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A work placement in turbulent Bangkok

Since last November Bangkok has been the scene of protests. Avans student Mike hasn’t really noticed much of any of this during his traineeship in Thailand. ‘The demonstrations are often safe, and at times they’re more like a carnival procession than anything else.’

For the past few months, Mike Davies, third-year Small Business and Retail Management student in Den Bosch, has been taking a traineeship at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce MKB Thailand in Bangkok. The company supports the development of Dutch entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized enterprises in Thailand. ‘The protests have been going on for a couple of months now. At the beginning I didn’t really notice much. Ever since the 13 January shutdown, things have been somewhat inconvenient though: taxis are having to take detours, and nightlife has more or less fizzled out.’

Last November, Thai parliament backed an amnesty law, leading opponents to fear that the former prime minister would return to Thailand from his self-imposed exile. The Democratic Party, i.e. the opposition, is demanding prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s resignation as she is seen as a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who faces a string of corruption charges. In 2006 he was removed from power by the army and found guilty of corruption.

Carnival procession
As a foreigner you are better off not choosing sides in public or expressing your opinion to the Thai population, Mike told us. ‘I worked from my apartment for a few days as a precaution, but I was nevertheless always able to have contact with the outside world. The demonstrations are often safe, and at times they’re more like a carnival procession than anything else. Great fun really!’

The fact that it is safer to keep your views to yourself, doesn’t mean the Avans student has no opinion on the situation. ‘I recently read an article in the Bangkok Post entitled Fighting corruption with corruption. The blame lies with both sides – the ‘yellow shirts’ and ‘red shirts’ – partly because of matters such as corruption. The article compares Thailand with India, a country that is also plagued by corruption and experiences even greater income differences.’

A third ‘colour’
‘In India people have managed to establish a party called Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Loosely translated: “the man in the street”. That party has won the elections by a landslide.’ Mike thinks the best option for Thailand would also be to form a third ‘colour’. ‘The numbers, resources and knowledge are available.’

Last Sunday, on the eve of the parliamentary election, violent clashes broke out between anti and pro-government groups in the capital of Bangkok. Nationwide 200,000 police officers and 7,000 soldiers were deployed to ensure peaceful and orderly elections. Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called the election in answer to the protests. Premier Shinawatra urged the population to vote, and not to listen to the opposition who wanted to boycott the election and push for reforms first. The official outcome of the election is not expected before the end of this month.

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