Thai try to escape politics in temples
AT A SPECIAL EVENT at the ancient, giant Buddhist Wat Jedee Luang temple in Chiang Mai, a tourist-loved city in northern Thailand, Tum was one of hundreds there seeking happiness and escape from the frustrations of the country’s political condition.
On May 19, it was the second anniversary of nationwide protests against the ex-government led by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and launched by protesters better known as the Red Shirts because of their red uniform. The Red Shirts are supporters of the current government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Supporters of the former Thai government were known as Yellow Shirts, also due to their choice of clothing. Their protests and clashes with the Red Shirts—from 2006 to 2010—raised tensions to the point that tourists were warned not to wear yellow or red when visiting the Thai capital Bangkok or the city of Chiang Mai.
Now, under the administration of Red Shirt-backed Prime Minister Yingluck, the Red Shirts are content and political violence seems stable.
Tum, who favors neither the Red Shirt nor Yellow Shirt, said he came to the temple to pray not only for his personal affairs and his future, but also for peace in his country.
“It [political instability] makes people frustrated. I don’t see how they [previous and current governments] are different,” said Tum, a native of Chiang Mai.
“There is always corruption in every government, no matter who leads it. They fight each other because they want to be government. If they become the government, they get money,” said Tum, a college teacher at Chiang Mai's Polytechnic Lanna College.
During violent Red Shirt demonstrations against the Abhisit-led government in 2010, about 90 people died, including foreign journalists, when Thai military troops brutally cracked down on the protests.
Tum said that the on-and-off clashes, and protests by Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts not only affected politics, but also harmed local businesses.
Yellow Shirt protesters seized Thailand's international airport, Suvanabumi Airport, in November 2008, suspending daily flights for weeks. In May 2010, Red Shirt protesters burned down several buildings, including private hospitals, bridges, and supermarkets in downtown Bangkok.
The Yellow Shirts launched the first street protests in 2006, opposing former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, elder brother of current Thai Premier, Yingluck Shinawatra. The protests held until Thaksin was forced to step down from power in 2006 in a military coup.
After Thaksin stepped down, he went into exile to escape an arrest warrant, and the Red Shirts who supported Thaksin, grouped up for reprisal demonstrations.
Thousands of Red Shirt supporters from different parts of the country traveled to Bangkok, teamed up and launched street protests against Abhisit-led government, demanding his ouster.
Pong, a staffer The Court of Appeals in Chiang Mai said, “I am fed up with the Red and Yellow Shirt protesters. It seems there is no end.”
Tum said that many Thai people who often visit temples pray not only for their personal business but also for the peace of the nation. Many of them are frustrated by political chaos, he added.