My taxi driver is speaking rapidly and heatedly. I know exactly what set him off. But I'm still surprised by it.
I had asked my mom, who is from Bangkok, about some of the campaign posters for Thailand's upcoming general election. The roadsides are crammed full of them right now. Some are funny, like the one in the middle of this picture of an older man holding a baby. It's a riff on the Mark Twain quote, "Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often."
My mom's explanation of another poster also dropped a famous name: Thaksin. As soon as those two syllables left her mouth, I knew we had just steered into testy political territory. Our taxi driver immediately looked back at her in the rear-view mirror and launched into a fierce debate. I tried to change the subject... but could only come up with "The Hangover II."
The sign that caught my eye showed a water buffalo wearing a suit. (For pictures, click here.) The poster essentially says, don't let animals into parliament; vote no. Some show other animals, but they're all on a bright yellow background. They have been put up by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also known as the Yellow Shirts.
Some might find that surprising, since the PAD sit-in of 2008 helped bring the current prime minister to power. But Abhisit Vejjajiva is no longer the Yellow Shirts' golden boy. He has been criticized for not being tougher with Cambodia in a long-running border dispute.
Others say he wasn't hard enough on Red Shirt protesters who surrounded Government House last March and later occupied Bangkok's commercial center. (Keep in mind, 91 people were killed in street battles and Abhisit was accused of using excessive force.)
The Red Shirts support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and has since been convicted of a corruption charge by Thailand's Supreme Court. Thaksin is widely considered to be leading the Pheu Thai party from exile in Dubai. His sister, Yingluck, is the party's candidate and leads in the polls. She would be Thailand's first female prime minister.
The Red Shirts have rallied behind Yingluck. But the Yellow Shirts are broken into several factions, the "Vote No" campaign being one of them. There is also the New Politics Party, led by a former key PAD leader. In the taxi, my mom told me she thinks that will lead to a spoiler effect and hand victory to Thaksin.
That seems like a long explanation of one poster. But Thai politics are complicated. And contentious. No matter who wins the July 3 election, one side will be left very unhappy. The question is how they will express that discontent... and how damaging will it be for the country?
This post is so ill-informed, I am surprised it got posted to a CNN site.
Very much a regional thing, the poor north pro Thaksin, nothing that mysterious really, the richer south pro King thus yellow shirts, it is about the ruling clique of oligarchs in Bangkok keeping power, the economy is good, so no major shake ups, but the gutsy red shirts will gain power in the long run through popular support. Politics and religion have always been crazy, cultural chauvinism amplifies this, and Thais have plenty
Talen brilliant pohtos which sum up the whole sad sorry affair. It's a shame that the initial talks to end the rally' had not bore some results. I think there were too many red shirt leaders with conflicting strategies, peace and violence, for that to have happened and whoever was pulling the PM's strings decided to quash the red shirts once and for all, I don't think they've achieved that either. The feeling I got from my time in Isaan was that their cause was from from over and hope has been replaced by a deep rooted anger. Sadly I think the troubles are merely in a state of recuperating sleep..-= Martynb4s last blog .. =-.
If the U.S. is exploring the Syrian war crimes, then what about the the war crimes for the massacre in the heart of Bangkok last year. Many innocent people were killed by snipers that hid on the top of the buildings near by. Those victims were children and women without any weapons in their arms. If the U.S. government is searching for any evidence in Syria and Tunisia, they should also urgently include Thailand in their list because Thailand is after all the first country to use snipers to shoot innocent people. The U.S. should stop all these bias, shutting eyes on one country and taking action in another country. It is time for the U.S. to stop thinking about their own advantages.
How very true. Wish we had a third choice but there just is no third acceptable choice. Yingluck or Apisit. Before we go to the polls, wish they would have a law banning protests or ask all parties to control their followers (at least a year or two of peace would be nice.) :)
Ignorant David....how many children were killed in Bangkok last year? and how many women? Innocent people? who then began to destroy Bangkok with the burning of malls.....multi-millions of $$$$ in damage and small businesses in the PT areas who lost their incomes to support their families. Get your facts straight before you complain.
