UPDATE: See below
Former Deputy PM and key Democrat leader Suthep (who has also just announced he is resigning as MP) has just spoken at an anti-government rally in Bangkok and called for:
1. A nationwide strike or slowdown for public and private sector for whole country for November 13-15 and join the protests
2. Businesses to delay paying tax.
3. The raising of Thai flags everywhere
4. On sight of PM and Ministers, to blow whistles at them
BP: It is a surprising escalation which really comes out of the blue. No doubt the Democrats didn’t want to go the seizing of the airport route, but are they trying to pre-empt a decision by a Court against the government?
The government now is, in BP’s view, at a low in terms of popularity, but BP is very sceptical that the above is a winning strategy for the Democrats. It is a very risky strategy. We can quickly get a reversal of political fortunes – just ask Obama* – and then Yingluck may dissolve parliament sensing that the Democrats are losing support.
Many businesses will be affected by this. Previous rallies whether yellow (2006 and 2008) or red (2009 or 2010) were limited to Bangkok, but this is a nationwide strike so the effects will be felt throughout the country. How will tourism businesses in the South (key Democrat stronghold and hence one suspects more workers will join in the strike) react to this? The surprising part is the escalation comes about as the Amnesty Bill looks likely to be rejected by the Senate (the original reason for the protest), so in that respect the Democrats have achieved their goals. While support and trust in the government is low, will people view the Democrats response is proportionate?
Also, relevant is the government response to this. BP thinks the Democrats will be hoping for a strong response, i.e. arresting Suthep etc., and that this will result in a public sympathy for the Democrats. Thai governments are known for overreaction so will be interesting to see the response from the government to what the Democrats do. Nevertheless, the Democrats have given the government a chance to regain the popularity they have lost.
*Although, from the reverse, we are not talking about only a government shut down, but shut down of the public and private sectors….
UPDATE: There are two outcomes here. First, the strike is a stunning success and a number of businesses have many employees strike for three days, but the problem becomes then what? It is like Songkran with three days off work. Perhaps, some business with salaried staff could tolerate a three-day holiday, but BP doesn’t think the government would give in then. So would the strike continue? Organized labor is not very strong in Thailand and BP does not view that businesses would be very supportive of the Democrats continuing the strike as they don’t want it to become a norm. Second, the strike is a failure because many workers in Thailand are paid per day (so a strike means no money), many businesses would not allow their workers to not turn up up for work without consequences, and the results is the strike is minimal. Then it is a failure.
BP: Perhaps, there is some middle ground, but it is hard to see without a government overreaction especially given the Senate vote in the Amnesty Bill last night…