Ten reasons why Thailand has become a banana republic

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thai people onlyLatest political and economic developments in Thailand have given many observers reason to believe that the country has crossed the line to being a banana republic.

As it is known, a banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country whose economy is largely dependent on exports. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy that comprises the elites of business, politics and the military.

A banana republic is also characterised by a weak, kleptocratic government, widespread and unofficially accepted corruption and an undersupply of public services such as education and affordable public healthcare. A banana republic also typically has a self-perception that differs from perception by others from outside.

There is also a fun part with a banana republic, and Thailand does everything to fit into this category.

1. Most of the time the prime minister is outside the country on various state visits, especially when domestic problems are heating up. The country is mostly run by one of the five deputy prime ministers of which three at the same time run other ministries. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the time of writing has made 53 trips to 42 countries in the two years and one month she has been in office, far more than Barack Obama or even George W. Bush managed to handle in the same time period. When statistics started showing the steady decline in Thai exports, she sent messages from economically relatively unimportant countries such as the Maldives, Mozambique or Tajikistan that she has been “pushing trade and tourism” with them.

2. Addressing this problem which is starting to raise public discontent, one opposition party made an interesting move which was to set up a legal group studying the question whether Yingluck’s frequent overseas travels constitute a government in exile, which would breach Section 68 of the constitution. However, commentators say the real government in exile is Yingluck’s brother and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted from Thailand in 2006 and is since allegedly running the country via Skype calls to lawmakers and his sister.

3. Yingluck, who is currently on state visits to the Vatican and Montenegro, has recently initiated a visa waiver for diplomats and office holders from Montenegro. This is the country where Thaksin got his new passport and also citizenship from after his Thai diplomatic passport has been revoked in 2006. The Thai foreign ministry has been probing the case since years as there was allegedly money involved and  Thaksin was approved some sort of diplomatic status by Montenegro without consent of Thailand. However, there was no outcome of the investigations yet, and the visa waiver is broadly seen as a late thank-you note by Yingluck to Montenegro.

4. Thailand is a country where almost nobody is able to articulate him- or herself in conversational English, and the prime minister is no exception, which this video clearly shows (and many others). No wonder that high on the list of tourist complaints about Thailand are “service misunderstandings.”

5. In 2013, after the rice farmers, the rubber farmers stood up and demanded higher guaranteed prices for their commodities from the government. In August, the taxi drivers took to the streets to demand government support for higher fuel prices. On September 11, the maize farmers were the next to rally for the same reasons. The next group will highly likely be the sugar farmers, and then the shrimp farmers will follow. There are also rumours that massage girls will be the next to stage protests for a higher basic salary.

6. What many of the protesters ignore or aren’t even aware of is that the call for government intervention in the economy has the odour of socialism, a political movement that is in deep disregard in Thailand. The Socialist Party of Thailand dissolved in 1976 after its general secretary was murdered. The Communist Party of Thailand is banned since the 1980s up to this day.

7. Thai protesters, regardless of the group they are representing, like to march labelled with different colours. The Red Shirts still exist, but the Yellow Shirts haven’t been seen for a long time, and the recent White Mask movement was short-lived, with domestic political observers saying that people eventually got confused and tired of the coloured parades. The culmination of the colour-coded protest groups was the appearance of the “Multicolour Shirts” and eventually the “No Colour” pressure group.

8. With declining export and service revenues due to internal and external weaknesses, Thailand is now relying at more than 50 per cent on tourism to gain foreign exchange. At the same time, there has been a spike in tourism scams in all popular tourism destinations that even prompted the European Union to demand the Thai government take action. The result was that a “tourism court” has been set up in the brothel town of Pattaya to deal with complaints from tourists.

9. The latest embarrassment happened when a Thai Airways plane crashed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport in the night of September 9 due to a faulty landing gear. When press arrived in the morning, airport staff had covered up the Thai Airways logo on the plane with black paint to “de-identify” it after the accident, not paying attention to the fact that pictures of the crashed plane including the logo long have been posted to social media since.

10. In Thailand, foreigners are welcomed with open arms and a smile as long as they remain in the country the average length of stay of a tourist. For long-timers, getting non-residency visas has become increasingly difficult and more expensive, and the visa-run industry is thriving as never before. The only method to reside in the country without the hassle of renewing a visa after every period is to apply for permanent residency which can be done after three consecutive years of a non-resident visa by paying around 200,000 baht (some $6,000) and provide loads of documentation. But it seems that Thailand then really wants the foreigner to stay, because every time he needs to leave the country for a trip he will have to ask for official permission at immigration at a cost, otherwise the “residency permit” would turn void and he had to reapply for another $6,000. While Thailand grants 100 residences per country annually, it is no wonder that on average just 8 people per nationality apply.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Latest political and economic developments in Thailand have given many observers reason to believe that the country has crossed the line to being a banana republic.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thai people onlyLatest political and economic developments in Thailand have given many observers reason to believe that the country has crossed the line to being a banana republic.

