I seem to be suffering a prolonged bout of déjà vu…
In the last few days and weeks, splashed across Thailand’s newspapers, websites and TV channels, were images of colourful, flag-waving hoards gathering on the streets of Bangkok, blowing whistles and generally working themselves into a frenzy, trying to depose the government. It all seemed very 2008. And 2010, come to that.
As I am only a guest in Thailand, it goes way beyond my remit to pass judgement on the protagonists, but one should stop and consider the millions of normal Thai people who are simply fed up with the situation and want to get on with their lives.
Time and again we hear the same comments made; ‘Thailand’s resilient’, ‘Thailand will bounce back’, but why should it have to? Just when the country is enjoying a prolonged period of stability, when tourism arrivals are booming and hotel rates are rising, someone comes along with their own political agenda and plunges the country back into chaos.
And what happens? All the hard work done by Thailand’s tourism organisations and operators over the past few years unravels, and we’re back to square on. It really is incredibly frustrating.
I’ve been living in Thailand for more than six years now. I’ve been diverted to another airport when protesters closed Suvarnabhumi, and I’ve walked through a huge mob in the centre of the city, blocking entrances to hotels, skytrains and shopping malls. We’ve even held a Thirsty Thursday event when there were rumours of tanks gathering on the streets outside. And we still managed to get more than 100 guests.
And during these times I’ve spoken to many business owners who are at the end of their tether – despairing hoteliers who’ve suffered mass cancellations, owners of burnt out shopping malls and airline bosses who can’t fill their planes.
And what do the protests actually achieve? There might be a brief government switch and another election, then someone decides they don’t like the result, the protests start again and we’re back to square one. It has to stop.
In the meantime we’ll see keep hearing the same things; ‘Thailand will bounce back’. Yes, no doubt it will, but it shouldn’t keep having to.