Michael's Dispatches

Thai Turmoil: Some observations and thoughts


Part 1 of about 10

20 March 2014

Starring: Abhisit, Buddha Issara, Burmese Fortune Teller, Democrats, Farmers, Journalists good and bad, KPT, Men in Black, PDRC, Puea Thai Party, Santi Asoke, Satish Sehgal Suthep, Thai Army, Thai Police, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Yellow Shirts, Yingluck, You

image001Abhisit refused amnesty on 12 murder charges

Abhisit Vejjajiva is a former Prime Minister of Thailand.

There is a misconception that Abhisit and I are golf buddies, old pals who go way back.  This is the result of propaganda.  The truth of our relationship is that I took one trip with him to Hat Yai in 2010, just after the intense fighting in Bangkok.  Later when his book The Simple Truth was published, the final two pages were written by me.  Those pages were taken with my permission from Facebook, simply stating that the murder charges against him and his Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Suthep Thaugsuban, are bogus and unjust.

In recent weeks, we have spoken twice privately for approximately three hours total.

That is the extent of our golf buddy days.  We never stepped on a course together.   My repudiation of murder charges against Suthep and Abhisit is not based on friendship, but because I was an eyewitness to the 2010 fighting, and charging the government's leaders in those days with murder offends my sense of justice.

Yet any mention of Abhisit inevitably brings recriminations and accusations, “That murderer!”  Many people making the accusations do not appear to have malice in their hearts, but they have wrong information in their heads.  In other words, good people are making bad judgments based on false information.

The truth of the 2010 fighting is that a small number of Red Shirt protestors were extremely violent.  This requires some explanation.

“Red Shirts” are overwhelmingly peaceful people.  I spend more time with Red Shirts in Northern Thailand than I do with “Yellow Shirts,” Democrats, PDRC or others.  It must be noted that Red Shirts come in many shades of red, and there are divergent beliefs within the red spectrum.

For instance, some Reds are pro-communist.  Others reject communism.  Some Reds are poor while others are rich by any standard.  Some have little education, yet many have PhDs and are world-travelled with homes abroad.  Any attempt to make this current situation a “rich verus poor” or Red versus Yellow dispute falls flat after a scratch test.  No drill is needed to see this – just a scratch, and open eyes.

Members of the anti-Thaksin PDRC include billionaires to paupers to everyone in between.  As example, donations to PDRC have even come from motorbike drivers, who would donate their motorbike and fuel to transport PDRC members.  PDRC is the Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee, which started from grass roots and immediately pole-vaulted last year to include millions of followers.

image003Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of PDRC, refused amnesty on 12 murder charges. Suthep and Abhisit prefer to face murder charges than to allow Thaksin Shinawatra back into Thailand under the same amnesty bill.

For some Reds, wearing a Thai flag is an offense worthy of death.  Those few are not patriotic.  This must be taken in the context that most Thais are as patriotic as are heartland Americans.  Most Thai people love being Thai.  As one American told me in Afghanistan, Thai people like to go on a picnic together and just be Thai.  And so when a small number of Red Shirts do not like the Thai flag, that is seen how we Americans view Americans who trounce on our flag.  Whatever problems our countries have – which are many – we remain loyal.

I personally know Red Shirts with whom I interact daily in Chiang Mai.  They are as patriotic as anyone, and they love the King.  It is not true that all Reds do not love the King.  This is flatly false.  I go into Red Shirt homes and I see pictures of the Royal Family, and the people will say that they are faithful to His Majesty.  There are many shades of Red.  In fact, some of the Reds that I know talk more like Democrats and Yellow Shirts.  Many have aligned with the Reds due to circumstance or patronage, not through ideology.

If someone characterizes the current protests as a “Yellow shirt versus Red shirt” or a “rich verus poor” dispute, those opinions should be dismissed due to their oversimplification.  In fact, the Yellow Shirts as an organization are conspicuously absent, despite that many Yellow sympathizers are “card carrying” members of other organizations, such as PDRC.

image005Peaceful rice farmers came to Bangkok to protest government failures to pay for their rice.

