Thailand has just been placed on the ‘World’s 20 Most Dangerous Places’ list by The Telegraph newspaper in London. The Telegraph took a look at the invasion of both Bangkok’s airports by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the ongoing violence in the south of Thailand (Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and more), and the latest violence on the Cambodian-Thailand border. Due to the fact that the violence seems to be escalating and not decreasing, The Telegraph decided Thailand deserved a place on the World’s 20 Most Dangerous Places list.
As a long-time resident of Thailand, though, I must disagree. You cannot make a decision on the world’s most dangerous places by simply watching the news, or even by writing the news. I’ve lived in Bangkok for more than five years and have never once had any scary or violent experiences. Even now, with the PAD taking over the airports, unless you are actually at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang airports or at Sanam Luang in Bangkok (where the PAD have been holed up for months), you are not likely to see any problems or violence.
Yesterday, I went to the supermarket. Just a normal Saturday like any other average country in the world. Families with kids were out enjoying the pretty day, boyfriends and girlfriends holding hands and exchanging coy smiles, and old men and women sitting on benches waiting for their families to finish shopping. Yes, definitely, there were more people at the supermarket as there have been rumors of an impending military coup so stocking up on a bit of food is a good idea, but nobody looked or acted particularly stressed.
The common feeling in Bangkok is the situation will probably explode in the next few days. However, unless you are stupid enough to actually venture into the three areas I mentioned, you are not likely to see anything. Even with a military coup, the Thai military don’t go around indiscriminately shooting people like in South American coups. The people involved in the demonstrations might be injured or even killed. But those who are simply getting on with normal life might have small inconveniences for a couple of days but that’s it. The damage to the economy though is where the real danger lies, especially to poor Thais who live hand-to-mouth. Many will not survive intact if the Thai economy implodes.
Even for travelers who are now stuck in Bangkok, it’s not dangerous, only inconvenient. So, for Thailand to be named as one of the Top 20 World’s Most Dangerous Places is bordering on being ludicrous. Thais are an incredibly peaceful and fun-loving people. They don’t target foreigners and they certainly don’t target Westerners like the Muslim extremists do.
The present crisis is between two factions – the PAD (anti-government, wearing yellow shirts) and the government and their supporters (the pro-democracy ones wearing red shirts). The PAD are well-funded by the Thai elite. The red shirts are now beginning to get massive funding from the ordinary man on the street, as more and more Thais are disgusted with the PAD. The question is, who will prevail? The normal Thais who just want a democracy or the wealthy Thais who are trying to save a crumbling oligarchy who’s day is done?
I’m on the side of the normal Thais and hope and pray this crisis will soon be over. Until then, putting Thailand on the Top 20 World’s Most Dangerous Places list shows a lack of understanding of the situation, the Thai people and how they will behave if a coup is imminent.