Bangkok is hitting the news because politics has taken to the streets. I have to say, I have walked many of the streets in Bangkok, and I wouldn’t know any of this happening if it were not for the social and steam-powered media. So I can hardly claim to have been inconvenienced, let alone feel in any personal danger. I suspect that is true of most other people in the suburbs of this megalopolis. But I still feel disquiet.
I don’t profess to be an expert on Thai politics. They are said to be like politics in other countries, only more so. There is the yellow-shirt party, the Democrats, whose main characteristic is not accepting the results of elections. It is the party of the urban bourgeoisie, and ultra supporters of the monarchy and the military. They are strong in Bangkok and the South. And there are the red shirts, who claim to represent the interests of the rural areas and the poor, but are led by allegedly corrupt and not altogether competent (allegedly) plutocrats (again, allegedly, for the English libel courts have a worldwide attraction for such types). They are strong in the North, and in particular my favourite city of Chiang Mai.
It is tempting to take a Mercutian position in relation to the Byzantine politics of the yellows and the reds. But I am now following a middle course between partiality on the one hand, and impartiality on the other. A bit like the Thai military.
One of my best friends in Thailand is a yellow shirt supporter. Love her to bits. And a Greek chap texted me that they gave him free soup. A rather endearing reversal of the Vergil quote.
But the yellow shirts are taking to the streets and occupying Government offices in a concerted attempt to bring down the Government. I don’t have a problem with taking to the streets. I’ve done it myself a few times, eg over Iraq. Nor with bringing down the occasional Government. But it does worry me when the action is to bring down a relatively-democratically-elected Government. It smacks of the incomprehension of Queen Victoria (‘ivre de sang et d’orgeuil’) at losing a perfectly good Prime Minister simply because of a matter of votes, especially when these are the votes of the most brute and beastly shires of the realm.
The Government has done some daft, quasi-populist things. It tried to support rice farmers by giving them a high guaranteed price for their product, a bit like the unreconstructed Common Agricultural Policy, with similar results. And gave a subsidy for the electorate to buy their first new cars - not very green! But the way to get rid of them is through the ballot box not the bullet. And, of yesterday, the bullets are starting to fly, but it’s not clear from and at whom. Trying hard not to mention Star Trek red shirts. (I did it just now, but I think I got away with it).
At present, the military are mostly keeping out of it, and not intervening to protect the elected Government. They don’t have a record of respect for elections and are responsible for more coups than a Truffaut film. My fear is that they are going to seize power yet again. If that happens, I won’t be coming back to Thailand after I leave on 5 December.
So long, and thanks for all the fish curry.