One of the many benefits of travel is that it broadens human connection. Visit a place, meet its people, pick up a little the rhythms of daily life, and you care in ways you did not care before. Many people who spend time in Southeast Asia find in it the geography of long-imagined paradise. But it is a place, of course, like any other, where people live and work and try to find their way.
Americans cared about what happened in Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s because for fifty years the direction of those nations had been central to our concerns for our future. For reasons good and not so good, we think somewhat less, but a lot, of the Middle East, and cared what was happening in Iran last year, and still is, beneath the media surface.
We need to care about what is happening in Thailand. Since the highpoint of 2001 and its free and democratic elections, followed by the first completed term by a Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra was re-elected in 2005. He was overthrown in a military coup in 2006, and there has been continuing instability since. Thaksin was not an unproblematic figure. But the foundations of lasting democratic processes were being laid, and the problems of his governance should have been dealt with, of course, through those processes. Over several years now many hundreds of thousands of active protesters have periodically challenged the ruling government in pursuit of new elections and the restoration of the democracy that was stolen from them. Over a hundred thousand now occupy central Bangkok in defiance of the government. Red shirt protesters have died. And leaders of the protests – figures in the manner of Boris Yeltsin in Russia in 1991 – today avoided capture by government forces. More, here, at The Economist.