Michael's Dispatches

A Simple Man scores a Major Win


22 February 2014


(It has been a long day, and tomorrow comes early. I rush to write these words with a single pass and no edit. Please forgive me.)

We begin:

This is a difficult struggle to overthrow an enormously corrupt Thai government. The struggle is marked by a series of independent victories.

This afternoon I spent more than two hours with a well-known retired general discussing the matter, and then I spent more than three hours with farmers. All agree that Yingluck's days are growing shorter.

One farmer is Ravee Roongraung. Khun Ravee is a rice farmer from Petchaburi. Khun Ravee has risen to the occasion to lead farmers from seven provinces to demand payment for their stolen rice.

Thai farmers are famously submissive. Normally they would not dare to look high government officials in the eye. Normally the farmers would not even look at their faces, but would cast their eyes to the ground.

But so morally corrupt is this government, and so rapacious and insulting, that many farmers are rising up, and staring officials straight in the eyes.

At first when the farmers came to Bangkok, the government officials refused even to meet with them. I am witness that this is true. One farmer sadly recounted to me that a high government official at the Ministry of Commerce was so dismissive that he insulted the farmers by asking why they even had come.

And so tonight the farmers sleep on the ground in protest. Their days of submission are waning.

Last week I was present when the farmers massed at the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, where the farmers demanded audience with Yingluck, and answers.

Yingluck of course only cares about farmers for their votes and for their labors.

After much effort, Khun Ravee was granted audience with caretaker Deputy Prime Minister/Finance, Kittiratt Na-Ranong. The Yingluck government so despises the farmers that months of frustrating protests were required to obtain this simple courtesy.

I was with the huge crowd of farmers outside that day, when Deputy Minister Kittirat relented to Khun Ravee's demand for a face-to-face meeting.

Khun Ravee explained to me this evening how he demanded a specific payment date, and when Kittirat refused and was oily with his answers, Khun Ravee said to me that Kittirat told Ravee to go outside and to deliver the message himself.

Khun Ravee told me that he refused to deliver this news to the farmers. Ravee said that he would not allow Kittirat to hang him in front of his own people.

Khun Ravee told me that he demanded that Kittirat deliver the message to the crowd waiting outside. I was there and saw what happened next.

And so finally Kittirat emerged. The crowd of farmers did not accept his oil. They turned angry and began throwing shoes and eggs and empty plastic water bottles over my head. The military rushed a frightened Kittirat back into the building. Not a minute too soon. The farmers who have been peaceful for about five months of insults and dismissals were no longer casting their eyes at the ground.

They were ready to lynch Kittrat.

Khun Ravee explained to me the hard struggle that his people have endured, how they have been selling their land and jewelry to survive, and taking money from loan sharks at 3% per month.

He told me about how the government had stolen from them, had ignored them, and insulted them, and finally the farmers came here.

He said that other farmers have been committing suicide, but none of the two or three thousand he leads have committed suicide because the protests make them happy. Only a couple hundred stay in Bangkok at a time. They take shifts.

Khun Ravee explained how the farmers had come wearing "white shirts," but then how people had robbed them and tricked them and lied to them and insulted them every step of the way.

And finally, when the farmers arrived to Bangkok, expecting Bangkokians to be the worst of them all, the Bangkokians welcomed the farmers with tears and support.

The Bangkokians came not with tricks and insults but with donations of food and money and volunteering time. Khun Ravee and his farmers were shocked at the warm hearts of the Bangkokians. He began to cry, for only at this last step did his farmers realize that somebody cares. Tears of gratitude.

And now that Khun Ravee has taken his stare from the ground and looked the government in the eyes, the dynamic between farmers and the government has reversed. Now it is the government who is afraid of the farmers. Khun Ravee said the government calls him often, trying to negotiate.

The farmers want only one thing, he said, and that is to be paid so that they can return peacefully to their farms.

Click here for the original article.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Williams · 7 years ago
    In Latin America they say"When the peasants put down their digging sticks and pick up rifles the revolution is won!"
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Garner · 7 years ago

    When I was with the Air Force Advisory Group in 1970i-197 I was taught that to stare a person directly in the eyes was "mi dee" and a challenge. Close friends could do this as it signified a closeness of friendship. A "farang" was more or less exempt from this custom.

    I suspect that a lot of the present trouble stems from the little respect the the Crown Prince has among the average Thai (or at least during the early 70's.)

