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Pattaya Daily News

16 March 2010 :: 10:03:20 am 15789

Implications Of Awakening The Sleeping Thai Elephant

The mass Red-Shirt protest may do more than any other factor to radically affect Thailand both domestically and internationally, hopefully for the better.
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For one thing, the Red Shirt protests represent the awakening of the ‘sleeping elephant’ of the Thai underclass, finally having had enough of being marginalized and exploited by the Bangkok power elite. Given the realization that they now have a political voice, they may begin to flex their ‘muscles of protest’ in earnest, across the board. This may well have radical repercussions, ranging from stopping the government from irresponsibly damming the Mekong and adding further to the depletion of the overall water supply, especially in Esarn, to preventing foreign investors being allowed to come into the country and effectively taking over the country’s industrial power-base.

The Japanese, for one, cite the availability of cheap labour as one of the reasons they find Thailand so attractive. One of the only ways to equably redistribute the wealth of the country, which is obviously radically needed, is to give the Thai workforce higher wages, not to further exploit them as the Japanese and other foreign investors would like to do, just so they can maximize their own profits.

The property market is another sector of gross exploitation, just so as to maintain its competitive position internationally vis-à-vis neighbouring countries by offering lower prices, or domestically by allowing developers to maltreat their workers. Again, the profit motive is the driving force here, resulting in the Thai workforce being  underpaid and forced to work in manifestly unsafe conditions that in the developed world would bring the wrath of the unions down upon the cynical developers. Thai labour needs to be unionized, in other words, to give it more clout.

The medi-tourism industry is yet another sector of the Thai economy that works against the best interests of the Thai populace, especially the poor, who cannot afford adequate medi-care, partially because the prices are oriented towards the richer foreign market. Here, badly needed medical resources are diverted for the benefit of rich foreigners, with hospitals being taken off-line, only leaving the less well-equipped, both resource-wise and in terms of qualified personnel, to cater to the poor Thais. Perhaps a degree of nationalization is the answer here to put the medical resources back where they belong, to benefit the Thai society as a whole, not just the rich or foreign elements.

Education could also do with being fundamentally overhauled, laying emphasis upon creative learning techniques rather than rote learning in totally overcrowded conditions that are the antithesis of progressive education. Now the elite realizes the underprivileged have found their collective voice, they can no longer control the lower classes by depriving them of decent educational opportunities. Furthermore, better education will enhance the comparative socio-economic position of the country internationally.

These are just a few of the areas that unleashing the voice of the sleeping elephant or tiger will radically affect. Only by voicing their disapproval of the exploitation that has traditionally been their lot, will the life chances of the Thai lower class improve. Let them have their say at long last.

Reporter: Taliesin Verity (Chief-Reporter)

Photographer: Jack Rames

Category : Society

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