Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Lesson From Thailand - By A Sarawakian Living in Bangkok

The country can fall into a state of anarchy if the people choose a wrong government. A Sarawakian, Genevieve Wong who works with a Christian mission agency in Bangkok shares her story with The Borneo Post correspondence.

From a Sarawakian working and living in Bangkok

May 1, 2010, Saturday

IN this column on April 17, I wrote about the situation in Thailand and said that until the street protests and demonstrations in Bangkok stop, I wouldn’t want to visit the Thai kingdom.I also expressed my concern that the political uncertainty has seriously ravaged the Thai economy as Thailand is a country whose economy significantly depends on its tourism industry.

That is a fact as the World Tourism rankings put Thailand as the 18th world’s most visited country with almost 14.5 million visitors each year for the past several years.

Several readers responded to my article, ‘Street justice in Bangkok: When will it end?’.

There is a very interesting email I received from a Sarawakian who is working and living in Bangkok.

Genevieve Wong works with a Christian mission agency, helping to run a language centre. On weekends, she helps a Thai church in Bangkok.

As a missionary, Wong holds a religious visa and has a valid work permit.

When I sought her permission to publish her letter, she agreed on condition that I edited some of her comments.

In a note of caution, Wong wrote: “I do not want to jeopardise my status by commenting on politics in my host country.” I told her that I will edit her article carefully, adding that a little political commentary will not harm anyone.

The reason why I wanted to publish Wong’s letter in The Borneo Post today is to share with readers a first-hand account of the situation in Bangkok. What I’ve written as an observer from afar could not be as accurate as the report from Ground Zero.

This is the edited version of Wong’s email:

Dear Paul Sir,

I responded to one of your articles once before and I’d like to comment on your most recent one on Thailand.

You should be commended for trying to write such a balanced piece of work. It does reflect your deep insight into the happenings in Thailand over the past several years. I’ve lived in Thailand for over 13 years now and for the most part in Bangkok. So may I


Thailand is losing billions of Baht a day due to the current unrest. Yes, the main city centre is clogged up as the protesters think it’s a good idea to rally there. There is always the potential for violence as witnessed last Saturday. But Bangkok is a big city. There are still lots of shopping malls offering good deals on the outskirts of Bangkok.

I believe the weekend market is also safe and away from the rally site. MBK is too close. Go north of Bangkok (Rangsit) and there’s the big shopping mall ‘Future Park’, ‘IT City’ in Don Muang, Zeer Rangsit for electronic stuff and cheap shopping next to it. Of course you could visit other cities as well. Thailand needs your money!!!

The political unrest did not start when Thaksin was ousted. It started before, when he was still PM. The yellow shirts wanted him out because of massive corruption and other ‘sensitive issues’. Then the military coup was the only answer to ‘end’ the protest.

The present red shirts protest has gained strength from support of the rural poor. It’s true that they’ve been left behind in terms of wealth and they’re fighting for a piece of the pie. They were attracted by Thaksin’s populist policies. But sadly, in this current unrest, they’ve been used as pawns. They’ve been fed only one sided views. Ask any of them what they’re fighting for and they can’t give you a clear answer.

The rally has taken a different shape and questions arose as to what exactly is the aim. It’s very complicated, politically and culturally.

Dissolving Parliament and calling early elections will not resolve the current impasse. The people are so bitterly divided that it’s impossible to go out and campaign.

It has become a lawless state. Imagine this – even policemen and soldiers could be taken hostages by the protesters! Weapons could also be forcibly seized from soldiers as they retreated from the battle last Saturday!

Whoever wins the election is not going to find it easy to govern as the loser will come out and protest on the streets again. They’re not playing by the rules.

I respect PM Abhisit because he is honest, transparent, and wants the best for the country. I can’t say the same for his ministers and party. I can’t see anyone else who would be accepted by both sides at the moment. He’s gaining a lot of support at the moment from the silent majority.

I feel despair for the country that I’ve come to love. Only God can intervene and pour out His mercy on Thailand and on the Thai people. So I can only pray.

Thanks for your interest in Thailand. I hear from my Sarawak friends that news gets to them so slowly.

Just to let you know that by and large, I feel very safe in Bangkok.

Warmest regards.

Genevieve Wong (A fellow Sarawakian)

Responding to my reply to her email a few days later, Wong wrote: “May I clarify what I said about feeling safe in Bangkok. Actually it would be unwise to go near the rally site. An ‘eruption’ can happen any time and it can be deadly. Right now, I avoid the city centre altogether. But by staying in the outskirts, it’s business as usual.” – G. Wong

Sadly, the street protests are still raging on in the Thai capital. As I write this, a wire news service reported that Thai security forces had fired into a crowd of anti-government protesters during a clash just outside Bangkok Wednesday, as they tried to keep the Red Shirts from expanding their demonstrations from a base in the capital. One soldier was killed, and at least 18 protesters were hurt.

With the situation still fluid and uncertain, we can only hope and pray that peace and normalcy will return to Thailand as soon as possible. Should the Thais wish to continue their street protests, please do it with good sense and responsibility and not resort to violence.

And Genevieve, do take care in Bangkok. We’ll pray for your well-being.

(Comments can reach the writer at

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