Greetings from Thailand.
Last Saturday, the Olympic Flame arrived in Bangkok on its way back to China for the 2008 Olympics. Threats were made by numerous groups, supporting Tibet and against China’s human rights violations, that there would be large demonstrations in Bangkok against China. As it turned out however, the protests were very small. This could have something to do with the fact that the Thai government announced that any foreigner participating in demonstrations during the Olympic Flame run would be kicked out of the country and their names put on a blacklist.
I wanted to go to see the Olympic Flame being carried through Bangkok but didn’t want to get caught up in any demonstrations and then be falsely accused of ‘participating’ and kicked out of the country, so I didn’t go. This is however another piece of evidence against the Thai government’s increasing acts of censorship and is not something a ‘democracy’ should be doing. I would not demonstrate against China and I think what the West is doing in the demonstrations against China is counter-productive. However, I do not agree with a government that even tells me what I am allowed to say and what I’m not allowed to say. That is not a democratic government.
In other and somewhat-related news, police are being told they were ‘too lenient’ in controlling a mob on Friday. A peaceful rally was being held at Thammasat University in Bangkok by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). An anti-PAD group of People Power Party members (basically supporters of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra), pushed through the police barriers and started throwing bottles and rocks. At one point, two men even opened their flies and exposed their penises in an attempt to provoke members of the PAD to fight back.
Police, of course, did nothing. Why, of course, do you ask? Because many of the police in Thailand have been in the pockets of Thaksin for years, so if the members of the mob were Thaksin supporters, it’s not likely the police would do anything. The police chief has said that the men who exposed themselves will be fined 500 baht. As 500 baht is about $15, it’s not even a ‘slap on the wrist’ let alone a true fine.
In good news, new reports out show that Thailand’s economy is still very strong and that it is expected to grow by at least 6% this year, far exceeding the estimates of economies like the United States. Thailand has also announced it will not be cutting rice exports this year – good news for the world rice markets, where rice prices have increased almost 100% in the last month.
And in somewhat sad and nostalgic news, the Thailand Post Office has announced that telegrams will no longer be able to be sent from Thai Post Offices. Telegrams have been sent within Thailand for over 130 years but, in the modern age of internet and telephones, they’re no longer needed. The last telegrams to be sent out of Thailand will be sent on April 30th, 2008 from the Bang Rak post office.
That’s all for this week. Best wishes and all the good stuff….
Sawatdee Kha from Thailand