11 Apr 2009

ASEAN Meeting Abandoned as State of Emergency Declared in Pattaya

I was going to avoid talking about politics here but, frankly, it is difficult not to in a country so politically unstable. Today, 11 April, the ASEAN summit being held in Pattaya has been abandoned as demonstrators broke through security barriers and stormed the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel.

To help the bemused onlookers Thai protests are conveniently colour-coded. In this case the red-shirts support the Democratic Alliance Against Democracy (DAAD). Their gripe is that the government formed after the last democratic elections has had power taken away from them through undemocratic means and a policy of social unrest by the yellow-shirts. However, in this clash the yellow-shirts were nowhere to be seen but instead we had blue-shirts defending the hotel. Perhaps their yellow shirts were at the laundry and they switched colours.

You can follow the original story at Thai Visa Forum, as well as commentaries from some well-informed people (as well as some uninformed bias, but that's par for a forum). One thing that strikes me is how poor security was at the Hotel, which is outside the city centre and has plenty of open land around it to set up a decent barrier. This assumes the security services had time to do so as the summit was originally scheduled to take place in bangkok. Was this an exercise in security-stripping the summit? Who were the blue-shirts? This was not unexpected, as the red-shirts had successfully blocked central Bangkok just the day before.

Here in the village Bangkok, and Pattaya, seem a long way away. Most people here supported Thaksin and see these last few years as a way for the military and oligarchy to regain power by unfair and foul means. Another election is likely to yield a similar result and hence a return to demonstrations and riots. Ultimately this is a clash between town and country. But ultimately there will be no solution until the political forces accept democratic results, otherwise what's the point in having elections?

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