LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - Trouble far from over in Thailand


I climbed on a C-130 in Saigon, Vietnam on Dec. 10, 1966, after a second tour and remember looking skyward and saying "Thank God, I will never get shot at in Southeast Asia again." I may have been a little premature with that statement.

Things are not good in my adopted country. Although the demonstrators have been dispersed, the rioters and looters are now on the rampage, pillaging and setting buildings on fire.

They are burning central Bangkok and the government is unable to control the fires because of the hooligans still on the streets. I am not sure where all of this is going to end but there does not appear to be a quick fix.

If it were not for the killings and injuries, one could almost make an argument for either side. These are poor farmers from the north of Thailand who have been suppressed for ages not unlike the situation we had in the U.S. with blacks.

To give you some idea, you cannot hold any elected office in Thailand without a college degree and it is almost impossible for the children of the poor to go to college. They have absolutely no voice in government at any level therefore.

Draconian land laws restrict the ownership of land so farmers who have land cannot sell it except to rich Thais who pay half of what it is worth. A foreigner cannot own land under any circumstances.

The government has no agriculture controls and has allowed rice prices to fall to nothing and farmers are now actually losing money growing rice. The Yellow Shirts (supporters of this government and the elite) took over the airports 18 months ago and closed them for two weeks and absolutely nothing was done to anyone as a result because this action resulted in the present prime minister being elected by Parliament and not by the people.

The government will run them out of Bangkok very shortly but their trouble is far from over for they will only move to the provinces and regroup and they will be back just as the civil rights movement kept coming back.

The good news is this does not affect us that much except for limiting our movements and having to endure checkpoints, roadblocks and curfews.

Lowell Strong
(formerly lived in Walla Walla)


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