We are a group of journalism students at Ramkhamhaeng University Bangkok. We worked out some articels about the current political situation in Thailnad and want to present them on this blog. Please feel free to give any comments !
SANAM LUANG, 26TH FEBRUARY 2006. We, six journalism students and their professor from a local state university are standing in the middle of the park, 300 meters south of the infamous tourist destination Kao Sarn Road.
Unlike Kao Sarn Road, the park is empty.
Masses of people we expected, carrying banners and yellow t-shirts, calling for the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign. Sanam Luang, the traditional place to gather and show the leaders of Thailand that they are not wanted anymore, has a long history in past uprisings.
In 1992, ten thousands of people gathered here to release their anger and frustration about the military government of General Suchinda. In the 1973 insurgence 77 people were killed and 800 injured at the nearby Democracy Monument when the government put down a demonstration.
Tonight the wide place is empty. The stage where activists yesterday called for Thaksin to step down looks smaller than in the television. The day before the park was crowded with people, now only some die-hard opponents of the prime minister and homeless people sit and sleep at the few spots were still grass grows. The big demonstration was moved to the 5th February.
A bit lost we stand in the center, looking for a sign of the political crisis that keeps the Kingdom of Thailand busy for the last few weeks.
Triggered by the sale of Shin Corps, the telecommunications company owned by Thaksin, to Singapore, more and more people join the “Alliance for Democracy”, led by Sondhi Limtongkul, a former friend and business partner of Thaksin.
The sale of Shin Corp. brought the Shinawatra family 73 billion Baht, around 1.9 billion dollars. Not a single Baht tax was paid. Although not illegal, allegations of nepotism and corruption grow louder. Especially since the law that allowed the deal to be tax-free was passed a few days before by Thaksins Thai Rak Thai (Thai love Thais) party. The prime minister finds himself under more and more pressure; he dissolved the parliament and set the date for a new election for April the 2nd.
The other three major parties in parliament, Democrats, Chat Thai, and MahaChon Party agreed to boycott the election. They want Thaksin to step down.
We decide to leave Sanam Luang when we see a hand waving at us, belonging to a middle-aged man standing in a stall built with anti-Thaksin banners.
“Have a look”, he says in broken English and points to a sign attached to a banner, reading “Overlapping interests. Corruption. Sale of Motherland. Thaksin get out”, and a cartoon of Thaksin, depict with a square head, the horns of a devil and red eyes.
The activist, who says his name is “Small”, wears a black headband, saying: “People for Democracy”. This, he explains, shows that he is a member of a hardliner group, involved in the 1992 uproar and willing to fight.
He holds out with two other men and a woman, they hand us bottles of water, “sorry – no have fridge”, they say when we drink the warm water on this hot, humid evening in the heart of Bangkok.
Corruption, sale out of public property, not holding promises, that’s why they are here Small explains. “He talks in a good way, but bad things follow.” His face is angry.
Quickly they print more headscarves; we have to hold them for two minutes until they are dry. Two for each one of us. Than we pose for a picture with the little group; I wait for the feeling of being used to come, but it doesn’t.
How far would you go in your resistance, we ask them. After the demonstration of the 5th, something has to happen, Small says. A kite is flying above us in the dark sky with fast moving red clouds. And if it turns violent? His face remains uncompromisingly. “Something must happen.”
Short biography of Sondhi and Chamlong