The London Paper – 17 Apr 2009
Admittedly, the party on the world-famous Koh Sahn Road in Bangkok last Sunday was getting a little out of control but still, I thought, parking tanks at either end of the street seemed like a bit of an over-reaction! It was the festival of Songkran and everyone was getting totally bladdered and chucking water over each other to celebrate the beginning of the Thai New Year but there didn’t seem to be much trouble. During the hair-raising ride back to the hotel at 4am in a souped-up tuk-tuk I did notice the odd fire here and there and some dudes dressed in red marching around but just assumed it was all part of the fun. In actual fact, a state of emergency had just been declared because it looked liked the government could be toppled at any moment in yet another Thai coup. So much for my journalistic skills.
Me and her indoors had been on a three week tour of Thailand and had managed to time our departure such that we were deemed to have had a ‘fortunate escape’ by the journalists who stopped us at Heathrow on Monday. I was so hung over I could barely speak to them but more than anything I was embarrassed that I had missed a great opportunity to do some genuine on-the-ground journalism. What a total Muppet!
Still, in the taxi home I started thinking about yet another unwanted consequence of this ever-deepening recession – the increasing likelihood of more political instability across the world over the upcoming months.
It seems to me that the countries I love to visit in Asia, Africa and South America that used to be relatively unaffected by economic developments in the West have become ever more sensitive to our booms and busts. After almost twenty years of visiting tropical countries it has become clear that because of the ending of the Cold War and the removal of trade barriers the economies of nearly all the countries in the world are, for the first time in history, truly inter-connected. That’s why mortgage defaults in America can lead to factory closures in Shanghai and workers starving in Caracas
My history degree showed me that if there’s one thing that fuels riots, revolutions and civil wars it’s economic instability and impoverishment. I reckon this recession’s got longer to go and will create a lot more desperate, jobless, hungry people in countries which don’t have a history of political stability. Frankly, I’ll eat my suede fedora hat if we don’t see a whole lot more violent upheaval and terrorism in those already long-suffering countries over the next year or two as a direct consequence of the worsening economic climate.
If I’m right, then those bankers who helped create this global recession will not just have lost many of their countrymen their jobs and homes … they’ll also have the blood of people in faraway lands on their already filthy hands.