IFAIR’s Series in Times of Corona: Today from Thailand / Germany / EU / Vietnam
Thailand: COVID-19 has saved Thai military-elected government from the hatching anti-government uprising
The current Thai government is basically a reincarnation of the previous military junta who seized the power in 2014. They have written the rules for the 2019 election themselves, and with that devious election, they have come to office.
On 21 February, the military-sourced constitutional court decided to dissolve Future Forward Party (FFP), the party which received 88 out of 500 members of parliament (MPs) during that last election. Majority of FFP voters were the younger generations seeking for a new leader who promised them a bright future.
The court decision came out a few days prior to the no-confidence debate scheduled on 24-27 February, disqualifying FFP’s executive members from running for MPs in the next 10 years, and defying them from presenting the information they have worked on to expose the government’s misconducts. That was the last straw. Amidst the upcoming COVID-19, by 3 March there were organized already many peaceful students’ gatherings at various universities around the country. There was also a larger assembling event that welcomed the general public. With such genuine dissatisfaction, it seemed as if these gatherings will develop into something more significant, like the student’s movement in October of 1976. However, as COVID-19 becomes a serious health concern, gatherings were finally prohibited by the announcement to temporarily close down universities and public places on 16 March.
About the author: Pimwipa Vatanutanon is a freelance software developer from Thailand.
It is said that during states of exceptions, the best and worst of mankind is exposed. COVID-19 in Germany has put the country upside-down within a few weeks. Looking back to mid of March, Coronavirus in the federal state Saxony-Anhalt was nothing of importance. Then, events with over 1000 people were cancelled. Who could have imagined that one would wonder if daily routines might have been illegal? Whereas in other regions, disinfection and masks were sold out for weeks, people were making jokes about that Saxony-Anhalt was yearning awaiting their first case. One week later- all the events were called off. The next step- the restraining order. In contrast to countries with strict lock-downs, in Germany, it is still allowed to walk outside alone, with one person in distance or with people one lives with. The permission to leave the house for enjoying the spring sun seems to be a huge but stressful privilege. Am I still allowed to sit on a bench alone? Will my neighbours call the police because they saw my kids playing on a playground? The lines are blurry. Every day, new laws are passed, interpreted and applied. Abuse of power of the police is labelled with #Coronapolizei. In Berlin and Saxony, sitting alone in a park is indeed forbidden. Is it just a matter of time until this will be forbidden in Saxony-Anhalt as well? Where is international solidarity if chalk messages to evacuate camp Moria are erased by the city the morrow after? Hence, people keeping demonstrating, sewing masks and putting food on fences give a glimmer of hope that might chase the gnawing feeling of unease away. That it is maybe the best of mankind that will remain after.
About the author: Linda Koch is currently doing her masters in Peace and Conflict Studies in Magdeburg while working part-time as a coordinator for volunteer services within the frame of the European Solidarity Corps. She is very interested in research on protest and movements and in the intersection of sustainability and global justice.
EU: Strengthen the EU, or Leave it
A retired ECB President, Mario Draghi, two former heads of the EU Commission, Jacques Delors and Romano Prodi, and countless progressive, liberal and conservative politicians have all been outspoken: solidarity instead of austerity, public spending and debt instead of fiscal discipline. Policies must secure a steady economic recovery from the damages of a prolonged lockdown and, with that, the survival of the EU. Will member states live up to it?
Many haven’t realised yet that, if Europe does not adopt adequate fiscal policies to face this crisis, forcing again its member states to austerity and balanced budgets, an anti-EU landslide in those countries may sweep away the whole Union. This is the time to set the bar high on Eurobond as the first step towards the political union: reform of Dublin, common foreign policy, new legislative procedures, will also follow in due time. France, Italy, Spain and Portugal account for over half of the Eurozone’s population: together they are strong enough to balance the Netherlands, Finland, Austria, and even Germany in the ongoing negotiations. But if short-term domestic calculations prevail over a long-term European vision, then Macron, Conte and Sanchez should put on the table their countries’ departure from the EU (before there will be Le Pen, Salvini and Abescal to do so) making it clear for them this will be a better option than the status quo. A gamble towards a lose-lose solution for all might be the only way
About the author: Andrea Enrici is an International Affairs graduate at the Hertie School. Italian, he is currently working on EU campaigns at a communication agency in Berlin. He also holds a Master in International Law and has worked as a legal consultant at UNRoD, a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, and as an international officer at the University of Pavia, Italy.
I was in Vietnam when COVID-19 became a pandemic, returning to the UK on March 24th. I’ve seen the parallels between abroad and at home.
The UK has a stubborn culture: If the government says not to do something, people will do it to prove a point. I was transiting in Hong Kong airport when Prime Minister Johnson announced lockdown, listing a few reasons people could leave the home. One was a daily exercise session- memes immediately emerged about ‘hiding from the police because I’m on my second run’. There seems to be a sudden spike in people wanting to exercise outdoors. A local hill near to me had 50 cars in its car park a few days ago.
Vietnam was very strict. While there, they implemented a law which meant we had to wear face masks in public transit. Temperature checks were everywhere. Closures were common despite no lockdown. Meanwhile, like many Western countries, the UK has achieved fame for panic buying toilet rolls.
There has been a U-turn in UK policy. Initially, it was a ‘business as usual’ approach, with Johnson controversially promoting herd immunity over lockdown. This quickly turned around- at the end of March, he was in isolation himself after showing symptoms.
However, the community response has been heart-warming. Over 700’000 have signed up to volunteer to help out their more vulnerable neighbours, with many more doing the same unofficially. I’ve spoken to many friends who I haven’t in years. Solidarity is a positive that has emerged from this crisis.
About the author: Leona Jasmin Dawling is studying towards a BA (Hons) in International Studies and Politics alongside working as an Ambassador for study-travel organisation Global Grad.