@Norman, comment 1,
Ill-informed or not to your liking?
Abhisit & his gang (Democrat + coalition Parties) have been a great disappointment and disgrace, as an absolutely failed government, to Thailand for the past 2 and a half years.
Their greatest failures can be seen firsrt in their willingness to obey the military, then their double-standard governance of the people, their cruel and ruthless handling of the protesters in 2010 killing 91 citizens and injuring over 2,000 people by employing military force, their obvious biggest-ever corruptions in all ministries causing great retardation to Thailand's progress, their mishandling of the present day Thai-Cambodian border/ neighboring relation matter, and much, much more.
Abhisit has been showing every sign of wishful returning to rule, whereas Yingluck is showing every sign of winning in this election. But beware the military, because those generals favor Abhisit who has spoiled them with extravagant military budget. Let's truly hope Abhisit and his gang are gone for good or forever, please do not come back to cause any more damages to Thailand!
not a single fact to say antything, the only thing you are surprised about is that your bengihted world view is false, I lived in Thailand five years, my wife is a famous Thai teacher, and I have a masters degree from aCalifornia universities in Asian history,, ten years as a professor in Korea, China and Japan teaching one year, no one is better quuallified than me to comment. Not only that CNN posts far more witless replies than yours routinely, obscene and spite spewing poison pen rants without restraint, CNN is an errand boys for the kleptocrats , Grand Theft Empires, and oligarchs running amok through history, whose days are numbered.
The reporter is well informed. People who will vote for the Democrat hates Thaksin. People who vote for Thaksin's Party hate the Democrat. Redshirts hate Yellow shirts; Yellowshirts hate Redshirts. I can't vote for corrupt politicians. The redshirts also know he corrupts; they love him because he created big projects that were good for the economy. Would you vote for a politician who creates good overall, but corrupts?
91 body will be gotten impartiality, begin 3-July!
norman – "This post is so ill-informed, I am surprised it got posted to a CNN site"
The author has correctly translated the posters – at what point is he ill-informed? I think your comment is so ill-informed it should be removed
..... Why does everybody think they know more than the other? And why do we have to go calling each others names?
Problem is, BOTH sides of the political parties have done wrong. If you can't see that and start taking sides – like many Thai people, having labelled themselves as either 'Red' or 'Yellow' and asking others 'What colour are you?' – you end up having to rationalize and protect their shortcomings and legally sensitive behaviour.
The economic disparity and income inequality between the top, middle and lower income classes has always been wide in Thailand. It's argued that populist campaigns only entered Thai political history since Thaksin was running for office. It was great timing on Thaksin's part, too, since the growing poor were getting more and more fed up with the inequality.
The thing is, neither the Democrats (Abhisit's) or Pheu Thai Party (Thaksin's) are free from corruption, and neither seem able, willing, or wanting to fight it completely.
... but then again... this is all just my opinion, and I'm just an MSc graduate with no experience in politics
(to the moderators of CNN comments, if you can just add this to the end of my earlier comment.. Sorry!)
thank you Truly Thai for a restrained and honest report, see Norman above to see how profoundly ignorant or prejudiced those with rigid politics are about South and East Asia, but regionalism is prevalent everywhere, maybe not all bad? It can
establish identity, promote a culture to guide the young; a long range vision the great ones have given is is a united world, it could be the best of both worlds, economic cooperation, peace and prosperity globally, regional pride and cultural traditions at the local level, and then multi cultural assimilation and integration , ecologically integrated depending on latitudes, California is a long ways that way, but so many other places with reglobalization, you could suspect it is Westernization or Americanization, questions that will be addressed fully by future generations, too soon to judge, probably no problem.
