Thailand: A Whole Lot Of Hating Going On


March 3, 2014:  The royalist and nationalist politicians and parties (yellow shirts) that lost the national elections in 2011 have admitted defeat without saying so. Their numbers in the capital have dwindled after four months on the streets trying to overthrow the government by force. The government responded by trying to contain the disruptive demonstrations using non-violent methods (to prevent escalation and possible military intervention). Attempts to use force failed and were abandoned. The government strategy worked and because the army would not intervene (in part because most of the troops were opposed to the demonstrators) to overthrow the government the yellow shirts made the best of a bad situation and urged the few remaining demonstrators in the capital to move to a park in the center of the city where demonstrators have been camped out for months. This park will now become a “permanent” demonstration site. But it will be more of a tourist attraction than headquarters for continuing disruptive demonstrations. The yellow shirts take a more optimistic view that the occupied park will make it easier to get massive demonstrations going again in the future. But in the here and now the demonstrations are over. The demonstrations were not always peaceful. Various groups were angry enough at the yellow shirts to attack and there were 70 violent incidents since November that left 22 dead and over 700 wounded.  

The main demand of the protestors was, and still is that the elected government step down and allow an unelected council rule long enough to impose anti-corruption measures. This was unpopular with most voters. As a result of all this many of the middle-class yellow shirt supporters gradually got discouraged, especially because of how the demonstrations were hurting the economy and the quality of life in Bangkok (a largely yellow shirt place.) A January attempt to bring in enough protestors to shut down the capital for up to a month, or until the elected government resigned and allowed the minority parties to appoint one to their liking, did not work. This massive and sustained protest was meant to halt the February elections the beleaguered prime minister has called. That effort failed on both counts.

The peace talks with the southern Moslem separatists began a year ago and have failed so far. The main problem was that the recognized separatist leaders who were negotiating had lost control of the young men who are doing most of the killing. This is the result of the smuggling gangs being largely responsible for getting the young Islamic terrorists started. The smugglers have guns, explosives, hideouts and a widespread presence in the south. The smugglers and terrorists have some common goals, especially getting Thai security forces out of the three southern (and largely Moslem) provinces on the Malaysia border. But so far that goal has become more remote as the government order more and more police and soldiers south. Then there’s the fact that the largely Moslem gangsters would be worse off if the Thais left because the Thai border would then move north a bit and on the other side would be a population with very few Moslems and a lot of ethnic Thais with very hostile attitudes towards Moslems, especially Moslem gangsters. As more southerners figure out this unfavorable endgame the popular support for the Islamic terrorists fades. This has motivated the Islamic terrorists to come up with ways to regain some of the lost love. The best way to do this is to appeal to a desire for revenge. The Islamic terrorists are suspected of being behind some recent attacks on Moslem women and children, as that sort of thing enrages the Moslem population and provides an opportunity for the Islamic terrorists to make and publicize revenge attacks on Buddhist women and children which makes the Thais angrier. Islamic terrorists feel better when there’s a lot of hating going on.

Meanwhile polling places opened in five provinces so people prevented from voting on February 2nd could cast their vote in peace. On February 2nd there were some disruptions (by anti-government protestors) in 39 percent of the country. It was worst in the capital where seven percent of the polling places were unable to operate at all. Over 400,000 people were prevented from voting.  A court ordered some 10,000 polling places to reopen so that those who were not able to vote then could vote now. This will only increase the margin by which the government won and remained in power. This revote process will end and the results announced in April.

February 28, 2014: Yellow shirt leaders announced that the campaign to shut down the capital with street demonstrations has officially ended, or at least been suspended. The effort had quite obviously failed and now there is official acknowledgement of this from the yellow shirts.

February 26, 2014: Unidentified gunmen fired on yellow shirt demonstrators in the capital several but no one was hit.

February 24, 2014:  The head of the army warned that the country faced collapse if the demonstrations continued. This was public criticism of the yellow shirt tactics and emphatic refusal to intervene, as the yellow shirts had long hoped. While some yellow shirt politicians initially believed another military takeover was a viable option, most have now concluded that this is not going to happen. The 2011 elections had done more than just remove yet another military government. Those elections made it clear that the trend was against such takeovers. There have been ten such military governments in the last four decades and 18 coups or attempts since 1932. Most Thais are tired of it and have demanded reforms to curb the ability of the military to take over. Trimming the power and influence of the military has not been easy, and despite the possibility of triggering yet another military takeover “for the good of the country” the military has concluded that they have been losing a lot of the power and popular respect it long enjoyed. Most Thais want the military out of politics for good. This time around the military has refused to take sides and has largely remained neutral. This was mainly because the generals have realized that many of their troops are hostile to the anti-democratic yellow shirts and more military intervention might tear the military apart. 

February 23, 2014: In the capital two yellow shirts were killed when a grenade was thrown into a crowd of demonstrators.

February 22, 2014: In the east (Trat province) a grenade was thrown into a group of yellow shirt demonstrator killing a child and wounding 35 others.

February 19, 2014: A court in the capital ordered the riot police to stop using force to try and clear the yellow shirt demonstrators from the capital.

February 18, 2014: In the capital riot police used force to try and get yellow shirt demonstrators out of the capital. The demonstrations have been hurting the economy and most residents of the capital see the disruptions as ineffective in overthrowing the government but numerous and persistent enough to make life miserable for many people. The riot police effort today left four dead (including one policeman) and over 60 wounded.

In addition to the yellow shirts, rice farmers from outside the city are threatening to come into the capital and blockade the airport if they are not paid for rice they delivered (to the government, under a subsidy program) last year. The president is accused of using this expensive (over $7 billion a year) price subsidy program as a source of cash for herself and her party. The government came up with the money at the last minute and averted yet another source of disruptive demonstrations.

February 14, 2014: The head of the armed force called for calm in the capital, making it clear that the army was not taking sides or planning to stage another coup.

A joint amphibious exercise including American, Thai and South Korean troops was held on the Thai coast. These three nations have long held joint exercises like this so that troops from all three nations can easily work with each other in joint peacekeeping or disaster relief operations.

February 13, 2014: In the south a Buddhist monk and three bystanders were shot dead by men who later claimed this was revenge for the shooting of a Moslem family on February 3rd. The Islamic terrorists like to blame the police or Buddhist vigilantes for terrorist attacks on Moslem civilians. The accusation is believed by a lot of Moslems, even when the victim was a known government supporter or openly hostile to Islamic terrorists. Most of the Moslems victims are killed by Islamic terrorists in an effort to discourage pro-government activity.

February 12, 2014: In the south a Buddhist woman was killed and a note left by the killers said this was revenge for the shooting of a Moslem family on February 3rd.  

February 11, 2014: The highest court refused to declare the February 2nd elections as illegal as the yellow shirts had hoped.



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