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Phuket's 'Bangkok Red' Tells as Tourism Teeters

Friday, May 7, 2010
UNCERTAINTY still marks Thailand's route back from the brink, with tourism left to teeter on the edge of the abyss because of exaggerated nation-by-nation travel warnings.

Phuket red leader Sunthorn Toema, still protesting in Bangkok, says it's not the reds' fault: this is the low season, when tourist numbers drop anyway.

Khun Sunthorn says he does not trust Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and that Thailand's senior red leaders are likely to take the same approach when it comes to the PM's ''road map to reconciliation.''

The rival yellow Peoples' Alliance for Democracy for once agrees with the reds: they don't want the reds to be seen to have achieved a win from their long protest.

Inside the red redoubt on the streets of Bangkok, Khun Sunthorn wants to hold out until Parliament has been dissolved, or until the protesters have it in writing from the PM that a formal date has been set.

''Once we tell everyone to go home, it will be difficult to get people back together again,'' Khun Sunthorn told Phuketwan in a long, wide-ranging conversation. Khun Sunthorn sold a car to fund his trip to Bangkok and has been at the forefront of virtually every day of action by the reds since March 12.

He says there are 300 people from Phuket now among the red diehards. He also says that there are about 30 expats from Phuket beyond the tyre and bamboo barricades, too. Whether Khun Sunthorn has his arithmetic right may be questioned: he also says there are still 50,000 reds involved in the protest by night, and 100,000 by day.

''We have a plan,'' Khun Sunthorn told Phuketwan, ''but we are not saying what it is. We don't want the soldiers here. If they are sent in, we are ready to fight.''

He said the reds were ready for the propaganda battle, too, and had prepared a video that gave their account of the tragic and botched army action on April 10 that resulted in more than 20 deaths, hundreds of injured, and a wave of travel alerts that turned off Thailand's tourism. The video would be released at the appropriate time, Khun Sunthorn said.

''I'm a Phuket guy,'' Khun Sunthorn said. ''When the yellow people invaded Phuiket airport [in August 2008] we told our people 'Keep cool.' The yellow leaders should be telling their people the same thing now.''

His view is that there may yet be an army coup, which explains why the PM is playing for time. The reds were prepared to fight, he said, and that included the 30 or so expats, mostly with Thai wives or husbands, who he said had joined the protest from Phuket. They came from Chalong and Rawai, he said.

About 70-80 people from Phuket were members of the ''red guard,'' the protesters' toughest unit, he said. Khun Sunthorn's figures about protester numbers have consistently been greater than figures obtained from other sources.

He said that the reds from Phuket were not being paid to be involved. They were in Bangkok as a matter of principle.

Tourism industry spokespeople in the capital and overseas are now talking up a return to normal for tourism in Thailand. But the damaging travel alerts would have to be withdrawn first.

It may be that some countries, having imposed the alerts, are reluctant to lower their alarms so soon. That might make them look ridiculous in the eyes of their own citizens.

But Britain has already led the way and reduced its alert for the whole of Thailand. The odd thing is that Australia, the US, Canada and Hong Kong and other nations all still apparently regard Thailand as a more dangerous place for their citizens than it is for Britons.

And that's a tragic outcome for the thousands of people in Thailand and around the world who depend for a livelihood on tourism. A single international system for everyone would be fairer and more effective.

There is, however, some legitimate concern that agitation from the yellow side may intensify if all parties cannot reach an agreement. A PAD statement yesterday said: ''The road map for reconciliation is, in fact, a shameful deal which will spawn the growth of terrorist and anti-monarchy activities nationwide.''

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Freedom is not free.
Please just remember these words.

Editor: Isn't freedom just another word for nothing left to lose?

Posted by Graham on May 7, 2010 09:59

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"The odd thing is that Australia, the US, Canada and Hong Kong and other nations all still apparently regard Thailand as a more dangerous place for their citizens than it is for Britons."

Or that Britain regards its citizens as more disposable.

Posted by Cat on May 7, 2010 13:33

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The people of Thailand, are starting to walk down the road for peace, thank goodness.

Posted by Anonymous on May 7, 2010 13:59

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To walk the road of peace, sometimes we need to be ready to climb the mountain of conflict.

Posted by Simon Foster on May 7, 2010 15:37

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maybe its low season now, but there actions are affecting next season, India Malaysia tourism are showing adverts every time news about red shirts are involved in the Europe. Each one of those red shirts has probably indirectly lost the Thai Economy millions of baht and each one has caused lay-offs etc. As for money, I have actual photographs of people being paid up in Bangkok

Posted by Michael on May 7, 2010 16:17

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Och Ed, you are showing your age.
I see you remember the Kris Kristofferson song, Me and Bobby McGee, correctly.
Good on you sport.

Posted by Graham on May 7, 2010 18:41

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Editor: Mediawatcher, only an idiot would propose that all news outlets should cover the same events, but thanks for your suggestion.

Posted by MediaWatcher on May 7, 2010 20:53

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Phuketwan, please notify us, which car Khun Sunthorn is driving for real, after the next election. Maybe a Toyota Hybrid?

For the yellow, give them credit for listening to HM's advice and stand down in their anti-protest protest. Otherwise your concern would not be so much the travel alerts.

A road map for reconciliation hast to be a shameful aka painful deal. For hardliners on both sides. Because it is a compromise. If someone feels lucky, then there is a good chance, that it won't work.

And one last thought: Anyone want to speculate where we would be now, if not Gen. Anupong succeeded Gen. Sonthi, but this other guy? Huhhh.

Posted by Lena on May 8, 2010 03:41

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Sorry PW, you're right- a real news outlet is already covering Friday's a brutal daylight assassination unlike this amato be professional.
BTW your " ..about us" page hasn't got one name, just a lot of sefl agrandixzing crap what is Phuket Wan hiding?
I'm sure you're aware foreigners aren't allowed to work in this profession. Perhaps someone needs to call immigration

Posted by MediaWatcher on May 8, 2010 19:52

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@Media Watcher: rofl, you're too funny. No, rather pathetic.

Better call the Governor, if he is aware of Phuketwan and their farang editor. You're a little crazy if you think the authorities would not be WELL aware. At least Rohingas should ring a bell for you?

Posted by Lena on May 9, 2010 15:03


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