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MediaWATCH: Have Protesters Lost the Plot?

MediaWATCH: Have Protesters Lost the Plot?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Phuketwan MediaWATCH

A daily wrap of Thailand news, with a Phuket perspective, plus relevant reports from national and international media.

PEACE talks are what's needed but the big question has to be asked: how many of the people behind the barricades, now in their third month of protest, are suffering from rebellion fever? Does going ''beyond being scared'' mean they have a deathwish? Could their collective psychology have become set against any negotiation for peace, any ending short of victory, preferring instead to die for their cause in the city streets? Angry red shirt protesters booed off their leaders' attempts to enter an immediate peace process with the government, presenting another major stumbling block to attempts to end the bloody violence plaguing Bangkok. Thailand's tourism industry, built on an image of gentleness, pleasure and smiles, is suffering its worst setback in decades - perhaps the worst in its history, according to tourism officials. The violence has been confined so far to a relatively small, though central, area of Bangkok. Many Thais are disturbed to see their country portrayed as a place of violence. ''When you get out from those areas of political turmoil, things seem to move as smoothly as ever,'' said Korakot Punlopruksa, a travel writer and photographer. ''We still live peacefully, we still love good food, and the sea is still beautiful.'' Deadly street battles that have turned parts of the Thai capital into urban war zones are threatening to chill foreign investment for years, hobbling a nation once among the region's fastest growing but now losing its edge over rivals like Vietnam. Images of flaming tires, blood-covered bodies, armed soldiers and grenade-riddled buildings may dominate local and international media these days, but in the rest of Thailand - and even most parts of Bangkok - life is carrying on without any signs of the clashes. Donald McCargo writes: Given the terrible violence of recent weeks, and a death toll now matching that of May 1992, why does the king not intervene again? Between redshirted Thaksinites and yellowshirted royalists run bloody scars that cut right through Thai society, and these are not wounds that any words of wisdom could easily heal. In the words of one senior anti-government leader, a very definite fork in the road facing Thailand. It isn't a neat Y-intersection with two equally obvious paths to choose from: one is ''a superhighway of violence,'' the other a narrow and poorly lit back alley that just might lead to a peaceful solution of this country's deadly political crisis. Ongoing street violence in Bangkok has put pressure on foreign investor sentiment in Thai markets and caused a massive outflow of foreign funds from the country. Analysts said foreign institutional funds withdrew $500 million from Thailand last week and $130 million on Monday alone. For the past nine trading days, net foreign outflows have reached nearly $1 billion and observers do not see foreign funds returning soon. In recent weeks, Thaksin Shinawatra has sought to lower his profile, dropping the daily video-link speeches he delivered at the start of the demonstration. Protest leaders say that the movement has outgrown him. Chaturon Chaiseng, a deputy prime minister in the ousted government, said: ''Thaksin is very important in the movement but not as an individual. If you take Thaksin out of the equation, all of the problems would still be there.'' A parallel fight for the hearts and minds of the Thai public and the international community is raging. The Thai army has accused anti-government red-shirt protesters of using children as human shields to keep troops from marching on their central city protest camp. There also are allegations that the government and army are playing down the extent of the carnage on the capital's streets. A 14-year-old boy died after being shot in the stomach by soldiers when the van he was travelling in failed to stop at a checkpoint on Saturday. Political unrest is expected to cost Thai tourism at least 100 billion baht in lost revenue this year, as only 12 million to 13 million foreigners holiday here. The Tourism Council of Thailand cut its projection for foreign visitors to no more than 13 million, with income of 480 billion baht. Foreign arrivals had been projected at between 12.7 million and 14.1 million, earning Thailand about 580 billion baht. With embassies pulling out of the city and recommending foreign nationals avoid Thailand for everything but absolutely essential travel, the Land of Smiles is suffering a tourism industry downturn as bad as the Tsunami of 2004. Given the capricious nature of this current political crisis, however, it's unlikely the tourists will come flooding back as they did when the waters receded. With both sides holding a legitimate beef, it's difficult to see an easy resolution. Hotels in Kao Lak, a resort in Phang Nga province, are less than 6 percent full, according to Prakit Shinamornpong of the Thai Hotels Association. On Phuket, occupancy is below 40 percent, compared with a usual level of about 60 percent, he said. Bangkok hotels are less than 30 percent full, about half the usual rate for this time of year. Away from Bangkok, holiday resorts are welcoming guests as normal. Frances Tuke from ABTA, The Travel Association, told TravelMail that holidaymakers heading to destinations across Thailand should be able to continue with their plans as normal: ''Resorts such as Samui, Phuket and Krabi are absolutely fine - the problem does seem to be contained to Bangkok.'' For those transiting via Bangkok, the FCO is advising that the airport is currently unaffected by the problems. Qantas passengers bound for Thailand are being given the option to defer travel without penalty. Passengers holding a ticket to travel on or before May 24 will be able to change their booking. The Asia/Pacific hotel development pipeline comprises 1004 hotels totalling 252,584 rooms, according to the March 2010 STR Global Construction Pipeline Report released this week. China accounted for more than 50 percent, reporting 133,062 rooms. India reported 45,583 rooms in the total active pipeline, followed by Thailand (16,018 rooms) and Vietnam (11,084 rooms). A break in Phuket, with two school friends and husbands minus kids turned out to be one of my best holidays ever. Despite one massive argument on sex tourism in Thailand, where words like ''sexist jerk'' were flying about. The way to resolve it was to change the topic, to lighter issues like, what to eat for dinner.

