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Dispatch 23: Thailand Uprising — Danger on the Streets

In 2010 and 2014, I did many interviews with Thai media and was often asked if Thailand was in civil war. I never sensed Thailand was in profound civil war — other than Malaysia border area but that insurgency is separate. Thailand was mostly in insurrection and some insurgency. Insurrections and insurgencies normally have some elements of civil war, and there was a little, but not enough to call it “civil war.” So I kept saying no, not really civil war, and I think it can pass, and in fact both 2010 and 2014 passed.

The 2020 uprising is continuation and is mostly insurrection against military and monarchy rule, but no serious elements of civil war at this time. Put it like this: if there were not a pandemic economy and related issues, I would still invest in long-term Thailand. Teflon Thailand magically slips through all chains. Like a magic show to watch.

Eventually, Thai economy will come back. Thais cannot be kept down. Like catching a greased tiger.

Thailand is still in a stage that this likely can be negotiated away without anything serious. Will that happen? I do not know. Thais are great fighters and not afraid to die to make change. I greatly respect this about Thais but it does spill a lot of blood on the streets from time to time.

If you have loved ones in Thailand, they will be safe unless they go into the fighting. Thais will not roll around waging random terror like ANTIFA or BLM or KKK — not that there is more than a bus full if KKK these days.

My extensive experience in Thai fighting in 2010, and 2014, was similar in that it included many sharp events such as firefights or grenade attacks, but the action was tightly limited to battle space. Foreigners were not bothered other than some journalist got wounded and killed, but they were out there as was I. We were tempting fate. Some died. Quite a few, actually, but I’ve forgotten the numbers.

In other words….do not worry about loved ones unless they join battle.

Despite pandemic, I believe there are limited vacation opportunities on the Thai islands, though I am unclear on that status. I would not hesitate to vacation in Thailand even if there is serious fighting. Your worst risk is renting motorbikes. Renting motorbikes is amazingly stupid in Thailand. (Web search motorcycle accidents Thailand…you are safer fighting Taliban.)

That said, I am concerned about my Thai friends who no doubt will be on both sides of this fight. Some are very anti-monarchy. Some are very pro. Some will surely fight.

Please do not take any actions that will shame your family or your name.

The government must show maximum restraint. International backlash for real or perceived atrocities is spring-loaded. Surely, many countries would like to divert attention from their own problems and nose into Thailand as distraction.

From an outsider view with an insider seat, my sense is that Royalty must compromise or risk far worse. I do not sense that anyone can just wait this out. It’s growing. Meet at the table not on the streets…

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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