Thailand in Crisis

(Posted May 19, 2010) The Land of Smiles is now a land of strife.  After a months-long protest by anti-government Red Shirt protesters, a violent crackdown by the Thai army on the protesters encampment in Lumpini Park has resulted in a reactionary wave of arson, looting, and rioting throughout Bangkok.  Reports now state that the violence has spread to other cities in the Northeast.  The once-tolerant and peaceable Buddhist kingdom has been increasingly riven by political and social conflict over the past four years.  Much of conflict has centered on the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who ruled the country from 2001 to 2006 but was found guilty of corruption and left the country to escape justice.  Once the richest person in Thailand, Thaksin has been a very polarizing force in Thai politics in the past decade, with many poor people rallying to his defense while more educated, urban classes are generally opposed to his authoritarian and corrupt style of rule.  In political terms, the crisis is perhaps the result of the lopsided path to development that Thailand has followed where urban elites are fared disproportionately better compared with the rural and working classes.  

From an astrological perspective, we can see that Thailand has been caught in the middle of a rare t-square planetary alignment involving Saturn, Pluto, Uranus and Jupiter. Over the past two years or so, these planets have moved into a tense pattern where there are square 90 degree aspects between Saturn (control, loss, hardship), Uranus (freedom, risk-taking, rebellion), Pluto (power, manipulation) and Jupiter (justice, wealth, wisdom).  While we can see this rare alignment is implicated in the global upheavals through the economic system since 2008, it has affected Thailand more directly because of where these planets fall in relation to the the location of the planets at the time that Thailand came into being. 

As I have previously noted, the horoscope for Thailand is currently under a significant amount of affliction.  Using the 1932 chart representing the beginning of constitutional government, we can see that both dashas and transits are contributing to the high level of unrest and anxiety.  The chart is running the Venus-Saturn dasha period.  As major period lord, Venus ought to have been a fairly positive influence.  Certainly, it's a benefic planet by nature and it is well placed in the natal chart in the 1st house with Mercury, although it is retrograde. But major period lords have more of a background influence and given the long duration of the dasha (1994 to 2014), it still allows for a wide range of events to occur, both good and bad.   So while Thailand has had its fair share of problems during the Venus period, it has also experienced strong economic growth through most of this period, just as the Venus symbolism suggests.  The Saturn (10 Capricorn) minor period (also known as a bhukti) runs from June 2007 to August 2010 and is considered a naturally malefic planet that symbolizes loss and sorrow.   Moreover, its placement in the 8th house in Thailand horoscope is quite difficult.  The 8th house stands for obstacles and setbacks of all kinds and is often found in situations of civil unrest along with the 6th and 12th houses.  Moreover, Saturn forms a close partial "trine" aspect with violent Mars (8 Taurus) so that may be a clue that the Saturn period would see bloodshed and strife of some kind.  While some might think that Saturn redeems itself somewhat by virtue of being in its own sign of Capricorn and ruling a good trikona house (the 9th - Aquarius), it is still a planet that will tend to produce negative results, especially when transits are problematic.  We may also note that the major and minor period lords Venus (in Gemini) and Saturn (in Capricorn) are in an awkward 8th house relationship with one another and this is another indication of the incompatibility of energies that characterizes the current period. 

                   Venus dasha period  1994-2014       Venus-Saturn period 2007-2010

But dashas are only a starting point in the analysis.  The quality of dasha periods can be greatly influenced by transits, especially when the dasha lords are impacted.  This is part of the situation now in Thailand.  Transiting Saturn (4 Virgo) is coming to its direct station very near the 4th house cusp  (1 Virgo).  The 8th house (representing setbacks) and 8th lord Saturn (losses, sadness) is being brought to bear on the 4th house (population,  everyday life).  Since the 4th also represents happiness and comfort, Saturn's presence will tend to deny these dimensions while it is in the proximity of the 4th house cusp.  The fact that Saturn is stationing very close to this point makes it more likely to do harm.  It also means that it will spend a longer time at this point, and thus suggests the disruptive situation may be protracted.  Indeed, the protests have already lasted many weeks.  Saturn is also casting its full strength aspect onto the ascendant (1 Gemini) which represents the country as a whole.  Given the extent of the troubles that are now spreading all over the country, this is not surprising.  The violence and protests have hit the tourist industry hard and is now taking its toll on other businesses.  So we see how the transit of a malefic dasha lord to a vulnerable point in the Thailand horoscope reflects part of the current situation.

