Monday, April 5, 2010

Thai Protests

The protests in Thailand continue.  This piece from the New York Times makes two interesting observations.  The first is the apparent shedding of a "culture of restraint" in Thai society:

The Thailand of today is not quite the France of 1789 — there is no history of major tensions between rich and poor here, and most of the country is peaceful despite the noisy protests. But more than ever Thailand’s underprivileged are less inclined to quietly accept their station in life as past generations did and are voicing anger about wide disparities in wealth, about shakedowns by the police and what they see as the longstanding condescension in Bangkok toward people who speak provincial dialects, especially from the northeast.

The deference, gentility and graciousness that have helped anchor the social hierarchy in Thailand for centuries are fraying, analysts say, as poorer Thais become more assertive, discarding long-held taboos that discouraged confrontation.
The other interesting observation relates, again, to the role of technology:

The role of technology in bringing together the protesters has been crucial. The leaders of the protest movement have used community radio stations, mobile-phone messaging and the Internet to forge an identity for lower-income Thais and connect a vast constellation of people in villages and towns.

At times the protests in Bangkok could be described as flash mobs of the disaffected. Protesters, who wear trademark red shirts, have converged on government buildings, banks and military bases across the city guided by text messages.
As reported here, protesters have escalated their disruptive tactics by blocking a substantial area near the police headquarters in Bangkok.  The question remains how long the police will tolerate the disruption before cracking down.  Authorities have shown more restraint than usual in this confrontation, presumably in the hope that the protests would dwindle.

UPDATE:  More coverage from the New York Times here.

FURTHER UPDATE (4/6):  Here.

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