I hope your premonition about Abhisit proves a false alarm, was quite horrifying to see those people killed by the army, we can take solace that the future is unsustainable in that mode, armies and police, violence from any source will ended by the current. wave of democratic movements in the world, the King was a party to the massacre and rape of students in the early seventies, so he may be a cool guy who wrote some good blues, but that is unacceptable, and Thailand has a long ways to go to have a modern political system, and eliminate the Machiavellian mode . The people are great, innocent, spiritual, and full of life, big personalities like no other place, so it will all be OK>
Yes let the Thais run the world instead and you won't have this so called bias CNN article. lol You can't even spell qualify.
A party list no. 1 of Pheu Thai; Ms. Yingluck, has got a very silly attention among Thais. She has done nothing yet, but people here are crazy about her. Thai people are similar to the Philippines, India, and many undeveloped countries in Africa. They elect their country leaders because of popular e.g movie star, rich family background and so forth. they do no care what they have done. they don't care about thier performances or skills. This is why this country still needs time to develop.
Having lived in Thailand for almost 6 years now and married to a Thai national for almost 10, I can tell you that Thai politics are some of the most corrupt in the world. The people who ousted Thaksin did so because he was redistributing wealth and giving the poor people (majority) power over the rich elitists (minority) accustomed to having their way. Thaksin opponents cherry pick Thaksin's actions in the past but if true objectivity were used, he would have been no more corrupt than his predecessors or those who have come after him but certainly did a world of good for Thailand and it's citizens, especially the poor. Yellow verses Red is nothing more than rich verses the poor. The yellows started it all and have escaped prosecution. The rich are very scared of the poor gaining the majority control and voting in taxes that will redistribute the rich people's wealth to the poor. This IS what Thai politics are all about at the moment.
In October of nineteen seventy six, at a top university in Thailand,Thammasat, two thousand students were sitting in , peaceful and unarmed, to protest the right wing military coup. Four thousand paramilitaries trained and sanctioned by the king attacked,with utmost barbarity, at least one hundred were killed, hundreds wounded, beaten , the girls raped, bodies mutilated, bodies burned, those swimming the river shot, and another
account at Wikipedia says maybe ten thousand were killed. The Chinese Benevolent Association who buried some bodies gave the one hundred figure, but bodies being burned could have hidden the real number. To this day no one has been brought to justice over this, one prime minister said it was only one killed. The divide between rural and city continues , as in this election, one thing the armies and police have never understood, a simple logic, it is the people who pay for them, who create the society they so laughingly " defend". When the people are oppressed to this degree and cannot create , they too are gone. Anthony Gregory at LewRockwell.com gives an excellent statistical analysis of why police should be abolished in the US, there are three times more private security forces, and the police only oppress the poor and minorities , destroying society in the long run. THe US is far ahead in social awareness and progressive education than most Asian countries, so has the opportunity to actually lead for once on this issue, and bring to account all the despots , not just the oil rich ones.
ignorant Richard......The red shirts did far less damage physically and economically than the Yellow shirts who, as terrorists, seized the international airport and ransacked government house stealing everything that wasn't bolted down, including personal information and nationally sensitive files as part of imposing their political will on the majority of the country. The Yellows are minority elitists......you do know this don't you? The reason why less people died during the Yellow shirt terrorist attack was because of the government's restraint. A government friendly to Thaksin, his coalition and Thai citizens as a whole.
It is so sad to see this country in such confused and complicated situation. I think nobody would truely understand Thai politic even Thai politicians themselves. During the past two years The Democrat tried to better the populist campagne initiated by Mr Thaksin. Himself is exploiting the poor people by supporting the Red Shirt for his own benefits. The smaller political parties tried to get seats as many as possible to have bargain power if they take side either Puethai Party or Democrat Party. That will empower one of them to be the next government as very likely no party will have the absolute majority in the upcoming election. Please do not involve the king as it will be a risky step for him to take. The situation now is not like before where all Thais had the utmost respect for him. The young generation do not understand well how much the king has done a lot of things for the countryside people. Without him the farmers would not have the chance to grow rice 2-3 times a year. Because of him and his vision Thailand becomes one of the biggest food exporter in the world. It is hard for many foreigners to percieve Thais' feeling towards their monarch. Recently there are many movements with ill-intention tried to discredit him as much as possible causing many young people have less respect to him. We just hope that it will not become a banana republic when the cabinet meeting has to listen the video link for the decision maker in Dubai instead of the elected prime minister. Let's see the silent power which represent the majority of the voters on July 3.