Phuket Coming Events

May 21 Phuket fightback: Watermark meeting of key Phuket networking groups, from 5pm.
May 21-23 Paragliding on Phuket.
May 23 Tourism Authority of Thailand bicycle ride around Old Phuket Town. A guided tour, with meals and a t-shirt, for just 100 baht. Bookings from May 10. Details: 076 217138 or 076 211036.
May 26 Boy George plays at Seduction, Phuket.
May 31-June 5 Eight-nation football tournament for players over 55 at Surakul Stadium in Phuket City. Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan, Iran, Armenia competing.
June 4-13 Phuket International Film Festival, Coliseum Cineplex, Phuket City.
June 13 Laguna Phuket International Marathon. Fun runs, too.
June 25 to 27 Second Kathu Culture Road Fair, recalling the region's history
July 21-25 Phuket Six Senses Race Week, Evason, Rawai
July 4 Planned US Phuket Navy League Independence Day party on Patong shorefront at Loma Park
December 4-11 Phuket King's Cup Regatta

January 6-9 PIMEX boat show, Royal Phuket Marina
February 9-13 The Bay Regatta - Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi
Phuket Stays Safe, Says Island's Police Chief
Latest Police numbers are down because of reinforcements being sent to Bangkok, but Phuket remains a safe place, says the island's chief of police.
Phuket Stays Safe, Says Island's Police Chief

LIVE UPDATES Red Shirts Ready to Stop, Media Told; Amnesty Accuses Army of 'Reckless Lethal Force'
UPDATE Red shirt leaders talk of stopping if the government does, too. Amnesty International has accused the Thai army of rights abuses.
LIVE UPDATES Red Shirts Ready to Stop, Media Told; Amnesty Accuses Army of 'Reckless Lethal Force'

Phuket's New Low Wipes Smiles From Faces
Latest Falling forward occupancy rates as a result of the Bangkok violence makes for winners and losers. If you are planning a holiday or buying a resort, consider yourself a winner.
Phuket's New Low Wipes Smiles From Faces

Malaysia Takes Advantage of Phuket's Pain
Latest Malaysia's Minister for Tourism is reported to have sought to take advantage of the travel warnings for Bangkok and Phuket by suggesting her country as an alternative.
Malaysia Takes Advantage of Phuket's Pain

Centara Confirms October for 1.9bn Baht Phuket Resort
Latest Confidence is required for Phuket tourism in the face of continuing strife. The island is suffering despite an absence of violence. Centara says it's all go for a 1.9 billion baht development.
Centara Confirms October for 1.9bn Baht Phuket Resort


Comments have been disabled for this article.


That image of gentle, smiling, fun-loving Thailand is just a clever disguise. As I have experienced during many visits and long term stays since 1995 behind that mask is the ugly face of greed, corruption, exploitation and general immorality. Every people get the history and system they deserve. They call it Bad Karma, don't they?

Posted by Wezzi on May 19, 2010 15:48

Monday July 6, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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