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M. Lyla Saifi on Thailand’s troubled present and uncertain future.

Nightlife flourishes as the hustling & bustling tourist destination is swamped with sounds of haggling at the local night market, the pungent smell of lemongrass and peanut oil concoctions, the streets decorated in hundreds of lights, even civilization is seen with sky-high shopping malls offering luxury Italian brands to locally crafted artefacts. During the daytime, religious shrines of all shapes and sizes are seen in every corner of the city, European tourists venturing looking for the perfect 50p Pad Thai and discovering the secrets of Chinatown. Words alone cannot do justice to the sights, scents, and sounds of Bangkok city.

This scene however, has been temporarily halted as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female PM, has scheduled elections.

“I will continue to carry out my duty as Prime Minister. It is my duty to protect democracy, and democracy belongs to the people”, stated the current PM to reporters.

Today, Bangkok is seen flourishing not with tourists, but with anti-government protestors holding high hopes for disrupting the election and overthrowing the current PM who is seen as a puppet for her brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra who is backed by protestors known as the ‘red shirts’.

Tension first sparked in 2010 after parliament passed a bill granting pardon to political and military leaders. This facilitated Thaksin Shinawatra’s return. Thaksin now resides in Dubai under self-imposed exile and faces two years of jail time in Thailand upon his return for charges of corruption. Though the amnesty bill was eventually nullified, protests grew stronger and bigger, leaving 90 people dead and many injured. Today, these events are crisp in the minds of the protestors and are likely to continue to halt the spread of PM Yingluck’s regime, avoiding at all costs the return of the corrupt leader.

Elections, which were scheduled to take place on February 2nd, have been disrupted by violent demonstrations by the red shirts. According to officials, 89% of polling stations have been operating normally, but PM Yingluck’s hope of protecting democracy has not been promising. The basic right to vote has been unavailable for many of Bangkok’s citizens as protestors have barricaded several voting polls across the city, stripping 6 million voters of a ballot.

Hope for positive change to avail in Thailand seems probable, but current tensions and complex legal concerns are too prominent for them to be brushed off in the near future. The word at the tip of the anti-government protestors’ tongues is corruption, and their souls scream for its abolition. The government and its opposition are standing their ground, thus both sides putting up a strong fight for the protection of their values.

 

M Lyla Saifi

 

Image Credit: Timo Kozlowski