I arrived in Thailand just after the Red Shirts began their encampment in downtown Bangkok. The only impact on me has been that I’ve chosen not to travel to Bangkok until it’s over.
Until last night almost all the violence and disruptions were to central Bangkok. After the movement’s leaders turned themselves into the police, the followers responded with arson and acts of violence in Bangkok and across the northern provinces where most of them come from.
I’m in a southern province. The locals tell me more weekend visitors come from Bangkok when things get tense there.
The Thai people revere their King. He lives in Bangkok, has many other palaces, but the only other one he uses for something more than ceremonies is in Hua Hin. The townspeople, including the local army base and the local police, are proud that the king’s second home is here and take their roles seriously. When I first visited here last September I noticed there were more police on the street than anywhere else I’d visited in Thailand. Consensus among both locals and expats I’ve talked to is that any political street action here would be squashed as soon as it started.
The south is not known for being Red Shirts territory, so the likelihood of random acts of vandalism, arson and terror are slight. In the history of political conflict in this country since the monarchy was replaced by a democratic political system, the violence has been directed against the political opposition and buildings. My ignorant read on it is that their Buddhist culture means the violence is carefully aimed at the opposition and it’s symbols. The foreigner casualties in the past few months were ones that didn’t stay away from the area held by the Red Shirts.