Friday, June 20, 2014
THAILAND UPDATE: I'm OK - if you are a white western dude, there is absolutely no problem whatsoever. Makes me think this is almost, in a way, a colonial coup on behalf of rich foreigners. However, for Thai people up north it is terror. Absolute terror. The news media is not even beginning to get at it. People I know in Isaan and Chiang Mai are telling me about mass roundups of red shirts. Invading homes in the middle of the night by soldiers. Smashing things up and beating people up, dragging people away. Disappearances. Everyone up there is too scared to even talk about it, because, apparently, if you ask about anyone who is gone you will automatically become suspect. And when I am talking disappeared, I mean into a black hole. Nobody has access, no contact, no lawyers, nothing. Gone. Nobody knows if people are dead, tortured, in solitary, and if you know the history, fed to dogs or burned alive in a petrol barrel, etc...Numbers are impossible to tell. I have heard anywhere from 3500-3700 top red shirts vanished and disappeared. Top poor people's organizers still in lockdown. Union organizer Somyot's wife and son in the black hole. Former PM Thaksin's son and brother in a black hole. Yingluck's education minister abducted at the Foreign Correspondents' Club and now in the black hole. Civil society organizer Sombat in a black hole - looking at 14 years for Lese Majeste. Top Nitirat human rights lawyer Worajet now in the black hole. Top professors in the black hole. (not even progressives, just mildly social democratic). Top union organizer Jittra Cotchadet called in and shaken down for 400,000baht bail (well over my years' salary) that she doesn't really have and shouldn't have to pay as she did nothing wrong except organize workers. Students in lockdown. 70 year old woman arrested for protesting. Woman captured on the street by plain clothes military and forced into a cab and taken away. Gone. Soldiers with assault rifles going door to door. Random stops and searches. Soldiers filming people on the streets. Everything is now criminalized. No public reading of Orwell. No eating of sandwiches. No three finger hunger game salute. No putting your hand over your mouth. No likes on facebook. Any calls for any protest will get potentially 7 years in prison. No gatherings of more than 4 people. Everything censored. TV news programs cancelled. Hundreds of radio stations off the air. Snitches encouraged everywhere. hundreds of new Lese Majeste cases in the last 3 weeks. If you are Thai, it is a situation of absolute terror. I took a trip to Udon Thani last week, and I saw pro-military banners strung up across the highway. My van was stopped and armed soldiers pointed guns at the passengers. Passports demanded. They filmed everybody. Real f-king fun. Saw armed military vehicles at the border. All passports entering the country being checked by soldiers carrying M-16s. Checkpoints along the road at the military bases around Sattahip. The curfew was lifted, but that hardly makes up for all the BS. About 200,000 Cambodians were run out of the country last weekend. Students have to sing a new round of pro-monarchy pro-military songs in the morning. etc. etc. So it is about as nasty as you could imagine. It reminds me totally of Eastern Soviet Bloc Stazi countries that I visited in the 1980s. I don't personally feel in danger, but if this bunch stays in power longer, they may get more paranoid and more aggressive going after western foreigners. The EU said they will not sign any treaties with the Thai military, but the US is, as usual, being a suckup weenie, and the Chinese friggin love it. The Mil boys went up to Beijing last week and gave what amounts to free fellatio all around. I think the entire project is a train wreck waiting to happen. Auto production fell year-on-year last week by 60%. Competence and rational approach to any problems seems to be in absolute freefall, denial of reality is everywhere. A big bank in New York yesterday gave a thumbs up buy recommendation for the Thai stock market. But they are on the other side of the planet. As far as I can tell, I wouldn't be at all surprised if 1/2 the country wasn't burned to the ground in the near future. OK. Hope everything is better for you. Cheers.
Update: Education Minister is release on bail, but now awaiting potential 14 year prison sentence for nebulous "incitement"...US reduces Thailand to Tier 3 status for slavery and human trafficking, now same category as North Korea, Iran.