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As a journalist (OK, a former journalist), i don't do politics. It's not a vow, nor a principle; calling it basic hygiene would be nicely rhetoric but somewhat exaggerated; i just don't want to mess with table games i have no wish to play, especially inside a burning house. But this time it's too close, it's becoming personal - people i should have met here in Thailand, should have enjoyed the presence of, are avoiding the country, scared meaninglessly by the nonsense in mass media . I'm not trying to position myself against the news machine - just showing how i see the Thai coup from within the country.
To start with, the term "coup" evokes certain pictures in European minds: the roar of tanks, soldiers firing at the crowd, cars and shops ablaze, rivulets of blood on the pavement. I'll leave it to you to decide which part of it is Hollywood and which - how things actually happen out there in the West. Still, just to avoid unsuitable associations, i propose to call the current activity in Thailand "taking out the garbage". This is how it has always worked in this kingdom: the parliament, no more competent or adequate than any parliament in the world, would make a mess; then the military, who both by the constitution and their own calling answer to no-one but the king himself, would interfere, set things right and return the playground to the kids - i mean, the politicians.
As i was adding details of why and how it is happening this time, i realized this article was beginning to resemble a proper political review. No need for that. Just the practical things: what's out on the streets?
Let's see: first of all, the barricades have been torn down, the traffic is back to normal (for Bangkok, read: a bunch of slowly crawling traffic jams). The shelters previously housing mobs of yelling opponents are partly removed, partly used to accommodate soldiers. The soldiers in question, by the way, are not invaders, not some kind of enemy - most of them are from the same place, the same very guys you would see in town anyhow, only wearing uniforms. If you think that makes them behave differently you're wrong. Since there's nobody to fight or subdue, most of them are bored within an inch of their lives - it's nothing unusual to see a whole squad facebooking on their mobile phones, formidable-looking weapons heaped a few meters away (i don't even want to know what the army regulations would say about this, but as the sergeant isn't objecting - here he is, actually, chatting happily on Whatsapp with the rest of his team - why not?). In some places the higher ranks are staging impromptu maneuvers, merely in order to have something to do. One nice side effect of this is that the appearance of hundreds of well-armed and trained men has driven away whatever criminals may have roamed the streets before (not that there were many - whoever has been to Thailand would agree that the country is very safe and rather orderly). Is it something you should complain about?
The ambiance is back to normal, too - i felt a lot of pressure in the air as the contesting parties were stalling the kingdom with their endless quarrel, piles of sandbags blocked the roads and the country was losing millions of dollars daily , the typical anxiety of a population uncertain of their tomorrow. That is thankfully gone. The usual mix of dedicated workaholism and "sanuk-sabai" (the proverbial Thai attitude of having fun whenever possible, even finding enjoyable elements in one's routine job) has taken hold again. Time will show which troubles are now solved for good and which - only postponed, but at the moment it's peaceful here, Thailand is again living up to its touristy moniker: "Land of smiles".
Finally, the only tangible result of martial law: the curfew. From 00:00 to 05:00 all shops, bars and other non-vital establishments are closed. I've heard quite a number of tourists whining about this, and here's what i responded: "Have you been to Laos? Cambodia? Myanmar?" The thing is, none of those neighboring countries is under any curfews, naturally; however, as round-the-clock amenities are nearly non-existent and the general lifestyle is much more rural there, everything normally shuts down by 20:00 PM, simply because people go to bed. And as for the nightclubs, well, it's my own opinion, of course, but i say - good riddance.
Mind it, nothing nasty would happen to people stuck outdoors after midnight - i've never even heard of anyone forcefully escorted home, not to say - apprehended. Just recently i strolled across Chiang Mai, more or less end to end, at 01:30-03:00 (it did take me an hour and a half, the town isn't too compact) and in fact enjoyed the blissful quiet and emptiness. Almost like a night hike in the Himalaya...
To sum it up, or to back it up with something more veritable than mere words - see the photographs below:
happy revolution-web
A sign at one of the tourist restaurants on Khao San Rd, Bangkok
More photographs )


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