Before we all get completely caught up in the budget kerfuffle, spare a thought for those with bigger problems on their hands, like the people of Thailand. The country is being torn by an ongoing and complex internal struggle:
These conflicts date back several years, reflecting a basic divide between two competing colour-coded patronage-based networks. The redshirts are broadly allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They remain incensed that he was ousted in the disastrous September 2006 military coup which did nothing to dent his electoral support, especially in the populous north and north-east.
Opposing them are the yellowshirts, who are a royalist movement sympathetic to the present Democrat Party-led administration, the military and the bureaucracy. For them, Thaksin represents the dark side of Thai capitalism, seeking cynically to subvert the country’s traditional institutions and values for his own advancement and advantage. The divide between the two sides transcends social class and regional origin, splitting families and households across the nation.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the issues and the popular image of the redshirts as non-violent pro-democracy underdogs is woefully simplistic normalcy will not be restored in Thailand until a genuine accommodation is reached between the two sides.
Yesterday Thai government troops stormed the Red Shirt protest camp. Three protesters and a photographer were killed (tens of people have been killed in all, and hundreds wounded). The Guardian has a live blog of events. Despite the end of the protest camp, the situation remains highly unstable. From the first linked article:
The end of the formal protests solves nothing; indeed, it seems to be ushering in a new and even more disturbing phase of random violence and mayhem. The deep-rooted tension between pro- and anti-Thaksin networks have not gone away.
It seems unlikely that this situation will be resolved without further conflict and loss of life. In NZ we have an extreme risk travel advisory. Best wishes to those with friends and family in Thailand.