THE BLOG

Protests and Politics in Thailand From the Point of View of a Woman of a Certain Age

02/18/2014 11:55 am ET | Updated Apr 20, 2014

We're having a little trouble figuring out the politics here. Our natural instinct is to side with the protesters who want to throw out a corrupt government. But when the protesters are financed by some of the richest individuals and corporations in the country and their demands are not for free and fair elections, but rather to cancel the elections and appoint an unelected caretaker government, it gets weirdly complicated.

It gets even weirder when you learn that one of the protest leaders (a former prime minister whose party lost re-election because of allegations of corruption) now is the subject of an arrest warrant for murder in the killings during the 2010 crack down on protesters when he was deputy Prime Minister. But he has not been arrested, nor have another 39 leaders of the protest who have been indicted on various charges.

It gets stranger yet when you know that the current government is being opposed, in part, by the protesters for its populist policies which promised high rice prices to farmers. These same farmers are widely derided by the protesters as being rural bumpkins who vote for the government just because it is in their self-interest to have better schools, roads and free health care. Well, duh. Some of those farmers have now joined the protests because the rice money was never delivered and no one seems to know where that money is or went. Your natural instincts just get all twisted up. Did I mention that the "populist" prime minister is the puppet of her indicted and self-exiled billionaire brother who is also a former Prime Minister and whose legislatively-proposed amnesty triggered the protests in the first place? Or that, while the protesters demand that the government step down, the ruling party points out that if this happens the Constitution requires a new election?

And, of course, they just had a new election on February 2, which the protestors boycotted mostly because they would lose. On the other hand, the results of that election are not final because some polling places were blocked by the protestors, who vow they will do the same thing when there is another vote in these polling places in the coming weeks. In fact they vow not to allow elections at all until the 2007 Constitution is thrown out and rewritten - presumably by them since they are not country bumpkins. Except the ones who are. It makes you not care much about the outcome of the protests.

This is not unlike what we observe as the attitude of the protesters themselves who go to work during the day and gather at night for coffee, chanting and street food. Of course we have all the superior knowledge of people who have spent a total of eight days here and mostly talked to tour guides, cooking teachers and Thai masseuses - oh, and that waitress in a Thai restaurant in Seattle. As Hunter Thompson said "It's still not weird enough for me". But it's getting close.