Another train of thought revolves around the royal succession, a mostly taboo topic in the Kingdom, though many people discuss it privately.  I have never met a Thai who will not talk with me privately about the subject.

The idea that the 2010 fighting, or the ongoing 2013-14 protests, are solely about the royal succession is ludicrous.  I was born American, and Americans are taught from birth to be suspicious of royalty, so it is out of character for me to say that the King of Thailand has been a blessing to Thailand and to humanity in general.  The world could use a few more kings like this, but I think that we are unlikely to see another anytime soon.  The King of Thailand will be historically annotated as one of the most special people of the century.  Enough said.

There is no doubt that the succession is a major background factor, and it may leap to the foreground any day, yet the nature of the 2010 fighting and the current Whistleblower protests are about other matters.

It is important to add that nearly all the violence from the current protests has been directed at the protestors, not derived from them.  The current protestors are overwhelmingly peaceful.  I see them seven days per week.  I am just by the last PDRC camp now, at Lumpini Park.  I can see it out my window.  Any attempt to paint them as violent is false.

Please Standby for Part II, in which we will get serious

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bhayu · 6 years ago
    Nice intro/ opening scene, Mike. Can't wait for the next chapter.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A & N · 6 years ago
    The whole world is in turmoil now days it seems. Rarely does evil present itself as evil. Good people are often described as evil. I guess that old saying that good will be called evil and evil good has come to be, Mike. It's also true that there are so many liars today, many in high places, that we "regular" people don't know whom to believe....Another old saying....you can know a man by his works and not by what he says. I hope you'll have some proof to present to us in the form of works in your future reports . We here in the USA are learning that lesson the hard way. What men say and what they do are usually two different things, my brother. Motives are everything. Seemingly good things are done with evil intentions. You're going to have a hard sell since many of us know nothing much about Thailand to start with and many more have so many problems of our own that someone else's problems don't really matter to us. Then there is the factor called "ignorance is bliss". I call it the dumbed down factor, Mike. Not too many are taught to think for themselves anymore. Sheep make better slaves of the state, any state you want to name, than thinking people. So you have your work cut out for you. You'll find an audience, a small audience no doubt, but an audience that is curious and wants to learn. Teach us Mike. But give us the truth with actions to back it up. If we need one thing these days it's the truth. We're already diluged with bullshit, if you get my drift.
    Good luck to you Mike and it's good to see you writing again. We like reading you..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kris · 6 years ago
    So, to summarize:
    Too complex to summarize?

    This is a huge part of the reason it isn't covered in US media.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jimhanzlik · 6 years ago
    Michael, you may not be aware of this because you're in Thailand, but coverage of the current situation in Thailand is next to non existant. On TV or in newspapers it's very difficult to find and information about it. I would really like to find an in depth article about what is happening and the history of it because I know this has been going on for a few years now. If you could point me to a good article about this or if you could explain the history and how Thailand got to this place, that would be much appreciated because right now I don't know anything about 'red' or 'yellow' or who associates with Thaksin and why some are so mad at him. Any way, I just want to get some basic knowledge about what's going on. Thanks a lot for all your work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gismofly · 6 years ago
    You are being nice to everyone in Thailand. OK, but who is making mischief? Come on - cut through the wood to the trees; make like a callous journalist.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert · 6 years ago
    As a Canadian living in Thailand and watching the events I appreciate your articles. Please continue. I would like to make a comment about another comment which has to do with the lack of news coverage in North America, which is sad. It seems to me that our interests in North America tend to entertainment. We appear to be nations whose strong interest in which celebrity has said what or done what has led us to think Entertainment Tonight is actually news. If I am right in that, then it may lie with those of us who are taking an interest to help lead others to look at our world more closely.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rob · 6 years ago
    For anybody who wants to know why these protests happen, im sorry, you will never know. Because there is no real reason, its the same reason people run from bulls in spain, the same reason muslims have a stampede in which hundreds of children die every year...BOREDOM. Iv been in thailand many times during protests, everytime I have asked somebody why protests take place, nobody gives a straight answer. My fiance, a student at a top university in thailand, studying law, says " Just forget it, cant explain it "

    Its sad, but these things happen on that side of the globe. I will be suprised if Michael gets to the bottom of the protests and can put the reason behind them into one sentence.