    Paul Garner
    aka The Old Sarge

    PS: I'm still waiting for the prepaid autographed first edition of your second book I wrote to the publisher but no response.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tiny · 7 years ago
    Great reminder of what happens when corruption becomes too much to bear. Bangkok leaders need to have their actions made public. Thank you Michael. Perhaps we, in the U.S.should take the farmers actions to heart....for we, too, are faced with a lawless and corrupt leadership. Enough! Citizens CAN take control, simply takes guts.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jimhanzlik · 7 years ago
    Michael, please help me understand this situation. From my very limited understanding, the government was elected & from everything I've heard will win the next election. Is that true and if so aren't the protesters being undemocratic? How exactly is the government stealing rice? What is the real complaints of the protesters? From what i understand the stolen rice issue is a new one & not what started this crisis. Is tthis situation like that in Venezuela where the government can win elections but is destroying democracy & the economy? Could you direct me to an informative article explains the position of both sides? Thank you & stay safe.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Lightner · 7 years ago
      Basically my understanding is that the protesters are being undemocratic (at least the anti-government ones) but that yes Yingluk could be corrupt but is defiantly incompetent. Basically she got elected by the farmers by promising to buy their rice at higher than the market value. The government came took the rice and then later paid. This worked for a while but as you can guess the money ran out. To make matters worse Yingluk tried to sell the rice at a loose to china creating the impression that she is a basically licking the chines boots. The judicial branch shut down the sale of the rice and now she's been tried with corruption. So the red shirts or the Democratic party are protesting for her removal. They are primary city dwellers and they have a history of looking down on the rural farmers. Seeing them as simple. Now Yingluck has been ordered to have an emergency election but the Red shirts know they are going to loose because even though the Yingluck hasn't paid the farmers they still like her better than anything the Democratic party has ever produced and the when the red shirt party wins they have a tendency to stack the deck in their favor for the next election. Over all its just sad, Thialand has a long standing relationship with democracy but because of constant corruption and military coups there hasn't been a chance for larger well moderated political parties to take route. This results in a pretty ugly divide between the rural and urban Thais that seems to be at the route of this problem. Yingluck should be spending less money on rice and more on education for the farmers.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        jimhanzlik · 7 years ago
        Thanks. That was the best explanation I've heard so far. I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but that's a great simple outline of what's going on. Thanks again.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Non Compos Mentis · 7 years ago
      I agree. Can you give us more info? Thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Don Rodrigo · 7 years ago
    Thank you Sir, for this great story.
    Why is it that those with power are the most contemptuous of the lessons of history?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    FThomas · 7 years ago
    The fluid and dangerous (according to Philippine news) situation in Thailand has been reported on periodically. There has been very little effort by the journalist to provide any understanding why the demonstrations are taking place there. Maybe it has to do with the political situation here - corruption???

    Thank you for reporting on this situation and hopefully the geopolitical and regional economic impact will come to light. It doesn't seem that the political situation in Thailand can exist in a vacuum.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A & N · 7 years ago
    Our own "Government" steals water from our farmers destroying farm land and in the long run making the price of food rise...or the food disappear altogether. They let water flow into the Pacific to save, (supposedly" the Delta Smelt. That keep us from storing water for dry years. It affect the West and the whole Country eventually. Oh that we had the courage of your Farmers there, Mike. Corrupt politicians never listen to the people until the people are strong enough to rise up against them....It's the law of nature you could say....and the nature of good men avoids confrontation ....almost too long sometimes when standing up and fighting would do better. Our thoughts are with your oppressed farmers. I hope yours are with us around the world who stand against tyrants wherever they are found. Thanks Mike and good luck. Stay safe!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bruce Parker · 7 years ago
    Michael, you implied that these events in far away Thailand have implications for America, and You are right. The American people are enduring their own corrupt government which daily seeks more ways to subjugate us! Will we march En Masse to our capital and Demand Change? Even our basic Freedom? We may well see when The American Spring event begins!...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    woodNfish · 7 years ago
    Gee, a corrupt gvernment stealing from its citizens. Sounds like the US. I wonder when we will have our revolution here.

    I wish the Thais well and victory, but if they don't purge and then execute the leaders, they will lose.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    DON Liveley · 7 years ago
    So literally a grass root revolt. The over lords cannot exist without the rice. So with organization and communication they can prevail. Can this government prevail or must it be totally deposed and what possibility is there that a responsive honest entity can replace it? What do you see unfolding? Seems like the Ukrainians are determined to bring forth an honest and responsive government. Corruption is getting awfully unpopular. Venezuela is another hot spot. And Mexico, can it reclaim itself front he drug induced society? Turkey is dicey, Syria is tragic, Iraq and Iran are bad news. The common denominator seems to be power and dominion (control). Lebanon is a semi vassal state and the varying militants that interact and conflict in the Levant, Can't fort Kim Jong ILL and his fatalistic community. And in all of this what do you do with China and Putin. Then The African potentates who rule by power and control.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stuart Walker · 7 years ago
    A dog starved at his master's gate
    Predicts the ruin of the state.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tommy Barrios · 7 years ago
      Every night and every morn
      Some to misery are born.
      Every morn and every night
      Some are born to sweet delight.
      Some are born to sweet delight,
      Some are born to endless night.

      See the light America before you end up in endless night!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Linda · 3 years ago
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