Thailand: Slow Motion Violence

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September 19, 2008:  The anti-government demonstrations in the capital continue, with protesters occupying government compounds for nearly four weeks now. Four months of such unrest in the capital has played a part in knocking down the stock market averages 26 percent. More noticeable is the 30 percent decline in tourism (which accounts for six percent of the economy.) This is hurting many workers in the capital, which is generating growing anger against the demonstrators. Taking advantage of this, the new prime minister has opened talks with the demonstrators. While the demonstrators portray themselves as champions of clean government and the monarchy, the king had to approve the new prime minister, and he did. Moreover, many of those now running the government were clean government protestors when they were students in the 1970s, and are losing patience with the current unrest. What some see as corruption, others see as traditions developed to get around disputes that would bring the government and economy to a halt. Another Thai tradition is to not call out the troops and use violence to resolve this problem. Instead, there will be lots of talks and, according to the protestor's standards, some corruption.

The war against Islamic terrorists in the south grinds on. In five years, about 3,400 people have died (in an area with a population of two million). This is a death rate of about 34 dead per 100,000 population. But the trend is down, and currently the violence is a bit below what's happening in Afghanistan. The Thai Islamic terrorists are also against secular education, and have destroyed nearly 300 schools so far. This makes the militants less popular, which makes it easier to recruit more informers and village security volunteers among the Moslem population.

September 18, 2008: The ruling party picked Somchai Wongsawat, brother-in-law of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as the new prime minister. This outraged anti-government protestors, who want to ban politicians like  Shinawatra, who use media and government handout to woo rural voters. The urban protest groups see the poorly (at least compared to the urban population) educated country folk as manipulated into supporting corrupt government. Many rural voters do not agree with this assessment, but their views are not given much coverage by the media (which is largely concentrated in the capital.)

In the south, two Islamic terrorists were killed by police, while nearby, Islamic terrorists killed a another Moslem suspected of being an informer.

September 16, 2008: In the south, a small team of Islamic terrorists killed two Moslem village defense (against Islamic terrorist) volunteers, then set up a roadside bomb which, when detonated, wounded five policemen and three civilians who were rushing to the scene of the crime in a truck.  

September 14, 2008: The government lifted the state of emergency in the capital, after two weeks. The newly selected

September 9, 2008: The prime minister was forced, by the courts, to resign. The reason was a few appearances on a cooking show. Before he became prime minister, Samak Sundaravej hosted a very popular TV cooking show. But after he became PM, he accepted fees for appearing a few last times on the show, and this was a violation of the law ("no private employment while a government official.") What is most unusual about this is the speed with which the courts moved in deciding this issue. The courts usually take years to deal with items like this. But many judges back the demonstrators, who are calling for a government that drops a lot of traditional, but corrupt, practices.

 

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