Now at the end of October 2020, the current protests in Bangkok show little sign of abating, and along with the economic effects of the stringent measures taken by this government to avoid the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, tensions are still high. The protests now encompass demands that the entire system, including the monarchy, should be changed and allow for greater democracy. The results of special parliamentary sessions to deal with the unrest may soon become apparent, but it is unlikely that they will defuse the situation. As far as the monarchy is concerned, current Thai law forbids any personal comment. Still, it seems fair to say that there is a contrast between the universally loved and respected previous monarch and the incumbent. The current monarch’s preference for Germany as his place of residence has led to both demonstrations outside the German Embassy in Bangkok and questions are asked in that country’s Parliament.
Open calls for reform of the monarchy alongside the political demands have brought the supporters of the Royal family onto the streets, albeit not in any significant numbers as yet. However, the current open opposition to the crown gives demonstrations a different aspect to the many previous confrontations between the state and the people of Thailand. Although it is difficult to estimate what percentage of the population share the views of the demonstrators, if the protests spread outside of Bangkok in any significant numbers, things may well escalate.
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As can be seen, the steps taken by the current government to stop the spread of the pandemic, victorious though they have been, have had severe economic consequences, especially in the tourist and service industries. The current social upheaval, although at the moment only adding to the frustration of the people in Bangkok, will only add to the current sense of unrest throughout the Kingdom.
The never before seen circumstances of the pandemic, the economic fallout from the same, and the open calls for reform not only of the government but also with regards to the monarchy make the outcome far more challenging to predict than any previous confrontation between the state and people. The last King had the final word on almost everything in Thailand, regardless of political views, because he was so well respected and loved by all and to oppose him was folly. However, what will happen over the next few weeks and what the consequences will be in the long term is now hard to say. Thailand does have a way of dealing with these things; it has the history to prove it. Let’s hope that despite the unique circumstances this time, cooler heads will prevail and compromise can be found.
So what does this do for our local city of Pattaya? Along with the long term improvements that the fallout from the pandemic will bring, it may well mean that the city has an influx of buyers from Bangkok trying to escape not just the unrest on the streets but the pollution, traffic, and the general hustle and bustle of the big city.
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Anyone who doubts the future of Pattaya should take a look at the raft of new developments being undertaken here, stretching from Naklua, the beachfront in Pattaya central, through Cosy Beach, Pratumnak and reaching down through Jomtien and beyond. Ally this to the new transport and infrastructure projects prepared to help support the Eastern Economic Corridor and the future for the city looks bright.
Of course, this will all take time, and the current outlook caused by the fallout of the pandemic has cast a shadow not just here, but throughout Thailand and indeed most of the world’s economies.
It is a terrible sight to see so many shops, offices, bars, and general outlets closed with the shutters down and a simple telephone number displayed in a desperate hope that a last-minute buyer will step in. However, given the amount of money currently spent on the new projects and developments, the tasks at present just in the planning and signing off stages the transformation of Pattaya into an altogether different place looks assured.
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The old Pattaya and its somewhat seedy reputation, always a problem for the typical Bangkokian and some overseas buyers from certain countries, will surely fade over time. Hopefully, the powers that be here will keep to their end of the bargain and improve the local infrastructure and amenities.
A report that Pattaya’s Mayor, Sonthaya Kunplome, says “It is vital to upgrade Pattaya as an economic hub to exploit opportunities from developing industries in the three-province Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) of which the city is part. Also, for Pattaya to become a new Pattaya, ready for a better class of tourist, there are plans for many billions of baht to be spent on infrastructure and improvements. It is thereby creating a city that will appeal to both Thais, international visitors and investors alike.”