German News Coverage of Saturday’s Clashes

Thailand normally doesn’t appear very often in the headlines in Germany. If so, it is in most cases the cliché stories on either the sandy beaches, farangs behaving badly in Pattayaelephants in distress or other quirky and weird stuff. The so called ‘hard news’ are rarely to be found – except when there are color-coded anti-government protests with optional violent clashes like we have now. Here’s how some German media outlets are seeing the current political situation.

Bernd Musch-Borowska, South-East Asia correspondent for the public ARD radio affiliates, thinks that the clashes could have been avoided but the rifts between the government and the red shirts are growing more and more.

Both sides are as well right as they are wrong. They are all fighting to democracy, but nobody is ready to listen to the other side’s opinion at the least. (…)

A few weeks ago he [Abhisit] could have saved the situation with genuine negotiations with the red shirts and a brave decision for fresh democratic elections. But now the damage has been done, Thailand’s reputation is heavily ruined and an easy way out of the political crisis is now almost unreachable. Too big is the mistrust in each other.

(…) The Thai province has awaken under Thaksin and the rural people are not willing to let the elites in Bangkok, the military and the conservative royalists disenfranchise them of their basic democratic rights. Under Thaksin the Thais have understood, to use their voice in order to influence political decisions and can contribute for their improvement of their lives.

(…) Respect for each other would be the first step to a true democracy in Thailand.

Kommentar: Die Eskalation hätte vermieden werden können“, Bernd Musch-Borowska, tagesschau.de, April 11, 2010

Nicola Glass, an experienced German freelance journalist, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that even if new elections are announced, the crisis is far from over.

Q: Would a dissolution of the parliament mean the end of the crisis in Thailand?

A: I don’t think so that the crisis would end. Should parliament be really dissolved and new elections are called – which the red camp would very likely win – then we can be in for a déja-vu. Because then the opponents of the red shirts [the yellow shirted PAD] – like back in 2008 – would go on the streets and try to chase out a Thaksin-allied government.

Die Krise ist noch lange nicht vorbei“, DW-World.de, April 12, 2010

The weekly newspaper Die Zeit has a profile of the red shirts, written by Dr. Wolfram Schaffar from the University of Hildesheim discussing the origins, describing them as a grass root movement, but also…

But even if it appears so, the democratic consciousness does not always run deep at the red shirts. They skillfully play on populist motives: for example they attacked a gay-parade in Chiang Mai. And the donated blood and spilled it “for democracy” in front of government house. (…)

At last it is unclear, if the reds are able to set up a functioning government and if a return of Thaksin does any favor for the Thai democracy. (…) Nonetheless, their demand for new elections are neither hyperbolic or inequitable. The more the elites are hiding behind coups, politically motivated court decisions and military state of emergencies, the more they drive them to the reds.

Aufruhr In Bangkok: Thailands Erste Opposition“, by Dr. Wolfram Schaffar, Die Zeit, April 12, 2010

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung describes the sombre mood during the Thai New Year festivities (aka Songkran) in Bangkok, but somehow life goes on in the big capital.

Bangkok is very large. The pictures, that go around the world, are horrible. Fights, gunshots, deaths. But they are a small, albeit dramatic excerpt. The city is affected in two zones – that is tragic, but the rest is not directly affected. (…)

And the Thais? (…) at central places like Silom Road or the kilometers-long traffic vessel Sukhumvit people take it in a laid-back manner. They don’t talk about it, at least not with the farangs, the westerners. They are more excited. Sure, there is a deep division running through Thailand, but they are more focussed to earn some money again, you often hear. And the taxi drivers are, as long as they speak English, more interested that Bayern Munich has beaten Manchester United than in the violent clashes. They simply avoid Ratchaprasong. They laugh.

(…) The traffic is less busy these days. It might be because of Songkran, since many are on vacation, it might be because of the tense situation. You won’t get the answer from the Thais. They don’t like to talk about uncomfortable things. If you ask them, they laugh nervously. “Don’t know”, they say. Those who do say something, think it looks more dramatic than it really it – typical Thai.

Thailand: Es Wird Schon Gutgehen, Es Geht Immer Gut“, by Hartmut U. Hallek, FAZ.net, April 14, 2010

Willi Germund writes a very critical editorial in the Frankfurter Rundschau and sees times in Thailand are changing.

Welcome to Thailand, the “country of smiles”, where nothing will be like it has been in the last 60 years. (…)

The times where the province votes the government and Bangkok topples it, are slowly over. The rural people are demanding equality in the emerging Thailand, what the feudal aristocracy does not want to accept so far. The storm of the red shirts falls into a phase of the decline of the old regime.

Analyse: Die Macht der Generäle“, by Willi Germund, FR-Online.de, April 11, 2010

Germund has also mentioned a person who he thinks ordered the crackdown on Saturday. I will not name the person, but it’s written in the second to last paragraph – you still can throw the article into Google translation to see the context it’s written in. He did the same claim in the regional paper Badische Zeitung (sixth paragraph). Even though he says that Thai media have reported (indirectly) it, I cannot remember having read this anywhere. There’s no way to verify his claim – or his credibility!

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