I don’t know how much you all are following the news in Thailand, but I gotta tell you. Some CRAZINESS is going DOWN. Now, Thais tend to be rather laid-back folk. I mean, they have their ceremony and respect for elders and lots of complex Asian cultural intricacy and intense attention to artistic detail. But their general approach to life? Pretty dang chill. I don’t know if it’s because they’re all peace loving Buddhists or because it’s like 95-degrees over there with 85% humidity and, in that heat, who has the energy to get all mustered up? But a phrase you’ll hear a lot is “Mai phen lai”. It doesn’t matter. No big deal. The Thai equivalent of “whatever, dude.”
Now the French and Italians, they have striking and protesting down to a fine art. Any hint of oppression? Strike. Any attempt to thwart the demos? Protest. They set up camp and shake their fists and yo, government, you better pay attention.
So, I guess, when Thai people do get mustered up enough to protest, it is SERIOUS business. When I think Thailand, I think shopping, food, beaches, and massages.
Definitely not this:
Or (break my heart), this:
Images courtesy of Boston [dot] com, and there’s plenty more to see there too.
Of course, they’re not protesting over some minor tax hike or cut in pay. They’re protesting because they want democracy. And what they have is…well, it’s a hot mess. They have a constitutional monarchy (think Great Britain). There’s a much beloved king whom pretty much everyone adores, but he’s getting up there in years and his health ain’t what it used to be…so uh-ohs all around with the succession. Then there’s a prime minister. Except there’s two. Both competing for power. One does a lot for the rural people, setting up infrastructure…but then also engages in way corrupt backroom deals and has a tendency to not really respect the king (which is a big no-no for Thai people). The other is loved by the urban elite and has the backing of the military…and thus can always pose a threat of military coup (not so good for the whole democracy idea). So, Thailand is basically on the brink of falling into a urban-rural civil war. (Red shirts for the rural folk, yellow shirts for the city folk.) The king won’t really step in because it’s supposed to be determined by the people and if he even hints about what side he’s on, it’ll be practically like a commandment from God. So he doesn’t want to misuse the power. Monks can’t get involved because they’re not supposed to be political. So it really comes down to the people and these two prime ministers duking it out.
I honestly can’t say what side I’m on. I just want the violence and the craziness to end. As most Thai people do. The protesters (on both sides) are a relatively small proportion of the population, so I thought as long as you avoid where they congregate, you’d be safe. But then Wednesday, things got so bad, Thai authorities imposed a curfew. What?! A curfew? That’s like telling New Yorkers to be in bed by 8 p.m. Empty streets in Bangkok? That’s just isn’t right. So you just know it’s bad if it’s come to that. And the estimated cost of the crisis is more than even the impact of the tsunami in 2004.
Meanwhile…I’m still trying to get our papers through. Can I just say? Jumping through hoops with embassies and Departments of State? Bureaucratic nightmare.