Thailand: Lessons From A Vacation/Business Month In Socialist North West Lanna Kingdom
Having posted my thoughts mainly on the recently unattractive Huffington Post, America edition, I hesitated to post one here, but finally I came up with this, my first substantial one at DU, a hopefully interesting and topical observation of Thailand's current political schism as I saw it in a month of a long stay vacating through eyes and ears of the Thai people of Chiang Mia and surrounding territory, from taxi drivers, beverage managers, to farang businessmen of several foreign nationalities, to young up and comer farangs who see business opportunities in an expanding economy with low inflation, low cost of living and high work and family moral standards.
Where to begin? Thailand is complicated and familiar at the same time. Cultural discussions are common place and complex, so I choose to begin with the business and foreign immigration side of things, less complicated, more my angle.
There are massive business opportunities in Thailand, particularly the burgeoning economy around the capital city of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mia.
Lanna or Lanna thai is the given name of a prosperous self ruling kingdom, once the power base of the whole of Northern Thailand as well as parts of present day Burma (Myanmar) & Laos. The title means "Land of a million rice fields'.
The rich culture and history owe much to the influence of Burma and, to a certain extent Laos. Still found in northern temples is the script of Lanna, which is probably the original Thai script and thought to be based on Mon. A similar script is still in use today by the Shan people.
Lanna is completely different from other provinces of Thailand in cuisine, culture and custom. It is generally acknowledged, throughout Thailand, that the Northern women are the most beautiful and people friendliest and politest in the country. The charm and gentleness of the Northerners seldom fail to impress even the most demanding of visitors.
The North West area of Thailand is geographically and culturally linked to Burma in ways that are reflected in their political and business norms also being decidedly different than the capitalist ruled and under populated southern Thailand.
Business opportunities abound in relation to services not being met for the flood of foreigners arriving to take advantage of the cultural uniqueness and low cost of living, including housing, food, labor costs and medical care.
An Italian business man looking to expand his 3 hotel empire in Italy with a boutique hotel on the shores of the Mekong River near the lone border crossing, the Dubai businessman selling Kashmir hand knotted silk carpets to the Bangkok nouveau rich who escape the turmoil and heat in the south for a round of golf and cultural exploration in the cooler, cooler in all ways, north, to the Seattle 30-something scouting around in advance of setting up a computer English language business service for foreigners traveling in the area, there is a lot going on.
Political issues also abound and there is the contrast between the Lanna Kingdom and its socialist roots and high voter turnout, and the essentially capitalist dominated south, geographically penned in by oceans and demographically disadvantaged in federal elections for federal political positions. Though the southern rich businessmen and their government official partners do own the mass media in the south and for all of Thailand, just that the mass media is not that massive there, an rich understanding of history informs of current events well enough.
The real interesting current political part about Thailand though is how the King of Thailand is revered, or there is a an appearance of reverence, that is universal, though the King is in his 80's and ailing in a wheelchair and seems not able to make a rational intervention. Interesting situation, that health thing, a King with power unable to use it.
The military, usually on the side of the South, is unable to move against the the PM without the Kings wink approval, which has not been forthcoming. The South politicians will not accept the recent resignation of the entire federal cabinet and PM and new federal elections because they know they will just lose again to the population of the northern socialist minded provinces.
The problem with this divide is that is it based on half truths from both sides. The north believes that the south is a corrupt stew of political favors and government corruption, while the south sees the north as backward farmers and pheasants who are being blackmailed by money from the federal government for their votes with free health care, a minimum wage, housing and food subsides, etc.
There is nothing new under the sun, even under a Lanna Kingdom sun.