has not agreed to hold new elections. Stand off!
Over the last three weeks the situation has become more grim. Bullets and grenades have been fired. People have died. Threats have been made, largely by the government, but with all of this there is no end in sight.
One aspect of this situation is worth noting, and it is one rarely touched upon by the media. If one were to rely exclusively on what was reported, then one would visualise the streets of Bangkok bereft of normal activity, while tens of thousands of protesters, troops and police confronting each other. This is not the case. I doubt if 1% of the population of Bangkok is directly affected or involved with the protests. Move one block away from the protest areas and you will most likely see people going about their every day activities. The Reds have cleverly placed themselves where they will achieve the greatest attention.
I will here offer my thoughts on how to resolve the issue. All sides agree to calm down, take a step back, and go home, however, I am certain that the Reds would demand to keep a delegation in the capital to ‘keep an eye on things’—fair enough. Second, hold new elections speedily, certainly within two months, in which all sides can participate. Third, urge all parties to accept as Prime Minister a ‘new man’, someone who has not been in parliament before, someone who is respected, someone who is competent. This would have the effect of wiping the slate clean. I have no suggestion as to who this man should be, but I am sure that someone can be found.
Fingers crossed for a swift and peaceful resolution.