Thailand: Quiet And Broke

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May 21, 2009: The political violence in the capital, between red shirted populists and yellow shirted royalists, is still going on, but at lower levels. This is largely because, last month, the army demonstrated that is was willing, and able, to use violence against demonstrators. Several people died, dozens were injured and hundreds arrested. The royalists control the military, which puts the populists at a disadvantage (even though they represent most of the voters.) But because the red shirts have the backing of most voters, they threaten to take control of the government again. That will bring out the yellow shirt mobs, and security forces led by royalists unwilling to crack down on royalist demonstrators. This still threatens to end up as a civil war. At the moment, most Thais are more concerned about the recession, which is shrinking the economy by about five percent this year.

In the south, the Islamic terrorists are still killing and threatening teachers, and succeeding in shutting down schools. The security forces have forced the terrorists to operate in remote areas not covered by army and police patrols, or where there are not enough soldiers to provide armed escorts for teachers going to work. Violence is going up this month because a new school term has just begun.  The overall violence level in the south is trending down, but not fast enough to suit the government, or the majority of people living in the Moslem south.

The political unrest, the global recession and the swine flu threat have combined to reduce tourism by about a third this year. This means over 60,000 people will lose their jobs, many of them in the violence prone south.

Thai and Cambodian troops still face each other on a disputed section of their border, near an ancient temple. Cambodia is now demanding compensation for an April 3rd incident when Thai troops fired on a market area near the temple (that is at the center of the border dispute) and caused over $2 million in damage to 264 vendor stands. Negotiations over where the border should be have so far failed.

 

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