    If something cant be explained in one sentence, its usually because there is no CORE reason. Boredom...thats all this waste of energy is.

    Oh, and I honestly believe its always been about how foreign people come and have sex with thousands of women. But..its actually nothing to do with that.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Selin · 6 years ago
      You havn't ask the right person. We all have a straight answer mostly depend on how we relay the story. The answer will be lengthy if you set aside your boredom. Thai people love peace and we tend to avoid confrontation, so this has to be pretty serious for us to get off our asses and do something at this magnitude. So behold, if you are looking for answer, do not settle down for the lazy answer. If you are not looking for answer and just here to romanticized your life, then do just that and cease from making any comment that would showcase your ignorance of the current crisis.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robv · 6 years ago
    Michael Yon,
    Your opening statement regarding the murder charges against those two is not accurate.
    You know very well about the Falang Nurse shot dead in a declated safe zone inside a Temple.

    The family went to great lengths to prove in a court of inguirey the fact that she was shot & killed by Thai Army personnel from the walkway under the BTS guide way.
    As these two individuals were ministers responsible for these acts then they should face these charges.
    The evidence is indisputable.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Michael Yon writer · 6 years ago
      Robv --

      You are only repeating what people have told you. If you were there, please show the video. Nobody got video despite the place crawling with journalists. Even if it was the Army -- which is in dispute -- that does not automatically make the ministers guilty of murder. By that train of thought, Yingluck is far more easily proven guilty of murder. This time there is video.

      Importantly, too, the protestors in 2010 were demonstrably committing murder and arson. More than twenty soldiers were killed, for starters.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robv · 6 years ago
    For some perspective on this issue please read the following

    In particular this heading is relevent, Volent clashes in April.

    In my opinion, This column is an attempt to whitewash atrocities.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Yon Bangkok · 6 years ago

    You published a link to Wikipedia as your credible source. There is nothing more to discuss.

    Michael Yon
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Robv · 6 years ago
      Michael Yon, just because you don't view the source as credible there is information in it backed up by reports of truly independent news sources.

      Many people, including myself do not view you as a credible source as well, which is why I posted the link to add balance & let people have alternate information from from your selective ones to make their own opinion.
      The Democrats argue that the blanket amnesty was to allow Thaksin's return, which may be true, but its also to try & heal from the violence perpetrated beforehand.
      If & when these people seize power they will give only themselves amnesty & will never face a Courtroom
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A& N · 6 years ago
    Gosh Mike...At first we thought this was going to be a boring bunch of articles you were writing but it looks like you opened up Pandora's Box with all these comments you're getting. Somehow an open Pandora's Box always peeks our interest so we're looking forward to your next story in this series. Why, one guy is even trying to be "fair & balanced" ....had to laugh at that, Mike. That usually indicates there will be a good bit of propaganda involbed and few facts. Just give us the facts, Mike, screw the fair and balanced thingy. Sure is hard to write now days without drawing all kinds out of the woodwork. You ever wish you were back hunting gators, Mike? Anyway, don't be discouraged....We're sitting here listening to coyotes howl and waiting for your next edition....so get with it....Okay?
    BTW.....I'm pretty sure everybody is going to "hate" my comment.....Got to where you can't say shit without getting booed now days. Darndest thing isn't it Mike?
    Freedom Mike...that's our cry. And we don't care who likes it....or not.
  • This commment is unpublished.
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