Regarding the May 29 AP article “Thai troops detain Cabinet minister who blasted coup“: Over the past week I found myself in the midst of the second coup since I came to Thailand, and the news, as reported by the Western media, has appeared fundamentally flawed. I am hoping that the lack of understanding of the Thai people and of the current situation is the reason why the reporting has gone so wrong.
Thailand has developed rapidly and is trying to measure up with the West in many ways and to be independent. It is, for example, very proud that it is one of the few countries in the region that were not colonized. Because of this, it is also more isolated from the West than other countries in this region. There are still a lot of areas where the Thai people live an almost innocent rural lifestyle — where people have little education and depend on rain for good crops, where people get by on only a few hundred dollars per month.
Thailand’s population of more than 65 million must choose their government. Most people have gone to school for only a limited time. They are not stupid; they just didn’t have the same opportunities others had for an education. They had to work on the farm and grow rice, earning maybe the equivalent of $150 a month to support a family. Although many of life’s necessities are either cheap or can be grown on the farm, the luxury of access to reliable information has been limited.
When these people vote for a government, there is a high probability that they will cast a vote for the person who promises a better life. And for, say, 10 percent of their monthly income, they are more than willing to go to Bangkok and protest while their rice is growing in the paddies back home.
A different class of people lives in big cities like Bangkok. They have had the opportunity to develop themselves and go to school. They realize that the voting system is not perfect and that corruption has resulted in governments that are not necessarily good for the Thai people. So there have been demonstrations, there was a coup in 2006, there were more demonstrations, and the government has changed several times.
With growing tensions between the “red” and “yellow” camps and a virtual stalemate in Thai politics, many people feared the situation was about to get out of hand, so the Thai military decided to take control and calm things down. Similar demonstrations occur worldwide, and the hypocritical media love them as something to put between the ads with little regard for what is happening to people on the ground.
Not everybody agrees with this, but the general consensus in Thailand right now is that people are happy that the military has taken control, and they hope the situation will slowly return to normal. We in the West should recognize the coup as an attempt to avoid political chaos. When the Western media use words like “military regime” or “junta,” they influence the thoughts of their own people. The words are correct for what has happened in Thailand, but Westerners read more into them, blowing the situation out of proportion.
The majority in Thailand are not scared of the military; we appreciate what they’ve done. The Thai people will get through this. A good indicator may be that the Thai baht has not devalued since the coup. Right now many Thai people and foreigners living in Thailand are upset with news broadcasts in the West regarding Thailand because they seem so biased — without thought to what is really best for Thailand.
People in Thailand desperately need the support of the West, not name-calling and finger-pointing.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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