Two Households, Both Alike

By Stephen Ewashkiw | May 9, 2014

13,885 km so far.

Thailand has just appointed its 22nd Prime Minister in 25 years. Yet another interim leader is in place, hoping to keep the country together while they prepare for new elections, possibly in July.

The yellow shirts were on the streets of Bangkok today and the red shirts take to the streets tomorrow.

In the parts of the country we’re riding through right now, people don’t seem all that concerned with any of it.

seafood farm in thailand

Seafood farms, near Laem Sing.

The next few days are going to be interesting, and in two days time we will ride into Bangkok. Good thing we don’t have yellow or red cycling shirts.

Goodbye and Good Luck, Yingluck

Just this week, Yingluck Shinawatra was ordered out of office by the Constitutional Court, and their decision is binding. It has been a long-time coming, with protests on the streets since November. In the coming days, she may also be banned from office for 5 years.

What will happen next is anyone’s guess. The country is divided into two sides. When one loses power, the other reclaims it.

The red shirts support Yingluck, and are planning a large rally of support in Bangkok tomorrow. They are mostly rural farmers who feel connected to Yingluck’s brother Thaksin (who has essentially been running the country in absentia, while in self-imposed exile).

We met one man on our trip who simply referred to Thaksin as “the Prime Minister” as if Yingluck didn’t even exist.

Like many poor Republicans in America, the red shirts vote against themselves. Part of the latest troubles involve a rice subsidy program that was meant to improve the economy, but in fact stole millions from the farmers, and let their rice go to waste. Yet still the farmers support ‘the Prime Minister.’

The yellow shirts are a mix of middle class Democrats and Royalists loyal to the King. They are demanding constitutional reforms that would shift the balance of power in their favour, likely leading to neglect of the farmers and to the north of the country in general.

Neither side is willing to compromise and both sides seem willing to let the country fall to ruin to make their point.

The Third Way

Two-party systems are inherently problematic. If the two sides don’t agree on a matter (which they never do), there is no voice of reason, no third option. It is simply us, or them.

They switched off the TV when the politicians came on the screen in this restaurant.

They switched off the TV when the politicians came on the screen in this restaurant.

Polls indicate that the red shirts and yellow shirts in Thailand aren’t actually representing the majority, but they are the ones organised enough to hold power. I hope that soon a new voice will stand up and be heard that will offer a third way, a solution to the crisis. The old system does not seem to be working, and a third voice of reason is sorely needed.

What It Isn’t Good For

The other possible option is… well, it’s worrisome.

storm over a wat in thailand

Storm brewing over a wat near Laem Sing.

There is a good possibility of renewed violence in Bangkok in the coming weeks, with Bangkok sitting on the fault-line dividing red and yellow. The yellow shirts live in the south and the red in the north. With the Shinawatra’s seat of power being Chiang Mai, it is entirely possible that violence could erupt, and the country could split in two, with Bangkok becoming the yellow capital, Chiang Mai the red.

Jane and I have even coined a name for the northern country: Northai.

Yesterday we rode past a sign that read “Reform Before Election”, one of the yellow shirts’ main demands. In principle this is wise, however very little in terms of concrete reforms have been spelled out by either party. Reforms to the system are needed but they can’t come from inside the system as it is clearly broken. They are going to need to come from outside.

Someone, somewhere in Thailand, is going to have to take the initiative, rise up, and lead the country to a stable future.  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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