This is a good MacNews sound byte more like USA Today. Thailand has some complex issued to deal with. They are not unlike politics in America, where demagogues use all manner of media now to lie to the voters. After the vote, then we find out the real truth of each party.
Thailand is a fabulous place. The people are friendly, fun and hospitable. They are also very, very smart about their own issues, and how they have been manipulated. There are many levels to the current crisis.
Thaksin had some great ideas he put into play early on. Then he did some really awful things like extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers in the NE. Then he bungled the Muslim South insurgency, with an brutal protest rest where 80+men were suffocated on a flat bed truck.
It would seem also at one level it is Thaksin the businessman against the 40 families who have created monopolies sometimes with royal patronage lasting 100 + years. Abhisit is their hand picked PM, not unlike son of Bush here for all the billionaires in USA was.
I really want Thailand to have democracy, peacefully and for every Thai. So, if we can clean up our side of the street in the USA, then we can really say we are a democracy too. Then maybe we can also have peace and happiness.
@Norman. I don't know that I would call it ill-informed, but the piece is surely very simplistic and doesn't even scratch the surface of the issues and constituents that both sides represent.
It's a classic case of a face-off between the "haves" and "have-nots". The "haves", the Yellow Shirt elite are a minority of Thais with higher or overseas education and control the largest amount of wealth in the country. They want to run the country to benefit them, their pocketbooks and the income-streams.
The "have-nots" are a populist movement of largely poorer, less educated Thais, with a base in the large Northeast area of the country. The area that has the least development, the least infrastructure and the lowest per-capita income levels in the country. But in numbers, they are much larger group, which is why they have won recent popular elections and will win this one again.
It isn't the outcome of the election that is in much question, there are physically more "Red Shirts" than "Yellow Shirts". The question is, what will the "Yellows" do after they lose yet another popular election.
Last time they invaded the airport and brought the country to a standstill. Later when the "Red Shirts" protested the stealing of the government from their party they went to the streets where they were shot.
The question isn't the election results...it's the aftermath that is undetermined.
What is really frightening about all this is that someone like Thaksin the second most corrupt man in or out of Thai politics can buy his way back into power. Doesn't say much for the overall wisdom of the Thai people that they would like a snake oil salesman like him but then I guess the alternatives are little better. When businessmen run the Country you can bet that their bottom line comes before the Country, people or any fake attempts at democracy. Goodbye Thailand, hello Thaksinland. Coming soon.
again Truly Thai, thanks for the thought provoking post, Yingluck as a women is likely not to repeat the mistakes of Thaksin, with censorship and other heavy handed methods, but he talked a good game on occasion with populist policies, and she can be expected to get closer to implementing them hopefully, I will encourage my wife to vote for her,
funny how day to day life seems to have nothing to do with the news, then you read about the Thammasat massacre, or the Bangkok one last year, and fear for your own safety and loved ones, or even for the strangers, the underdogs, the poor, the old, the children as a natural reaction from the inborn humanity all have, Those who have been stuck deep in the mires of materiallsm , wealth, and power have tuned out to this, and fear its rekindling in the world the most, like the Arab spring, because if it is rekindled in them, they will lose what they are familiar with, and the unknown is scary for the bravest and most enlightened, until you give up the known, you will be a slave and not free, not realize your full potential or destiny, this is all almost common knowledge nowadays with the cyber world so popular, but thanks a million for the reminder, keep the faith , hope springs eternal, and it is enough
There has been no discussion or debate of the issues. Every other word out of Absit's mouth is about "reconciliation," whatever that is supposed to mean. Yingluck answers every question by promising she will have a committee to study the problem. That means she will just call her brother & follow his orders. Neither one really has any answers or solutions for Thailand's problems. The Red Shirts will sweep into victory w/a landslide. The folks who put up the Yellow Animal posters will try to figure out a way to take it away from them by hook or by crook.
