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Well here I am again in sunny Bangkok getting ready for Songkran (Thai New year) which starts tomorrow and lasts for 3 days. Last year at this timeI was drinking and paticipating in the obligatory water throwing to the sound of guns firing and tear gas in the air.
A touch of deja vu. Saturday night there i was drinking with friends watching the football again to the sounds of M16's and AK47's (very destinctive sound they make) and again breathing in the odd wiff or two of tear gas which was litterarily blowing in the wind.
Today you see the reality of it all in colour in the newspapers which not like UK papers, show every detail. Over 20 dead and blood everywhere and Songkran has not yet started. What will happen when everyone gets drunk is anybody's guess. Thai army spokesmen say their troops only fired live rounds in the air which probably accounts for one of their colonels getting shot in his helecopter which was circulating above. They also seem to fail to realise that what goes up comes down again and a bullet shot in the air will eventually come down and possibly kill or seriously injure someone half a mile away and taking no part in the confrontation.
Friends up north tell me that it is spreading up there because of the army's actions in Bangkok so it seems like the only place to go is south. Mind you there has been an ongoing war there as well for 10 years.
Oh well perhaps I'll just stay at home tonight and read what has been happening back home in the UK but I doubt I can escape politics.
deliberately timed to miss Songkran. All was quiet in Phuket, but then it would be - tourism is important.
hope everything stays peaceful for the remainder of your holiday, I would be worried sick if we me, glad to see your calm and well, keep us posted.
A happier version of events!
Well we are into day 2 of Songkran and so far everything has been peaceful as the army has basically left the streets leaving behind a whole column of Armed Personal carriers and HumVees which are slowly being scrapped by the protesters. Unfortunately they also abondoned many rifles and machine guns with loads of ammunition and I sincerely hope that all of it is making its way onto the red shirts stage where it can be protected rather than into the black market.
The Electoral Commission has now decided that the PM's party is guilty of not declaring billions of baht of donations and recommends that the party be disbanded and all its senior officers be denied political office for 5 years. I think this was how former PM Thaksin's downfall also started but what do you do in a country where bribery, corruption and paying for promotion in the services is endemic?
Well I've been dry for at least 6 hours now so it is almost time to go and get severely wet once more. First I need to go hospital and get the dressings changed on last nights wounds and get them waterproofed as Thai water is not exactly germ free. No I was not shot or anything like that. I just went ars* over whatever on the marble floors which get very slippy when wet and got a few cuts from the edges of the tiles which are often razor sharp.
I did my visa run to Laos last month as I still need to leave the country for 5 minutes every 3 months despite having a 1 year visa. At the time up north was very peaceful and even the dour Laos border guards had smiles on their faces and didn't keep you waiting at the border for 1 hour just for the sake of it.
3 months gone 3 to go. I'll keep you posted on how life progresses. Sawasdee kap
Well the tension begins to increase now. I went to Silom last night as my pool hall is there and I play in the Bangkok League. Unfortunately our oppostion was too frightened to come to Silom last night as they thought their cue bags could be mistaken for weapons and the match was postponed. The place is awash with soldiers mostly carrying SAR 21 automatic rifles which I believe are a Singaporean copy of our UK SA80 and mostly used by special forces over here. As these guys were certainly not special forces perhaps they do not know how to even fire them. Wouldn't surprise me if this was all for show.
Razor wire is everywhere and in the evening customers were few and far between and the bars mostly empty. For those who do not know Bangkok, the financial district which the soldiers were protecting becomes Patpong, the redlight area, in the evening. Out of curiosity I took my pool cue bag (which resembles a rocket launcher) out of the club and walked up and down the road and was not challenged once.
Coming in to town you see loads of army and police check points on the main roads checking vehicles and stopping obvious red shirts from going further but nothing at all on the toll roads so the army top brass clearly thinks that the red shirts and their multi billionaire funder cannot afford about 90P for the toll.
It is also getting rather noisy as the red shirt camp is playing loud music to drown out the music from the yellow shirt camp across the road all combined with the loud music the army is playing to keep people happy.
I visited the red shirt camp a couple of days ago and the food was so fresh, beautiful and cheap that I had 2 helpings. I was also made most welcome but I'm afraid the yellow shirt/pink shirt/ etc camp was not quite so friendly and they were clearly wondering what a Farang was doing there.
My heart goes out to the soldiers who are so young and clearly don't want to be there. They are in full battle gear with added platic protection at all limb joints and this place is hitting nearly 40 degrees at night. After 20 minutes most of them just sit down and do nothing as their needed back up of water and food fails to appear.
I'm going back in tonight to get some pictures while things remain peaceful. Despite the tension this is much better than UK party politics.
The worst invention ever given to Thai people was the microphone. Given half or even a quarter of a chance any Thai person handed a microphone will either shout in it for at least an hour or give you some very bad karaoke. I'm not sure yet which is the worst.
Hope this does not become necessary.
how long are you in thai-land for?
My original plans were to stay for about 9 months which I try to do each year but who knows in the present situation. I suffered the coup a few years ago and I don't particularly want to go through that again. The Prime Minister at the present time is very week and severely damaged but he is holding out as he seems to have the head of the army by the preverbial short and curl***. The army head is due to retire later this year and already has two strikes hanging over his head and is clearly worried about losing his retirement or being flung out if the opposition wins. He is involved in the fraud over the purchase of millions of baht's worth of fake bomb detectors from a UK company. Despite the UK telling Thailand that they were no use the army head insisted they were still good and keeps using them. He said the contract forbids the Thai army from opening up and looking inside the gadgets but a local university opened one up and found nothing but bits of plastic inside. These gadgets were basically a lump of plastic with a small car aerial stuck on the outside and resembled a diving rod and just about as good. He then purchased at great cost an airship (that must be the wrong word) and years later it is still to get off the ground. This is basically a Good Year Blimp and still they cannot get it off the ground. This man cannot afford any more mistakes and then the Prime Minister puts him in charge of restoring order to the country when he had already puplicy stated that the army is not the answer. Talk about being put between a rock and a hard place.
I sit and chat most evenings over a bottle or two of cold water with the General in charge of the south Silom troops in the Surawong area and he is clearly a well educated man who also speaks good English. He knows I was in the UK military for a while so we have good discussions. His troops are mostly young conscrips and he acknowledges that their loyalties are unknown. Here they call them Watermelons as they are army green on the outside but clearly red on the inside. The army is clearly worried as there are many regiments in the north whose loyality is questionable and the last thing the military needs right now is open conflict which could result in a civil war especially as there is alrady a major conflict down south with Islamic separatists.
The Police are also very angry that this has been taken out of their control. They are playing second fiddle to the army in what is really a civil matter. I really don't know what the answer is but it will probably include somewhere along the line a change of Government. One thing for certain is that this needs to be resolved whilst the King is still alive. His health is not very good at all and the Crown Prince is not universally liked although you will get flung in prison for saying that. Few in Thailand have seen a well known DVD as it is totally banned here and I'm not talking about the King And I or Anna And The King (both of which are also banned).
I love this country so much but it is so disheartning to see the way most people have to live whilst others treat them as almost non existant people. Most Farang (that's white foreign people as they have other words for coloured people) end up accepting things as they are and that is fine for tourists and the like but after some years it becomes not so fine.
To see the real Thailand you must leave Bangkok and the usual Thai holiday islands where nothing is really proper Thailand. You might not have as comfortable a time but you will be rewarded with lovely people, proper Thai food, and not have to put up with Hello Handsome Man at every bar you walk past even when you are an OAP like me. Your money will also last hell of a lot longer.
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