Phuket Opinion: Protesters impose will outside political sphere

PHUKET: This year’s Red Cross Fair ended on a bitter note, with incidents of lethal violence near the fairgrounds and a political protest that prevented one of Thailand’s most famous rock stars from taking the stage (story here).

The last-minute cancellation of a scheduled performance by Sek Loso left scores of excited fans deeply disappointed, once again demonstrating that Phuket is “all in” on the disturbing trend of protesting to achieve collective socio-political and economic goals, rather than relying on the rule of law, the foundations of which crumble with each successful protest.

This year’s Red Cross Fair at Saphan Hin, by far the largest event of its kind on the island, appeared even larger than those held in previous years. We hope the organizing committee will look into all the problems that blemished this year’s edition and take steps to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Though admittedly there is little the group could have done to prevent the protesters from sacking a key act on the final Saturday night, there are several other details that once shored up would make a huge difference for everyone attending the event.

Among the growing pains noted was that the scale of the event this year apparently made it necessary to extend the booth and exhibition area out onto the main road that runs to the tip of Saphan Hin, causing one of the worst traffic and parking problems the area has seen since the Songkran Festival last year.

With thousands of families arriving to enjoy the fair, the roadside booths forced parents with young children to brave walking in the street to reach the main event area.

Perhaps the best indication that the event had grown beyond the capacity of the venue was on the final night, when the featured Thai pop band playing on the main stage with a deafeningly loud sound system competed head on with a second large stage set up about 50 meters away, hosting a transgender cabaret show.

We have no doubt that this conflict of interest, between the desire to grow and the desire to produce a quality fair, has been noted by the Red Cross Society committee members and will be taken into account during next year’s planning.

However, what is deeply concerning and remains unknown is how the protesters will continue to impose their will on their fellow islanders.

Just last month they blockaded all but one MP candidate from registering for the controversial February 2 national elections (story here), and though this action did not seem particularly democratic, it was a political action within a political sphere. To have these protesters expand their influence to something as good-willed as the Red Cross Fair is a very different matter.


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