As it is known, a banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country whose economy is largely dependent on exports. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy that comprises the elites of business, politics and the military.

A banana republic is also characterised by a weak, kleptocratic government, widespread and unofficially accepted corruption and an undersupply of public services such as education and affordable public healthcare. A banana republic also typically has a self-perception that differs from perception by others from outside.

There is also a fun part with a banana republic, and Thailand does everything to fit into this category.

1. Most of the time the prime minister is outside the country on various state visits, especially when domestic problems are heating up. The country is mostly run by one of the five deputy prime ministers of which three at the same time run other ministries. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the time of writing has made 53 trips to 42 countries in the two years and one month she has been in office, far more than Barack Obama or even George W. Bush managed to handle in the same time period. When statistics started showing the steady decline in Thai exports, she sent messages from economically relatively unimportant countries such as the Maldives, Mozambique or Tajikistan that she has been “pushing trade and tourism” with them.

2. Addressing this problem which is starting to raise public discontent, one opposition party made an interesting move which was to set up a legal group studying the question whether Yingluck’s frequent overseas travels constitute a government in exile, which would breach Section 68 of the constitution. However, commentators say the real government in exile is Yingluck’s brother and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted from Thailand in 2006 and is since allegedly running the country via Skype calls to lawmakers and his sister.

3. Yingluck, who is currently on state visits to the Vatican and Montenegro, has recently initiated a visa waiver for diplomats and office holders from Montenegro. This is the country where Thaksin got his new passport and also citizenship from after his Thai diplomatic passport has been revoked in 2006. The Thai foreign ministry has been probing the case since years as there was allegedly money involved and  Thaksin was approved some sort of diplomatic status by Montenegro without consent of Thailand. However, there was no outcome of the investigations yet, and the visa waiver is broadly seen as a late thank-you note by Yingluck to Montenegro.

4. Thailand is a country where almost nobody is able to articulate him- or herself in conversational English, and the prime minister is no exception, which this video clearly shows (and many others). No wonder that high on the list of tourist complaints about Thailand are “service misunderstandings.”

5. In 2013, after the rice farmers, the rubber farmers stood up and demanded higher guaranteed prices for their commodities from the government. In August, the taxi drivers took to the streets to demand government support for higher fuel prices. On September 11, the maize farmers were the next to rally for the same reasons. The next group will highly likely be the sugar farmers, and then the shrimp farmers will follow. There are also rumours that massage girls will be the next to stage protests for a higher basic salary.

6. What many of the protesters ignore or aren’t even aware of is that the call for government intervention in the economy has the odour of socialism, a political movement that is in deep disregard in Thailand. The Socialist Party of Thailand dissolved in 1976 after its general secretary was murdered. The Communist Party of Thailand is banned since the 1980s up to this day.

7. Thai protesters, regardless of the group they are representing, like to march labelled with different colours. The Red Shirts still exist, but the Yellow Shirts haven’t been seen for a long time, and the recent White Mask movement was short-lived, with domestic political observers saying that people eventually got confused and tired of the coloured parades. The culmination of the colour-coded protest groups was the appearance of the “Multicolour Shirts” and eventually the “No Colour” pressure group.

8. With declining export and service revenues due to internal and external weaknesses, Thailand is now relying at more than 50 per cent on tourism to gain foreign exchange. At the same time, there has been a spike in tourism scams in all popular tourism destinations that even prompted the European Union to demand the Thai government take action. The result was that a “tourism court” has been set up in the brothel town of Pattaya to deal with complaints from tourists.

9. The latest embarrassment happened when a Thai Airways plane crashed at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport in the night of September 9 due to a faulty landing gear. When press arrived in the morning, airport staff had covered up the Thai Airways logo on the plane with black paint to “de-identify” it after the accident, not paying attention to the fact that pictures of the crashed plane including the logo long have been posted to social media since.

10. In Thailand, foreigners are welcomed with open arms and a smile as long as they remain in the country the average length of stay of a tourist. For long-timers, getting non-residency visas has become increasingly difficult and more expensive, and the visa-run industry is thriving as never before. The only method to reside in the country without the hassle of renewing a visa after every period is to apply for permanent residency which can be done after three consecutive years of a non-resident visa by paying around 200,000 baht (some $6,000) and provide loads of documentation. But it seems that Thailand then really wants the foreigner to stay, because every time he needs to leave the country for a trip he will have to ask for official permission at immigration at a cost, otherwise the “residency permit” would turn void and he had to reapply for another $6,000. While Thailand grants 100 residences per country annually, it is no wonder that on average just 8 people per nationality apply.

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