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Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

As their country was in the throws of mass civil unrest due to Red demonstrations, normal Thais spoke out – and made Facebook a forum for their outcry.

In recent months, the incredibly popular social networking site became a place for Thais to exchange ideas and opinions regarding the crisis, update each other on the status of events, and offer solace to their fellow citizens. As the first renegades torched the city, I could chat in real-time with my friends back home, learning firsthand what was happening before even the first news reports were published.

This isn’t your grandpa’s civil unrest. Political crises in Thailand have reached the digital age.

As I understand it, the Facebook group “มั่นใจว่าคนไทยเกิน 1 ล้าน ต่อต้านการยุบสภา” (“Confident that over one million Thais are against a parliamentary dissolution) was instrumental in organizing the Pink counterprotest, which decried the debilitating demonstrations and called for peace in Thailand.

Within hours of the surrender of some Red leaders last week, ending the latest round of protests, similar groups emerged, including “เชื่อมั่นโคตรๆ ว่าคนไทยเกินกว่า 9 ล้านคนนอนไม่หลับเพราะห่วงสถานการบ้านเมือง” (“Absolutely certain that over nine million Thais can’t sleep because they worry about the state of the country”) and “มั่นใจคนไทยเกิน1หมื่นคนต้องการให้คนเผาบ้านเผาเมืองกลับไปเผาบ้านตัวเอง” (“Certain that over one million Thais want those who are burning the nation to go  burn their own homes”).

But perhaps the most candid objections were made on people’s status updates.

One of my friends, never one to lose her sense of humor, wrote, “Don’t burn the [Central World shopping] mall! I’m already sick to death of browsing the fresh market in Nakhon Pathom province; now where would you have  me stroll aimlessly?! You bastards!!!!!” (อย่าเผาห้างได้ม๊ายยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยย แค่นี้กูก้อเดินตลาดนัดนครปฐมเบื่อจะตายห่า ขืนห้างถูกเผา แล้วพวกเมิงจะให้กูไปเดินเฉิดฉายที่ไหนวะ ไอเหี้ยยยยยยยยยยยยยยยย)

Another person, in a more somber mood, said, “I know that anger is stupid, that hatred is crazy. But I really can’t take this any longer.”(ก็รู้หรอกนะ ว่าโกรธคือโง่ โมโหคือบ้า แต่กูทนไม่ไหวจริง)

One of my favorites is, “Please tell those who cannot come to terms [with the surrender of the Red leaders] to burn themselves to death in protestation.” (ฝากบอก มวลชนที่ทำใจไม่ได้ เผาตัวตายประท้วงแกนนำเลย)

In the aftermath of these events, many Facebook groups are now calling their members to donate blood, clothes, money, time – anything to help rebuilt the country. So for those who think social networking sites are brainless wastes of time and energy – maybe it’s time to reconsider.

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The Thai government is getting a lot of flack for its crackdown of the Red demonstrations this week. Although I admit their management of the situation leaves something to be desired, I don’t think it’s fair to blame only the government and military for the violence that has troubled Thailand lately. Foreign agencies were quick to call for them to check their use of force against the demonstrators. And yet, why didn’t the international community call for the UDD to check its militant behavior – and its lack of consideration for the livelihoods of other citizens?

To demonstrate, here’s a clip of Arisman Pongruangrong, one of the hardline Red leaders, just days before the crackdown. I’ve only translated the first 54 seconds of his speech, but it should be plentifully instructive:

“Brothers and sisters, let’s plan for next time. If we know that they [the soldiers] are coming to get us, we don’t need to prepare anything much. Each of you come with a glass bottle and fill it up with gasoline here. Measure out 75 cc .to one liter. If one million of us come to Bangkok and there are one million liters of gasoline, I guarantee that Bangkok will be a sea of flame! (Applause.) The fighting methods of the Red Shirts are that simple – may the soldiers be aware! Tell the soldiers, those dogs, the servants of the aristocracy: if they injure a Red Shirt, if they shed a single drop of blood, Bangkok will immediately become a sea of flame! (Applause.)”

This maniac threatened to burn Bangkok, home to nine million of his fellow citizens, with all its cultural and historical assets, into a sea of flame?? How far does freedom of speech extend? Could he give a similar speech in the United States under the same circumstances and not be charged with incitement to riot?

The worst part is that Arisman’s followers took his words to heart. The city, as well as certain provincial capitals, are in shambles – and the fault lies squarely with those renegades who followed Arisman’s incitements.

So let’s not point the finger of blame in one direction.

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