Thailand: Since the weekend, 120,000 to 250,000 Red Shirts have concentrated on Bangkok, demanding that Thai PM Abhisit dissolve Parliament and call for new elections, which they believe will usher the opposition into a majority, and hopefully signal the return of ousted and exiled Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra. By Monday, the Red Shirts had succeeded in shutting down parts of the capital and postponing Parliament’s session. The vast majority of the protesters have congregated around the parliament building and at a military base in the northern suburbs of Bangkok, which the current government uses as an unofficial headquarters. Vejjajiva has not returned to his office since the protests began, but he has refused to dissolve parliament. Still, he said he is open to listening to the protesters complaints. I supposed that did not satisfy the “rabble”, because on Tuesday, the protesters poured 1,000 liters of their own blood on the government house and other locations!
“The blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy,” Nattawut Saikua, one of the protest leaders, told cheering supporters. “When Abhisit works in his office, he will be reminded that he is sitting on the people’s blood.”
Many of the protesters have came into the city from the poorer hinterlands. So many believe the protest will likely subside in a few days as the Red Shirts do not have a natural base of support in Bangkok. Many are too poor to afford to stay in the city for extended periods. It appears the government/military plans to wait them out.
The radical street politics of recent years are a measure of how the parliamentary system is failing to resolve the deep-seated divisions in Thai society. The Yellow Shirts took over the airport for a week in 2008 and occupied the prime minister’s residence for several months that year, and there were violent clashes between the military and the Red Shirts last April.
This blog has previously covered the “Passion of the Red Shirts“.
ASEAN: As always, take Mr. Turton’s blog with a grain of salt, as he is very partisan in favor of Taiwan. However, he has done a good job tracking the increasing amount of displeasure with the The China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in Southeast Asia. So far there has been much grumbling in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, especially in Thailand:
Thailand, in particular, had a bitter experience. In 2005, tariffs for 200 items of vegetables and fruits were abolished. Thailand expected to export tropical fruit to China and import winter fruit from it at zero tariff. But what happened was that Thai farmers of garlic, longan and other fruit and vegetables were decimated by cheap Chinese imports. Worse, Chinese officials reportedly either refused to lower tariffs on Thai imports or left the Thai produce to rot in warehouses.
Since 2004, tariffs between the two sides have been coming down, and Asean’s trade deficit with China has widened. From 2000 to 2008, China-Asean trade grew sixfold to US$198 billion (S$280 billion). But Asean’s trade deficit also widened five times to US$21.6 billion. Asean’s cumulative FDI in China was US$52 billion in 2008. By comparison, China’s FDI in Asean was just US$2.8 billion.
Not that this was not expected, see here.