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    Posted December 7, 2013 by
    Bangkok, Thailand

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    Bangkok Braces for Mass Rallies on December 9

    It is a cool Sunday morning in early December. In my lane off the main road, a father is carrying his son. Kids are playing. On the road, street venders are selling food. Life is normal, as usual. Not too far from my quiet lane, the protestors have occupied the Ministry of Finance for almost two weeks. In other parts of Bangkok, there are protestors at the Government Complex, the Ministry of Interior, and on Ratchadamnern Avenue. The protest has been going on for more than 6 weeks.
    What are the Reasons for the Protest against the Government?
    The protest started on October 31 against the Amnesty Bill that would also give amnesty to Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, the ex-prime minister and a fugitive, who received a two year prison term about corruption. This Bill was passed by the Parliament, which the Pheu Thai Party had the majority. The passing of the Bill is the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to my interviews with protestors, there are two main issues that bring them out to the streets. First, the corruption is worsening. Anecdotes were cited in many interviews. In addition, from Transparency International, in 2013, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Thailand was ranked 102 from 177 countries, compared to the ranking of 88 in 2012. Furthermore, Thailand scores 35 in 2013 and 37 in 2012. The full score is 100, while the country that has a zero score means that it is perceived to be highly corrupt and the country that has a 100 score means that it is perceived to be very clean. It seems like the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery still continue to damage the country.
    The second issue that people mentioned a lot in my interviews is inefficient government policies. For example, the Rice Pledging Policy was the first policy that people told me. This policy was one of the proposals of the Pheu Thai Party before the election. It is clearly a policy for buying votes from the farmers. In essence, the Government promised to buy rice at the price higher than the market prices. This policy has devastated Thailand’s rice markets since the exporters could not compete with rice exporters in other countries such as India and Viet Nam. Several million tons of rice are stored in warehouses all over Thailand, and the quality of rice has deteriorated as time passes. The huge losses from the program will add to the public debt. In addition, according to Dr. Ammar Siamwalla, a prominent economist at Thailand Development Research Institute, the Rice Pledging Policy did not help poor farmers. Furthermore, at the moment, the National Anti-Corruption Commission of Thailand is investigating the operations of this policy. Finally, it is also a highly costly policy. According to Thailand Country Report of the International Monetary Fund, published in November this year, a more targeted policy to help poor farmers was suggested.
    What will Happen Next?
    On December 6, Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, the protest leader, announced that Monday, December 9, will be the day of colossal mass rallies in Bangkok. Later that night, my retired undergraduate advisor posted the invitation to join the protest on Monday on Facebook. A few people clicked “like”. She said “Do not only click “like”. Join the protest. I will wait for you at the faculty.” Moreover, several friends have posted invitations and confirmations to attend the protest.
    I still firmly believe in democracy, and to protest the Government in a peaceful way is my basic right. See you on Monday, everyone. I do not know what will happen next, but I am determined to show the Government my opinion.

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