Thailand to the edge of panic

Been meaning to write this since November of last year but maybe now is the time – the eve of the red shirted hoards descending on Bangkok with the next 24 hours. Thailand is on the brink – the brink of self-destruction. Thaksin Shinawatra the ousted Prime Minister of Thailand, democratically elected natch, is not going to let it go. The Red Shirts, the country folk, are with him. Our diver and Nanny are redshirts. We are Yellow Shirts – the yellow shirts being the supporters of the establishment which means the King, the Monarchy (and associated hangers on) and the controlling government. In essence the Yellow Shirts are Bangkok and the Red Shirts are the rest of Thailand. The Red’s are the working class and mad as hell and you can see their point. A democratically elected leader simply ousted by a coup putting the Bangkok elite back in control. Bangkok felt that Thaksin Shinawatra was going way too far, selling the countries assets, and had to be got before things went too far. But rules are rules and the Yellows, the Reds perceive, broke those rules. The Yellows are no slow pokes and closed down the airport late in 2008 with protests which crippled the airport and cost gazillions of Baht per day in exports and tourism. This instigated new elections which resulted in yellow-shirted heartthrob Abhisit Vejjajiva winning. Since that election the Reds have staged their own demos but each one has been subtly snuffed out. The protests tomorrow promise to be a whole new ball game. The nervous residents of Bangkok are boarding up the windows and stockpiling food as hundreds of thousands of Red shirted country folk descend upon the capital en masse and better organized.

Years ago these circumstances would not be that extraordinary. Thailand is no stranger to military coups and averages around two a decade. It’s the oxygen of Thailand and adds to its pulse and character. Instability and sheer chaos is what makes the Kingdom what it is and not anodyne like Singapore or Hong Kong. The issue is this time there is no King. Revered as a deity by Thai’s he floats above that middle layer we refer know as government and is the real power in Thailand which is perhaps the only issue the Reds and Yellows agree on. He is a built in protection mechanism as the coups and elections take place as he calls the shots. Over almost half a century this has been the case but power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and for whatever reason the King has sired children who are not the full ticket. Scandalous rumors abound as to why but each one is flawed and has only a tiny fraction of the charisma and guile that the current King possesses. This means that after the King the monarchy is weak at the best of times but set against the current turmoil it makes the situation dire especially if you consider at the King, well into his eighties, is now very ill. Thai’s will not admit to thinking the worst and they appear not to have any plan when he passes away which draws increasingly closer. His Birthday late last year was very sad. Wheelchair bound he uttered a few sentences before wheeled away behind a curtain. Shots of the crowds gathered looked scared. He is all they have known and it is inconceivable that he could one day die.

So what we have is a collision course of epic proportions. We have a red shirted throng battling against a yellow elite who are dwindling in power the longer the King is on the throne. When he does pass away there will be a power vacuum that will see someone sweep aside the prince and control the country with power not seen before. I could be wrong. I hope I am but tomorrow is the start of something bad and I don’t see how it can be resolved. Let’s hope the forces of good, be they red or yellow, will prevail.

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