Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thai tensions across the rural-urban axis

Several reports on recent tensions in Thailand mention that the rebel red shirts who are rising up against the government tend to represent rural populations. (Read more here). Yesterday's New York Times story by Thomas Fuller and Seth Mydans featured these paragraphs in a story headlined "Deadly Grenade Explosions in Bangkok Threaten to Ignite Wider Protests."

The conflict has its roots in social divisions between the mostly poor and rural red shirts and an urban middle class that has not been active on the streets until about a week ago.

The antagonism between them was displayed by a pro-government protester who made a rude gesture toward the red shirts on Thursday as she stood in front of a misspelled placard in English reading “Uneducate people.”

See a related slide show here.

I find myself wanting to know more, and I wonder if this is the sort of simmering conflict between urban "haves" and rural "have-nots" that Amy Chua wrote about/predicted in World on Fire. Chua notes in her book that Thailand defies the Asian trend toward a powerful ethnic minority--typically the Chinese. Still, disparities across the rural-urban axis may be feeding the rural discontent.

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