Thailand: Still Knotted by the Past

Traveler Awareness Bulletin:

Very interesting article on Thailand’s Great Depression revolution and how it has shaped the stumbling forward, most recently in the recent coup

“In many ways, the crisis that has convulsed Thailand for much of the past decade dates back to the turbulent period of the 1932 revolution that abolished the absolute monarchy and set out to establish democracy in the country and can be understood as part of a long, historical struggle between civilian politicians and royalist elites for primacy – a theme explored in the recently released book “Good Coup” Gone Bad, a collection of essays on the 2006 military coup, currently not available for purchase in Thailand.”

“Thailand cannot move forward until it has dealt with its past. As in 1932, the advance towards a meaningful democracy once again faces resistance from entrenched royalist elites. Today, however, the struggle is not only between aristocratic and “commoner” elites but has been nationalized to include all levels of a deeply divided society. Like the coup of 2006, the recent military takeover has deepened Thailand’s crisis instead of resolving it. This is unsurprising because neither were genuine attempts to break the impasse but were instead measures for the royalists to regain the upper hand.”

From The Diplomat

Thailand: Normalcy or Not?

Since the Thai army coup of May 22, 2014 those who know the country from travel, business or family ties, have watched with bated breath.  Would this be another in a string of military take-overs with no end in sight, or would the Army prove to be a rational center in the  escalating social conflict?

A month out it’s too soon to know, but the tell-tales are showing shifting winds.

One way:

Tens of thousands of migrants, predominantly from neighboring Cambodia, have left.

Creating chaotic scenes on the Thai-Cambodian border, tens of thousands of undocumented Cambodian laborers have been heading home, fearing a crackdown and aware of unconfirmed reports of the use of force against illegal labor by the Thai military government. VOA news

Surveillance is being increased, on the internet and in the streets.

Thailand’s military is bolstering its self-designated role as protector of the monarchy with increased “cyber patrols” to root out critics of the king following last month’s coup.
The junta has clamped down on any opposition to its overthrow of an elected government, with a crackdown on perceived slurs against the royals at the heart of its online surveillance operations. NDTV

The Other way:

The Generals have said the rice subsides scheme which bought rural support to the ousted government, is ended.  With it, the closure of huge spigots of monetized corruption, one hopes.

Thailand’s military leader, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, said all rice price-support schemes were dismissed unless they provided direct benefits to the farmers. Prayuth said alternative measures were needed to boost agricultural development and support to farmers. VOA news

Westerners in Thailand as tourists have not been fleeing, though the Chinese have been cautious.  Tourism in May, 2014 was down 11% from the prior year.  However, the curfew imposed in many cities, has been lifted.  Hoteliers and tour operators are optimistic. [ Tourism is some 6% of the Thai GDP, (compared to 16% in Cambodia,  2.8% in the US. 9.7% in Italy.)]

The curfew, imposed throughout Thailand after the coup, was lifted over the past week in 30 provinces, including the main tourist destinations. It had remained in place from midnight to 4 am (local time) in 47 provinces, including Bangkok. ABC

The Generals have said that a power will be handed back to a civilian government by August or September.  What that means exactly is not yet clear:

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads the council that has overseen the country since taking over on May 22, says power will be handed to a government in August as part of a three-phase plan of reconciliation, formation of a government and elections.

“A government will be set up by August, or at the very latest September,” General Prayuth told a meeting devoted to the 2015 national budget. ABC

 Given what is playing out in Iraq and Syria, the imposition of certain types of military rule is beginning to lose its odour….