My Lao friend Nai, whose mother was born in Thailand and who dearly loves the country, comments on the latest turmoil there by saying “some Thai people crazy too much.” Indeed. The Land of Smiles (what a misnomer these days) seems to be on the verge of all-out civil war, at least in Bangkok, though the strife could easily spread to some of the other provinces. I watch the updates on CNN and see lots of videos and photos of places that I’m familiar with in the Big Mango. I dearly love the country and the people, but it appears that there are few options remaining that will keep total chaos and anarchy from descending.
Two possibilities that might end the current fighting, at least temporarily, are kind of like good news-bad news or good cop-bad cop scenarios. The positive situation would be that Thailand’s revered king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, would give some advice about what should be done. He’s considered to be almost like a deity to most Thai people, but his word is not law. Instead, it is above the law, so to speak. He intervenes very rarely in these types of situations, but when he does, everyone listens and takes heed. All he would have to say, in so many words, is “cool it,” and things would probably settle down.
The other possibility, a more likely scenario, perhaps, is a military coup, nothing unusual for Thailand. The last one, a precursor to current events, was in 2006. Including that one, there have been eighteen of them since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy. I don’t think that’s desirable, but maybe it’s what is needed, for now, since cooler heads seem to be in short supply.
Nai and I have several good Thai friends who live in the area where the violence is occurring, so I just pray that they are safe and sound. (Hmmm, knowing those guys, they could be right in the middle of things.) My former supervisor in Morocco, John, is also in Bangkok, working at the U.S. Embassy, which is currently shut down. He told me that he and his wife are scheduled to depart the country on June 1st for a new assignment, which, as of yet, hasn’t been determined. He said that the reassignment couldn’t come too soon. The area of the city in which they live seems to be far enough away from the trouble spots, but if all hell breaks loose . . . ? I’m sure they’re out of harm’s way, but since I haven’t emailed him in a few weeks, I’m going to drop him a line to see how he’s doing.
I have an airplane ticket to Bangkok in the middle of June, and I’m not canceling unless things go completely south. The airport and large parts of the city aren’t caught up in the craziness so far, and my original plans were to just spend one night there and then take the train to Nong Khai in northern Thailand, across the Mekong from Laos; hopefully, I’ll be able to stick to that plan. Until then, I’ll be saying some prayers, burning incense to Buddha and keeping my fingers crossed that the people of Thailand can get out of this crisis without further bloodshed. More later.