Interestingly, the major period lord, Venus, is also involved in some difficult transits.  Venus (17 Gemini) is currently conjoined by transiting Ketu (aka the South Lunar Node) at 18 Gemini.  Ketu is both a planet of sudden and unpredictable actions as well as symbolizing renunciatory or otherworldly impulses.  It is also frequently associated with spirituality.  Meanwhile Venus is associated with love, beauty, money, and luxury.  We can see how the portfolios of these two planets are diametrically opposed to one another.  The red shirt protesters are poor, disadvantaged people originating from the rural Northeast who feel that the political system has shut them out.   They feel no love for the educated elites of urban Thailand.  While there is evidence that some of the protesters have been financially backed and manipulated by the ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin, there is a legitimate social justice component to this movement.   Today several shopping malls were set on fire by the red shirts, this is perhaps a fitting expression of unpredictable and ascetic Ketu confronting the luxury-loving Venus.  It is interesting to note that the last time Thailand erupted in violence was exactly 18 years ago in May 1992 against an unpopular military dictatorship.  Students of astrology know that the nodal cycles of Ketu and Rahu are 18.6 years in length so Ketu was also conjunct natal Venus the last time that we saw a major outbreak of violent civil unrest.  Ketu interrupted the prevailing state of mutual respect and affection (Venus) of Thai people enough to provoke a crisis on the streets.

Other short term transits have also contributed the eruption of the crisis at this time.  On May 12, Mercury stationed at 8 degrees of Aries, which is in a close square aspect with natal Saturn (10 Capricorn).  Since Mercury rules the first house (Gemini), it symbolized the whole country here as it fell under the full brunt of Saturn's negative influence.   Mercury has only barely moved since then and now stands at 10 Aries -- in its exact square aspect with Saturn.  Transiting Mars (26 Cancer) is another possible triggering planet since it symbolizes violence and conflict and it is conjunct natal Jupiter (27 Cancer).   Jupiter rules wealth, the economy and large financial institutions.  In the midst of today's violence, protesters set fire to the Bangkok Stock Exchange. 

But where is the government in all this?  The government is symbolized by the Sun (9 Gemini) and it also has come under the influence of transiting Saturn (4 Virgo) by its square aspect.  The orb of the aspect is still 5 degrees away so that might offer some reason why the Abhisit government has remained intact thus far.   However, the pressure against the government has been long-standing since Pluto (11 Sagittarius) has been aspecting the Sun for the past two years.  This is a very slow moving and difficult aspect and reflects the intractability of the poliltical situation in Thailand.   Pluto symbolizes power in its most coercive form and when it is in bad aspect to the Sun, it can reflect a time when the government can only function through force or threats .  The Abhisit government does not enjoy full legitimacy in the eyes of the red shirts and their supporters around the country.  He was not elected but rather put into power after a military coup ousted the Thaksin.  This is a reflection of the Sun-Pluto connection where consensus and rational discussion is replaced by cruder forms of power.

Giving the difficulty implied in these planets, Thailand's future does not look good.   Saturn will begin move forward after May 30 so that may improve the living situation for the average person in fairly short order as it reduces its pressure on the 4th house.   But it will exactly aspect the Sun in July and August so that is another time when we may see the government and its leaders come under criticism.   It is possible the government could be forced to call an election at that time in order to mollify opponents.  And yet the extent of planetary affliction looks like it would correspond with something worse than simply giving in and calling an election.  I would therefore expect a return to a more unstable political situation at that time.  Transiting Pluto will stay in opposition aspect to the Sun for the rest of the year and is likely to continue to undermine the current government.  The period in November-December 2010 looks especially difficult for government and leaders as Ketu will conjoin the Sun while Pluto opposes it.   The December pattern looks more difficult, so that might be the period of greatest political and social concern.  To make matters worse, Saturn will station on 23 Virgo in close square aspect to both Venus (17 Gemini) and Mercury (21 Gemini).  This aspect will likely translate into some significant economic disruption and frustration as well as sadness and disappointment.  

All this planetary stress on the natal Sun does not augur well for Thailand's beloved King Bhumipol, who is now 82 and largely confined to hospital.   In previous periods of civil strife, he has been able to reconcile opposing sides and prevent situations from spiraling out of control.  However, he has been conspicuously absent this time, and this is one more reason the future of the country seems more at risk than in the past.  Given the afflictions to the Sun in this horoscope, he is unlikely to make a positive contribution to this situation.

Overall, Thailand's troubles are likely to continue for some time to come.  One hopeful sign is that Saturn's minor period will end in October.  At that time, the Mercury minor period will begin and last until June 2013.  The Venus-Mercury period definitely looks more positive, although just how fast Thailand returns to a state approaching normal will depend on the transits.  Mid-2011 will see Saturn aspecting both Venus and Mercury once more so that suggests another step backwards.