Bangkok Burning
Published on: May 20, 2010
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  • Luke Lea

    The transition to modernity is the most traumatic in history, rivaled only by the transition from hunter/gather to peasant society, of which it is in some ways the mirror image.

  • Peter

    Quite frankly, Mr. Mead, who cares?

  • Luke, what in the world is the point of your comment? And btw, your second example is from pre-history.

    Where do you rank the Reformation in the list of most traumatic events in pre-history and history?

  • Luke Lea

    My point, Norwegian, is I hope Asia learns something from the tragic experience of Europe in the first half of the last century. When a world gets turned upside down — even when it is a turn for the better — a lot of people get hurt unnecessarily when they cannot grasp what is happening to them, which is frightening. Mead refers to it in connection with Adam Smith and evangelicalism. Sorry. That’s the best I can do.

  • Owen

    Thank you for this excellent summary of a very complicated situation. Please ignore the ignorant minded commenters like ‘Peter’. Many millions of people care very passionately about this tragic dispute.

  • Observer

    Mr. Mead,

    1. I’d like to know how you support you statement that this conflict can spread to other countries like Cambodia and Malaysia. Ferocious as it is, this conflict is limited to Thai society. In fact southern Thailand now seems to the only peaceful part of the country, relatively speaking.

    2. Contagion effect of this conflict on neighboring countries will likely be economic (depressed stock markets, reduced investment in the region).

    3. Interesting analysis on the ethnic angle of the conflict. But I’m sure you are aware (but did not mention in your article) that Thaksin himself is Chinese. How does that figure in the overall picture?

  • Peter

    “Many millions of people care very passionately about this tragic dispute.”

    Talk about ignorance, that statement is pure hogwash.

    And if millions care passionately about Thailand — which i doubt — there are orders of magnitue more who do care at all.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Peter, how many people live in Thailand? And how many of them do you think might care about a dispute that is shaking their country to its foundations?

      Some hogs need washing, my friend.

  • Everywhere our Andrew goes trouble follows him,
    The Bard of Parklands

  • Daniel Wylie

    Mr. Mead,

    I am an American expat living in Bangkok and I care very passionately about the current tragedy here in Thailand. Your article is insiteful and will be sharing it with my friends and family.

    In addition to well over 50 million Thais living in Thailand, there are approximately 20 million visitors to Thailand every year. These numbers do not include a large number or expats who, like myself, care for and are deeply passionate about Thailand.

    I think it is fair to say that not only is your statement accurate, it is quite conservative. Keep up the great work.

  • linda allen

    This article explains the situation in Thailand very well and sadly because people like Peterdon’tcareandwon’tshare
    exist all over our fragile world it is very difficult to resolve.

    Don’t care was made to care
    Don’t care was hung
    Don’t care was put in a pot
    and boiled till he was done.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer chap!

  • David

    Well, maybe people don’t care about Thailand. But think what it would mean for Asia — and for the world — were Thailand to have a government that, like its neighbours (Burma, Lao PR and Cambodia) fell into China’s orbit. (This is something Thaksin’s previous government was accused of doing.) Maybe even smug Americans might then care. And wouldn’t it be ironic if the country that became the stalwart for US/western influence in Southeast Asia were Vietnam. So that was why the USA and its allies went to war there.

  • Larry

    Excellent summary of a very complex situation. In much of the news reporting, this background has been missing, leading to very simplified rich/poor analysis of the current problems. As you point out, there is a much more complex backdrop, without that no meaningful understanding can be gained. And as an expat living in Thailand, I have to say that I worry about the future, because most politicians/senior figures seems to ignore this and try to find a new platform for “business as usual”, which will lead similar situations arising in the future. Thailand needs a political leader that can provide hope and change, fill some of the vacuum created by the absence of an active, healthy, well respected monarch. As for comments like the one from “Peter”. Of course many people don’t care and keep on watching Fox News for their political understanding and analysis. Education is indeed a major challenge both in Thailand and many “educated” western societies!

  • Ron Baker

    Last week must have come as a godsend to the thugs in neighbouring countries, like “Burma”, and lesser ones like Hun Sen in Kampuchea, China, Vietnam and Singapore, who are always preaching that free speech and democracy are too dangerous to allow in their own lands. Thailand was once the example of these things for Asia. Now it is a cautionary tale.

  • First of all, Peter is a [silly person — ed] 🙂 and secondly, very well written article. I’m one of those expats living in Thailand and the country is in an absolute mess. We now have an uneasy calm, but nothing has been solved and red shirts are now even angrier than before.

    Meanwhile, the corrupt government of Abhisit Vejjajiva continues to rule.

    Things will change in Thailand and the elite will lose out eventually. When there’s ‘more of them and less of us’, it’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately so many of them are too stupid and too set in their ways to realize it.

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