No End in Sight – Some Personal Thoughts

Democracy Monument draped in red cloth (Picture courtesy of @Ohochita)

I was glued to my computer, scrambling through websites, Twitter messages and live streams, trying to get the latest updates on what is happening in Bangkok at the very moment. Reports of violent clashes, gunshots and absolute chaos were spreading from the capital. Next to my desk was the television set to the news channels, either struggling to give a clear overview of what is going on or (in case of German TV news) just blubbering sheer nonsense. To see this all unfolding from a very far distance in an office chair in Germany was utterly frustrating. This was in April 2009 during the Songkran riots.

Fast-forward to April 2010, same chair, same emotions.

Both sides, government forces and red shirt protesters, were showing hardly any sign of giving in. In fact, defiance on both sides was growing more and more each day. With each successful action of the red shirts, such as the storming on the parliament compound or at the satellite TV station, their confidence grew. In the beginning though it appeared the government had the upper hand, with their non-violence tactic catching the red shirt leaders off guard and thus leading them to pointless ad-hoc stunts (like the now infamous symbolic blood spilling). But with each day the red shirts were roaming and occupying the streets of Bangkok, the government was pushed with its back against the wall more and more.

All the more vigorous were the violent clashes on Saturday, killing 21 people and injuring over 850. There is no other way to describe the crackdown as a catastrophic failure. It was a chaotic mess, with soldiers and red shirts fighting each other, a mysterious ‘third force’ also contributing to the casualties and reporters, civilians and tourists caught in the crossfire – this was worse than last year! Last Saturday marks yet another dark moment in the recent history of this country.

What many like to neglect is that the red shirt movement is now more than just a proxy mob of Thaksin, not just a tool of anyone to overthrow the current government. It is a true unavoidable force in Thai politics with legitimate claims, with a sound political consciousness that is now haunting the political elites and bureaucrats for failing to recognize the sign of times. The problems cannot be solely linked back to Thaksin (as he is trying to promote himself as the beacon of freedom and democracy, while there is no doubt that he is not) – it is a collective failure!

When the situation was calming down in Bangkok and the first moments for me to cool down from the hours of constant information bombardment came by, I had not the feeling of horror or shock, but sheer frustration. Frustration about the inevitable fallout, about the at times idiotic coverage (or even the lack thereof) by some ‘news programs’ again, about the helplessness over the situation, but mostly about that we are not back to the status quo of four weeks ago – we are now even further away from it!

Both sides are even more defiant than before, even less unwilling to give in, even less likely are the chances for any peaceful, non-violent and political way to end this stalemate. To see Thailand going backwards each day with no end in sight is just discouraging – the distance from where I’m witness this happening does not make a difference anymore, it is equally frustrating.

Note: This commentary was written shortly during the aftermath of the violent clashes, which explains the more emotional tone of this article. That are, after all, my personal thoughts.


13 thoughts on “No End in Sight – Some Personal Thoughts

  1. This is slowly growing towards being as bad as the clashes in the 1970s. It will likely take decades for Thailand to recover from this economically (tourism) and at least years for any sort of political reconciliation. Well every night precedes a new dawn, and I hope we’re at the point where things may be boiling down again. Let’s just hope that in a year we won’t be saying that this was just the beginning of the blood-shed, but that this was all the blood-shed.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts. I agree completely. Both sides are more entrenched than ever. I fear more violence before this is “over” and that the country will never be the same again. But change is not always for the worst. We might be pleasantly surprised by the new Thailand that is emerging. At least we can hope so.

    BTW I think you have a double negative in the last paragraph. Should be “even less willing” or “even more unwilling” Small detail in a very good blog.

  3. I share your frustration – there may have been ‘third hands’ involved, but the writing was on the wall, before any attempted dispersal, that there would be bloodshed if a crackdown proceeded.
    Nevertheless, that the powers that be chose killing over an election (or worse to ‘protect’ a shopping centre) makes no sense, unless one is heartless.

    Honestly, thai politics makes me want to puke and cry at the same time.

  4. The most frustrating part of the whole thing was the asinine decision to not cover the events as they unfolded. Even worse was that the only thing available on TV at the time were the mind-numbingly stupid Thai soap operas and variety shows. Insulting our intelligence AND our freedom to information at the same time.

  5. Absolutely, last Saturday’s events were far worse than April 2008, and in terms of damage to Thailand’s already battered reputation I fear it’s now as bad as the airport closures of late 2007. It’s equally frustrating for me, sitting just miles from where this has all been happening, that those who are so keen to create ‘made-for-the-media’ snapshots don’t understand the immense damage that has been done to the kingdom.

    You mention the news coverage. In Thailand that’s been woeful at times, but I put that down to the ‘causing public panic’ part of the State of Emergency we’re living under. It’s a choice between that, or the often hyped-up global coverage.

    This morning (Monday) has a strange feel about it. Very quiet on the roads this morning, and the only sign of anything unusual was a blockage at Sukhumvit 31, PM’s home. Perhaps something is expected there later on? I wonder too if many people will take today off in light on the Songkran holidays which start officially tomorrow?

  6. It is only a matter of time before the big actors, and I mean the biggest actors of them all, decide to come out in the open and assume the centre stage in this long-running conflict.

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