Do they think they can achieve the kind of democracy they are hollering for by shaming the Abhisit government in the eyes of foreign heads of state and government leaders?
Do they think Thailand’s duties and obligations in ensuring that the summit proceed smoothly and successfully are not theirs to honour as well?
It’s time to find new means of voicing political views and avoid damaging the country further
Thousands of red-clad protesters crowded around the entrances of the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya, trying to block the Asean summit. However, despite the pressure, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban insisted that all meetings would proceed as planned and that the government would ensure attending leaders had maximum security.
Suthep said he would try to reason with the protesters to end the blockade of the venue, where leaders from Asia and other regional countries are gathered this weekend to find a way out of the current global financial crisis.
Nonetheless, the red-clad protesters kept claiming that their aim was to block the meeting, and that they would come out victorious if they could prevent it from being held altogether.
If the summits end up not taking place due to pressure from the protesters and supporters of ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra, it will not only severely damage the reputation of this government, it will also harm the country.
For starters, this Asean summit is supposed to help sort out problems and find solutions for people in the region who are adversely affected by the ongoing economic crisis. While other regions are facing economic woes thanks to the United States’ financial meltdown, Asean countries still have the potential to come out unscathed and may even be able to grow, thanks to their efforts in strengthening their economies.
The regional economic integration makes the region less dependent on the US economy and thus more immune to the crisis than other regions. Therefore further cooperation is proving to be a desirable path to take.
Leaders from the three biggest East Asian countries – China, Japan and South Korea – are set to discuss ways to boost regional economies that are suffering from a scarcity of financial liquidity. The Asean finance ministers came up with the idea of forming a regional infrastructure fund. Japan and China are vying to play a prominent role in the initiative to boost the regional reserve fund to US$120 billion (Bt4.2 trillion).
The red-shirt protesters are wrong in thinking that blocking the summit this weekend would be a “victory”.
The ongoing political crisis has already adversely affected the Thai economy. The World Bank has predicted that Thailand’s gross domestic product will contract by 2.7 per cent this year, a revision of the earlier forecast of 2-per-cent growth. Overall, the entire region will grow by 5.3 per cent this year, down from 8 per cent last year. Based on the average growth in the region, Thailand’s 2.7-per-cent contraction would be one of the worst performances in the region.
Even without the political problems, the Thai economy has already been affected by the changing global trade landscape. Thai producers and exporters are suffering from plunging demands from the United States, which has been one of their main buyers for decades.
Plus, the economic problems are being exacerbated by the re-emerging political conflicts.
On Thursday, the Commerce Ministry said that some importers were questioning whether Thai producers would be able to deliver on time considering the current political turmoil. And the incident in which Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s motorcade was attacked by red-shirts earlier this week shattered Thailand’s image of being a peaceful nation.
The Federation of Thai Tourism Associations on Thursday made a rare political statement, urging all sides to solve their problems in a peaceful manner because the constant conflicts are prompting tourists to cancel their trips.
One of the representatives said: “We have been very cautious about making any political statements. But this time we have had enough. We have tried to stay away from politics, but we have been suffering from the political crisis for three years now.”
Thai Hotels Association’s president Prakit Chinamourphong said violence was the last thing Thailand needed because it would translate into a prolonged lack of tourists. The tourism industry has yet to recover from the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s seizure of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports last year.
The red-clad protesters should opt for other means to express their political views instead of blocking the Asean summit or instigating violence. They should not repeat the mistakes made by the yellow-shirted PAD.
The undesirable consequences from their actions might undermine their political agenda, especially if innocent people end up being the victims of these political movements. And people whose immediate concern is financial may not be that connected to their message anyway.
By The Nation/ Opinion
Published on April 11, 2009
FURTHER SOURCES FOR READING
The red-shirted protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) brought shame on themselves and the whole country when hundreds of their supporters stormed through the police cordon and besieged the venue of the Asean summit in Pattaya yesterday.