Thadius Shadrach: How in the world did you ever get a masters degree in a California w/your writing? You make me ashamed to be be a degree holder from a California University. What the hell is going on over there, anyway?
Having lived in Thailand for almost 6 years now.Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often.
I am retired and live full time in Thailand in a middle class Thai neighborhood. I have a Thai wife and speak and read Thai. It is truly a pleasure and a unique experience to read an article in the western news media about Thai politics that is intelligent, unbiased and simply states the facts from a human perspective. Thank you.
I am so tired of the sophomoric, uninformed analysis from a classic western class struggle perspective. The situation here is complex, but it has very little to do with western ideologies. This is Asia and the entire cultural history, set of values and way of thinking in Thailand is completely different than in the West.
I hope that CNN continues to use your articles.
Abhisit will win for sure in the coming general election. He is part of the Thai monarchist movement. Today, on BBC, Abhist, just plainly adored the Thai monarchy as an institution that unifies Thailand. No doubt he is playing the right cards.
Reading Rick's post, I am amazed at his great understanding of the Thai issues.
I'll second that Tedi , profound benevolence to Ricks post, too,
I was wrong, my wife will vote for Abhisit, she is a famous teacher,one of the top twenty in Thailand, living in the south, where yellow shirts prevail, with a brother in the north where red shirts are, they are afraid of more lies by a Thaksin proxy, not that Abhisit is any angel , as Rick demonstrated, as a farang, mai pen rai, we say, and nawn dii kwa
I don't think you know what you're talking about I'm aiarfd. An international school will not ruin the island. Education, or rather, better education can only improve the quality of life and possibilities for children growing up on the island. Naturally I'm talking mostly about farang children but there will be plenty of thais who would embrace this opportunity also. And I know this from experience, not on koh Phangan but on a neighbouring island which has similar issues.
as Thai prime minister, instead of trying to compromise in both side but he is trying to breaking Thais... that because he want to win election. talk talk talk ...blame the other, that Apisit stlye.. very very boring
If he want to win ...i think he should win with his own policy, his own project that he worked for 2 yrs... if Thai satisfied, then i believe they will choose him. don't try to make yourself better by making the other worse.
It is not easy to analyze/judge a person based on 2nd-hand knowledge. How many of us can truly say that we have hard evidence to back up what we are saying? I am Thai–born and raised in Thailand. I love my king and like what I have read and heard about what my king and his daughters have been doing to try to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate. And yet I cannot claim to know everything or be "truly Thai." What is a true Thai anyways? Just because I am born here does not mean that I understand or represent the people who are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khorat, or Yala. What are the needs of a person? Most of us, the world over, start out with physical/physiological needs (food, shelter, sex, money, etc.) before we move on to needs of safety (personal/family, financial security, etc.). This is what I see (from my point of view) as needs of most people who in Thailand. Many Thais have not yet had the chance to say they belong to the middle-class. Even in Bangkok, where a lot claim to be of the middle-class, not many have gotten over the needs for safety. Therefore, these are our wants and needs - basically food, shelter, money or financial safety. Any government that can offer these basic needs will most likely get the votes of the people. Of course, a smart government will also include policies that cater to the other higher level needs. Some of you who are reading this might be laughing and say that you have transcended these basic needs. However, how many of us can truly say we don't care or don't think about ourselves, our families, our money? How many of us can truly say....I want the best for the mass or the majority of the Thai people? All we want is the best for ourselves. Are we wrong to want the best for ourselves? The answer is no. It is human to want the best for ourselves. People of the Middle East want freedom of speech. Asians want financial security. Americans and Europeans ....what DO you want? :) Has Obama, Sarkozy, Putin satisfied all your needs? If you went to vote, would you vote for them again or would you vote for someone who "seems" to understand your needs? Same thing with Apisit and Thaksin(both with Esteem level needs) here. We've seen both of them at work. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. A lot of us (who don't go out to protest) would gladly choose a 3rd person who says they can give us what we need ...and that is why you see so many people choosing Yingluck. We have never seen her at work and are willing to give her a chance. It is a risk. That is definite. So...either we choose:
