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THIS IS THAILAND
A Week in Review: January 8-14, 2011



Ever since yellow shirt protesters were allowed to close down Bangkok’s international airports, a dangerous precedent of confusing mob rule with democracy has been set in Thailand. But there were two small victories for the people the protesters are supposed to represent last week. Find out what they were here…

While Naked Farang fully supports everybody’s right to protest – regardless of whether or not we agree with their cause – we believe it is a privilege that has been severely abused by the colour-coded protesters of Thailand.

Everybody has the right to publicly air their grievances about anything – provided they do so peacefully and without infringing on the civil liberties of others. It is a simple code of conduct, yet it has been broken repeatedly and with relative impunity by protesters in Thailand.

Last week, in response to seven Thais being detained by Cambodian authorities for knowingly and intentionally entering a sensitive area of Cambodia illegally, the Thai Patriots’ Network (TPN) – a yellow shirt splinter group – threatened to block the Thai-Cambodian border at the busy Poipet checkpoint in Sa Kaeo province.

While the TPN protested in front of government house last week to demand that the Thai government do more to get the illegal trespassers freed, local residents of Sa Kaeo protested in Sa Kaeo about the TPN’s plan to protest at the border and close down not only cross border trade but also a popular visa-run checkpoint for foreign residents in Thailand as well as a favourite access point to the casinos of Poipet for thousands of Thais.

The residents of Sa Kaeo won. Whether it was empathy and compassion for members of the country the Thai Patriots’ Network claims to love, or fear of humiliation, the TPN backed down – for now. However, this soap opera is far from over.

Meanwhile, back in Bangkok, up to 30,000 red shirt protesters once again closed down a major thoroughfare of central Bangkok with yet another protest at the Ratchaprasong Intersection last Sunday.

Two days later, some 2,000 vendors and employees from around the Ratchaprasong area held a brief protest to protest against the protesters who regularly disrupt their livelihood with their protests.

According to Chai Srivikorn, President of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA), 2,088 businesses of all sizes and 30,000 employees – many of them low-income earners who the red shirts claim to represent – are affected by the protests (the red shirt protests, not the RSTA protests). This is in addition to the thousands of local residents who suffer whenever the area is closed down by the protesters.

The RSTA, together with the vast majority of local residents, are not demanding that the protesters stop protesting, but simply requesting that they do so somewhere else. However, while Sanam Luang is ideally suited for such rallies, protesting here would cause minimal disruption and is therefore not favoured by the red shirts who choose Ratchaprasong specifically because of the disruption protesting there causes.

The traders and residents of the area won a shallow victory when the red shirts agreed to keep future protests to 2 hours. Of course, with their track record, expecting them to stick to their word is another matter.

Paul Snowdon – January 15, 2011

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