Sunday, July 19, 2009

Red Shirt Problems

We have been having problems around town this week with the Red Shirts (or the UDD, United Democrats against Dictatorship). They are the group who support ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and who oppose the Yellow Shirts (or the PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy). Hmmm. . . we seem to be suffering from a surfeit of democrats, or democracy or something. A lot of these problems have been happening in my neighborhood. I ran into a Red Shirt rally on Thursday night, but they were just driving around the moat and up Huey Gaew Road. I parted company with them after about a mile when I came to my turn. But on Friday, there were police all over my area of town, and they closed off one end of my road to keep the Red Shirts away from the Chiang Mai University Auditorium. When I see the Red Shirts in large numbers, or confronting police, I just go the other way and have no problems. The following is from, giving a news account of the last couple of days. Despite the unrest, life largely goes on normally here. Oh, except for the fact that most of the large private schools in town have shut down because of the flu. No word on how long they will be closed. So many of my students had a holiday of Friday.

Water canon used against Chiang Mai redshirt’s - 14 police injured
By John Le Fevre

CHIANG MAI ( -- Police in the Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai have used water canon to disperse red-shirt protesters after two days of violent clashes that saw 14 policemen injured.

The protesters, members of the United Front for Democracy (UDD), had gathered in opposition to Finance Minister Korn Chatikavenij’s attendance at a meeting with banks owned by the Finance Ministry at the Chiang Mai University auditorium.

The clashes began following the arrest on Thursday of a 45-year-old redshirt protester, Niyom Luangcharoen, who was detained by police as he allegedly tried to enter Chiang Mai airport with a gun and ammunition to join other protesters waiting on Korn’s arrival.

Following Niyom’s arrest about 200 protesters besieged the Puping Rachaniwet police station demanding his immediate, unconditional release.

When police refused to conform to their demands, the protesters attacked the police lines with stones, wooden sticks and catapults, damaging a number of police vehicles in the process.

Eight policemen were injured in the melee, with two of them currently receiving treatment in the ICU ward of a local hospital.

Protesters then blocked the main Huay Kaew Road and when ordered to disperse by police, retaliated by throwing firecrackers, injuring one bystander. Shots were also allegedly fired at police, but no injuries were reported.

Somkid Boonthanom, chief of Provincial Police Region 5, said the redshirt protesters had gathered again on Friday to rally against Korn meeting with local business owners and police reinforcements were drafted from neighbouring Lamphun and Lampang provinces to assist.

Following further clashes with police, the protesters withdrew to the Chiang Mai Grand Waroros Palace Hotel, home to the main redshirt community radio station.

Somkid said about 1,000 police had been required to disperse the protesters, with many of them being equipped with protective riot clothing, batons and shields.

The finance minister was in Chiang Mai to follow up on development projects worth Bt18.8 million (about $US 546,000), that he said should benefit the majority of the population.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pandemonium in Thailand

A few weeks ago Thailand was in the grip of Panda Pandemonium. Now it is in the grip of pandemic pandemonium. The fear of swine flu has run rampant in the country. 25 people have died if the flu and there have been 4469 confirmed cases in the country. The death rate is actually pretty low, but people are absolutely panicked by this flu. About 20 percent of the people on the streets are wearing face masks, and the government is encouraging the wearing of masks. The city of Bangkok has closed all of its 435 schools, 200 nurseries and 13 occupational training centers for a week to stop the spread of the flu. That might work if all those people went home and stayed there. But the first thing most of them will do is head to the mall, or a park with friends. A lot of people will also make a quick trip out to the provinces to visit family. This will just spread the virus even more.

The government doesn't have a clue what to do and in typical fashion are just issuing random and contradictory orders. Last week they ordered all of the cram schools (in Bangkok) closed for two weeks, as well as all internet gaming shops. A committee of health professionals at Chulalongkorn University advised the government to shut the borders of the country to protect the people. The Prime Minister has ruled that out for now, but left it as a future possibility. It would be impossible to truly shut the borders with thousands of miles of unpatrolled river, forest, and sea border. Plus it would strand tens of thousands of people trying to fly into and out of the country.

My school hasn't been closed, but it could be in the future. I don't need an unscheduled holiday right now. But we will see what happens. Attendance has been down in my classes, I guess some people are staying away. The real worry is next term. We have enrollment coming up next week and we are quite worried that enrollment will be low, as people simply choose not to study at this time. That will mean fewer classes, maybe layoffs of teachers, fewer hours for everybody. I won't get layed off, I have three years of seniority, but I might have my hours cut. I hope that doesn't happen.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It's raining right now. In fact, it has been raining nonstop for the last 36 hours. According to the extended forecast, it will continue to rain pretty much non-stop for the next week. Ah, the joys of living in Thailand in the rainy season. The weather here is usually quite pleasant, but when the rain settles in like this (as it does a few times a year) it gets old in a hurry. Everywhere you go you have to carry your umbrella or raincoat. Nothing will dry out. I dry my laundry by hanging it on the laundry rack and turning the fan on it for a few hours. My towels won't dry, and seem to mildew in about 3 minutes flat. I got tired of washing seven towels a week, so I have taken to walking around my apartment au natural after my shower until I drip dry! Well at least the rainy season will end soon, in only three more months!

In other news the CM panda cub has gone on display for the first time. For three days, ending today, people could get a brief glimpse of the panda in an enclosed exhibition area. Unfortunately the number of tickets available was quite limited, so most people didn't have a chance to see her.

Latest pictures


People viewing the panda cub


(All photos the property of someone else.)