Monday, December 1, 2008

Thailand Protesters Take Over Airport

The day before Thanksgiving, Thailand protesters took over Thailand's International Airport. By overrunning strategic areas of the airport, such as the control tower, the protesters halted airline traffic and its 16 billion dollar tourism industry. Consequently, Thailand has suffered a significant economic blow on top of the economic distress it, and the world, has already experienced this year. The protest was led by the People's Alliance for Democracy and their yellow shirts. A PAD leader announced to the press that he refuses to end the protests until Prime Minister Somachi Wongsawat has resigned, damaging Thailand's economy and reputation each day the protest continues.


Nadia Jafar said...

This seems like a very aggressive campaign and although it may be effective it is causing a lot of damage to the country. The detrimental effects of this take over on the economy and people of Thailand may outweigh the positive effects, which would substantially decrease the success of this campaign. There must have been another way to put pressure on the Prime Minister without causing Thailand's people to suffer. Although a bold move, this campaign does not seem well thought-out and the consequences seem grim.

C. said...

To play the devil's advocate, this campaign is no more damaging to Thailand as Ghandi's was to India. Ghandi's campaign focused on economic pressure points to put a lot of weight on Churchill's shoulder, and it was a success.
One could argue this is an extremely well thought out campaign that is seeks a similar success. To take over the international airport, they had to take control of key locations, such as the control tower. They also blocked roads leading to the airport with vehicles. I think this demonstrates that thought was put into this campaign. They even had pamphlets for the stranded passengers at the airport, explaining why they were there and what they were protesting, trying not to alienate themselves from the public. In the article, a man was quoted saying "I understand the people but the airlines are terrible. They've given us no information."
Moreover, the Prime Minister cannot ignore the protests because of the economic effects it is having on Thailand. Furthermore, he cannot hide the political unrest. By overwhelming an airport, the protesters took control over an area where the world meets Thailand. People, living in Thailand and abroad, can see what is happening, and it is not easily censored. This may help them generate support. Also, the transparent location makes it harder for the Prime Minister to use force to subdue the protest. If he resorts to violence, the world will bear witness and horrifying photos will circulate the media, creating support for PAD and dissension within the pro-government ranks.
Also, the photos of seas of yellow shirted protesters highlight the magnitude of unrest. The sheer numbers seen in pictures that have been on front pages of newspapers could also be a way of generating support. People see that they are not alone; these people have put the government between a rock and hard place, illustrating not only the lack of governmental force but the strength of protesters, of people over their governments.

I think it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

Kelsie said...

I do not think the PAD conducted a very well-thought out protest. Though Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has now resigned, Thailand has alienated much of its external support by offending the governments of nations such as the U.S., Australia, and members of the EU due to the problems that this protest caused for many of the citizens of those nations. While the US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid stated that the siege of the airport was "not an appropriate means of protest", a quote from EU ambassadors to Thailand in the article "Foreign govts frustrated by Thai airport siege" on sums it up best:
"While respecting the right of protesting and without interfering in any way with the internal political debate in Thailand, the EU considers that these actions are totally inappropriate. They are seriously damaging the international image of Thailand."

Sam Harris said...

I think the strength of this movement is really impressive and its leaders should be commended for organizing such a coordinated effort. As others have stated, the sea of yellow really emphasizes the people power behind the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

In spite of this strength, the PAD’s seizure of the airport, scheduled to end at 10am this morning, seems to have produced mixed results. The organization’s leaders have called it a success because they pushed the resignation of the Prime Minister. But, as an outsider only recently aware of the PAD, their “success” seems a little short-sighted. They have alienated key potential allies, such as the United States, Britain, and Japan. While these countries track-record on supporting populist movements abroad may not be great, as powerful democracies, it seems that they could be instrumental in helping Thai protestors institute a government that is less corrupt and more responsive to the will of its people. However, in support of national sovereignty, the PAD does not necessarily seem concerned with international opinion. Perhaps, this is for the better as they can maintain a closer adherence to the movement’s genuine goals. Despite this conflict of the direction, I find it fascinating to see the ways in nonviolent movement’s both lure and alienate supporters in a strategic attempt to organize cohesively.

C. said...

It is also important to consider why this act by the people of Thailand has met high resistance abroad. Perhaps the countries' interests do not line up with a change in administration. In 2003, the United States announced an intent to form a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Thailand. However, the negotiations were put on hold when the parliament was dissolved in a 2006 coup. According to the article, one of the claims against the government was that it was a "proxy for the premier Thaksin Shinawatra", a member of that same government that was "ousted in 2006". The public was not fond of that government nor, obviously, this one. However, the government that the people opposed is, arguably, the one other nations are establishing trade agreements with. The overthrow of this government would threaten billion dollar trade ties and future economic relations, resulting in nations being hostile toward the PAD.
I guess what I'm attempting to get at is the question are they actually alienating allies? These responses could be to the unpredictability of this 'new' government. How will they view our economic trade agreements? Will they continue to trade? The economic systems world wide are suffering. The situation in Thailand, coupled with this years economic issues, may create a devastating economic impact on the U.S., E.U., and others.
Furthermore, in establishing a new government, these governments will quickly try to create ties with the new power put in place in Thailand. They need an ally in Thailand. If they don't attempt to re-cement trade agreements, the US alone will lose a 30-plus billion dollar trade agreement. In other words, these ties have not been irreparably damaged, and the PAD achieved its objective. This is just food for thought.

So, I ask you, was this a successful nonviolent campaign?

C. said...

(Not meant to sound snobby; the question is just to instigate more conversation)