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Asean Affairs  29 March 2011

Thailand’s silent majority

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     29 March 2011

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Thailand is no stranger to political activism.

Throughout the year, especially when the Thai parliament is in session, various groups descend upon Bangkok from “upcountry” to camp out and plead their case. These groups could be formal such as The Assembly of the Poor or informal such as farmers asking for price supports for the commodities they produce or residents of a particular area seeking relief from environmental issues. Most of the time they return home in a nonviolent manner and return again at a later date to air their issues and hope they are resolved.

However, as most of the world knows through extensive media coverage, for the last five years two groups the People Against Dictatorship, (PAD) aka yellow shirts, and the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) aka red shirts have staged major demonstrations. The yellow shirts blocked the two Bangkok airports for eight days in 2008 and the red shirts in 2010 staged a demonstration cum arson attack on public and private buildings in Bangkok that resulted in more than 90 deaths and significant arson damage. Some structures have not yet reopened.

If one were to believe the headlines it would seem that Thailand is divided into two hostile camps. However, a public opinion poll conducted by the Asia Foundation-Thailand in 27 provinces (Thailand now has 77 provinces) in September and October 2010 contradicts that impression.

The poll states, “Only 12 percent identified themselves as either red or yellow (here and subsequently termed “strongly yellow” or “strongly red”), with another 12 percent indicating that they were “slightly leaning” toward one color or another (here and subsequently termed “slightly Yellow” or “slightly Red). The majority of the population (76 percent) professed no color attachment.

The data suggests that Thais are not divided along “color lines” as the headlines might suggest.

The timing of the report’s release is significant as the country heads into an election cycle beginning with a dissolution of parliament in early May and an election in late June or early July.

Keep the Asia Foundation survey in mind when the election results begin to be tabulated.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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