Thai politics … complicated does not even begin to describe the situation at hand right now. But at the very least, it’s necessary to understand that what “military coup” means to an American and what it means to a Thai are very different. Many Thais see this action by the military as something of a relief from the tension of the last six months.
There aren’t tanks in the streets and armed gunman on every corner. The problem now isn’t actually violence, it’s economics. Phuket, my home here, is a TOURIST spot. And we’re under curfew. Bars and clubs are losing money at night while future tourists are possibly canceling trips or deciding to go elsewhere, like Bali or Penang. Taking their sweet, sweet money with them.
Outside of giving schools a holiday on Friday and declaring a weekend curfew of 10p-5a, the only big difference in my daily life is the media clamp down. That is annoying. I was told it’s not going to last long, but I’m tired of seeing the same purple screen from the NPOMC. Still, the media crackdown is only on TV and radio, specifically government channels, though most private channels have also gone dark. There were a lot of people running around town today, what with there being no TV.
I have no answers for this, and I’m not trying to provide any. I’m just passing on how I feel about the situation. On one hand, it’s just like any other day. Well, any other Saturday, I guess. Don’t usually go to movies at 2pm on Fridays. On the other hand, I do feel a bit of tension. It’s not only the curfew and the military, which I’ve seen very little of (I don’t go out between 10 and 5 very much anyway), but also from the American government’s response.
Let’s talk about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement about his disappointment in the military, the lack of justification, etc.
I am disappointed by the decision of the Thai military to suspend the constitution and take control of the government after a long period of political turmoil, and there is no justification for this military coup. I am concerned by reports that senior political leaders of Thailand’s major parties have been detained and call for their release. I am also concerned that media outlets have been shut down. I urge the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as press freedoms. The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people.
While we value our long friendship with the Thai people, this act will have negative implications for the U.S.–Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.
As an American, I see where he’s coming from. As a resident of Thailand, I can say he doesn’t fully understand what’s going on. The Military has not completely suspended the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, that’s probably why they declared martial law first. This isn’t a bloody coup to put a General in charge (at least it’s not playing out that way), this is a military action trying to take control of a country that’s been… more of a collection of provinces doing day-to-day things while Bangkok argued over the Prime Minister, politicians and politics and protested. …now that I’ve typed that… kind of like America.
This is intended, I believe, to be a reset button. The U.S. saying that Thais should restore civilian government like it is an easy thing, like we just have to turn back the clock a week. But that’s not what this is. The reason why there has been six months of protesting, this last stretch, is that many Thais feel they haven’t had democracy in this country for a decade or more. Corruption, wide spread and powerful, makes the populace very distrustful of not only those in charge, but the very process of elections. If elections are rigged, then that’s not democracy, and the government isn’t real, so aren’t they right in protesting against it?
One of the statements John Kerry made referenced the $10 million in aid that Thailand gets from the U.S., but can be revoked if there is a coup. Seriously, everything he said felt like a dad getting on to his unruly kid, and then threatening to take away her allowance.
Not surprisingly, many Thais aren’t so pleased with the statements made by people like John Kerry and the American Ambassador to Thailand. Some responses were fair and measured-
-while others are some variation of “mind your own business,” “look who’s talking,” “fuck off,” and, my favorites: “we have no oil,” and “Vietnam’s next door” (they usually say “we’re not Vietnam,” but mine’s funnier).
Thai people are still in control here. Trying to fix a crack in their democracy, their way. No, it’s not how America would do it (I wonder how you turn dollar bills and credit cards into sealant…), but it’s how they’re doing it at the moment. Allow them to clean their own house, and don’t judge them.
America, you’re my Homeland, my country, and I love you, but you are not a plaster saint, moral authority for the world. Your politicians are bought and sold by giant lobbies; your health care is bartered based on how much someone likes the President more than what is actually good for the people; hatred based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, ALL still exist despite that whole “equal” thing; media is a mess of monopolies, shallow and partisan; net neutrality was shot down, and privacy routinely violated; you went to war, not all that long ago, over lies and soldiers and enemies and countless numbers of innocents died; etc etc etc.
Pot, stop calling this kettle black.
Because, seriously, it’s insulting. And also, I suck at accents. My Australian accent is terrible. Maybe, maybe I could pass for Canadian, but I’d rather I didn’t have to. So… yeah. America. How about you say something like:
Things look really complicated there, Thailand. I hope that all of you stay safe, and that you’re able to resolve your problems and come out of this as a better place. If you need me, feel free to shoot me a line. Can’t promise I can do much, but I’ll certainly try to help. You’re in my thoughts!
(For further reading, check this Washington Post article “If Thailand is a coup, why wasn’t Egypt?” and then imagine me talking about Arab Spring support/Thai anti-government protest support. I’m going to take my cold/allergy meds now and pass out.)