Tens of thousands of Thai demonstrators demanded that their government dissolve parliament. Bangkok, March 15. Photo credit: Associated Press.

During nearly three weeks of mass anti-government demonstrations, luxury cars have had to share the streets of Bangkok with the blaring megaphones of rural discontent, reported the New York Times. There is no history of major tensions between rich and poor here, and most of the country is peaceful despite the noisy protests. But more than ever Thailand’s underprivileged are less inclined to quietly accept their station in life as past generations did and are voicing anger about wide disparities in wealth, about shakedowns by the police and what they see as the longstanding condescension in Bangkok toward people who speak provincial dialects, especially from the northeast. The haves in Thailand have a lot — the country has one of the most inequitable income distributions in Asia, a wider gap between rich and poor than in China, Malaysia, the Philippines or Vietnam, according to a World Bank report. The role of technology in bringing together the protesters has been crucial. The leaders of the protest movement have used community radio stations, mobile phone messaging and the Internet to forge an identity for lower-income Thais and connect a vast constellation of people in villages and towns. Despite the presence of tens of thousands of protesters, the anger has not translated into personal attacks on the wealthy. The main target of the protesters’ ire seems to be the system: the perception that bureaucrats and the military serve the elite at the expense of the poor.

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