Round Two: Everyone Loses By Tulsathit Taptim

An interesting OpEd piece in The Nation from Tulsathit Taptim.

Even though Thaksin Shinawatra may be laughing, there is no winner after the Pattaya infamy

Pattaya will lose billions of baht. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has lost his face, and his job is under greater threat. To other Thais, Songkran has been pretty much spoiled. Thailand’s image as a whole has taken a new hit. Economically struggling Asean has to defer discussing some crucial plans. The red-shirted movement, while having achieved a key objective of preventing the Asean summit with dialogue partners, can’t be content with the glaring truth that, like its rival People’s Alliance for Democracy, it has become its own worst enemy.

And Thaksin Shinawatra will only get brief satisfaction from the turmoil in Pattaya that led to the cancellation of the summit and declaration of state of emergency which leaves everything hanging in the balance. He will be cheering a “triumph” of his supporters in the next address through video link, but deep down he must know that he is not fighting to win, that to get even is the best he can get. He has been way past of the point of no-return, and what happened in Pattaya on Saturday only serves to lengthen the distance between the man and his motherland.

The biggest loss, however, belongs to us, no matter what colours of the shirts we are wearing. The political divide was not about to be bridged any time soon, but the Pattaya incident has further dimmed the fragile hope. We had wanted things to improve, but now we would be glad if they don’t get any worse.

It’s been an-eye-for-an-eye showdown. You can seize Government House, so we can block city traffic. You can take over the airport, so we can torpedo an international summit. You fight for democracy that rejects corrupt polticians, we can fight for democracy that respects the voices of the poor.

A common sense of national values has been a long-time victim, who was beaten to near death on Saturday. The nation has lost its way for some time, and the Pattaya infamy ensures there will remain no light at the end of the tunnel in the foreseeable future. The vunerable national harmony has been dealt a new blow, and the threat to nationhood has never looked more real.

Those involved in the years-long power struggle have done their best to make sure that politics affects everyone’s life. Too bad the general Thais have only been feeling the negative effects of a war that those responsible insisted was for a greater good. We have come to learn that perhaps people go into war not because they are different. Maybe what has been happening was caused by the fact that we are all too much alike.

Personally, I think Khun Tulsathit is underestimating the impact of this continued unrest. Surely Pattaya will lose billions of baht but much like the airport crisis the ripple effect will be felt throughout Thailand.

A friend of mine joked to me the other day that when he first used to tell people he was going to Thailand on holiday they would snicker and joke that he was going for the nightlife and girls. Now when he mentions going to Thailand on holiday they ask him whether or not he feels safe here.

In light of the world-wide financial meltdown growing an image as a politically unstable country which can be ground to a halt via relatively unarmed demonstrators is possibly the worst thing Thailand can do. While this battle between red, yellow, blues, and whatever the new color of the week is next week, plays out decisions are being made in corporate boardrooms across the world that could impact Thailand’s economic growth for decades.

As Khun Tulsathit points out there are no winners in this race to the bottom. Even if the demonstrators disappeared tomorrow whoever is in power will be facing a monumental task of leading Thailand out of a financial catastrophe. So far no politician inspires any great confidence that they can shoulder that burden.