2. Thaksin by choosing Yingluck
3. Yingluck (and hope that she will grow a backbone)
4. Chuwit (LOL), or some other lesser known, or
5. we sit it out and don't go vote like what the Yellow Shirts want
BTW...Apisit is not (yellow-shirted) anymore. And not all Thais can be grouped as Yellow Shirts or Red Shirts like the news would like you to believe. There are a lot of us who have the wait-and-see attitude. But we definitely WILL go vote. We choose ...for our country (our own needs more like). Wait and see. July 3 is not that far off. Hope CNN does another article on the results and aftermath (more protests?!). Get Melissa Hassett to do it. I like her style. :)
Dear Khun Thaksin. I do believe that you must read this news on CNN for sure, as you are very international level person. i would like to inform you that Thailand problem can easily solve by you only, but you have to sacrify yourself a bit. please come back to serve your jail term. This is to show that you respect Thai laws. you cannot simply ask for fair justice, as you also did not provide a fair justice to 3,000 people died during your campaign called "war on drug". this is not included hundreds of Muslims in the South dead during your term. I think that maximum you would be in jail not more than 1 year. then, everyone are ready to forgive you, and amnasty law will be granted for you for sure. if you came back and served your jail term. I think that yellow shirts or your political rivals could not blame on you anymore. Then, thing will be back to normal track. Hence, if you really love this country and want this country return to normal mode, it is only you can do. if you were able to do so. Both Thais and international people will admire you as an hero. We, Thais, really need peace, and it is only you can return peace to Thailand. Believe me! you will become an hero for the nation!
As i saw your comment about my country, then i think You 're a such of highschool boy who tried to be a doctor. So Pittiful....
I don't support Thaksin. He uses his money to buy everything-even democracy and votes. Think about it. If you think he had been a real good man when he was the prime minister, why would he be sentenced to jail. (and why did he run away?? ) One of my friends argues that it was because the Supreme Court was being unfair. Come on people, they have got evidence...U think Thailand is that undeveloped ?? The Supreme Court worked as what the evidence suggested it to be. Please be more open.
ANYWAY...I respect everyone's point of view.
I just wish peace could be restored in Thailand :(
We were going very well, economically and politically.
So please please please....Thais ! Don't fight against our country.
One more thing.....
There's a lot of ' buying votes' going on in Thailand.
so If u r going to election on the day, please don't let money rule your liberty to choose the 'right' one to the parliament.
Choose whoever would work for our country. :)
Fighting Thailand !
hi, after reading such long winded comment from many different party....i, as a foreigner to go BKK for business perspectives and know none of Thai politics at all would seriously hope Thai could back to normal state. With every election, every campaign launch by red/yellow or whatever colour shirt they maybe, it damage Thai reputation and as foreigner, i am concern everytime i travel to BKK for business. Though the business might be usual at some point of time, but when there is any party started a protest or rally, it cause fear among foreigner and i believe this could backslash your economy especially tourism. Most of my friend now who frequent Thai as travel destination have change their holiday destination and i believe other foreigner is doing so as well. As long as there is such political divide with brute force involve, there will not be peace and the most suffer from this is Thai citizen, Thai economy and Thai renowned reputation.
issa, the word is biased not bias, and I can spell qualify , was in a hurry, my university students demand my time. LOL pedanticism it is called,
niggling mentality, but the Red Shirts won as I predicted, and no repercussions like the chicken littles thought, it is a mix sure, Thaksin had censorship was no true Democrat, Abhisit killed dozens, so he lost, Yingluck will not do that, expect a happy future
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