My First Coup d’etat
The military declared martial law a couple of days ago, but nobody thought too seriously of that. Happens all the time here in Thaiiland. Sure, there was a modest show of force with a few tanks and trucks full of soldiers appearing at prominent intersections, but the soldiers seemed content to merely watch girls walk by. No shouting, no arrests. I found myself laughing at the concern expressed in the international press and from friends e-mails asking if everything was OK. This is a Buddhist country, and people place great importance on maintaining their cool.
On the other hand, Thais bring the same passion to politics that they bring to sporting events.
Thais love uniforms. Boy Scout uniforms, nurses uniforms, school uniforms, even uniforms at the University level. They enjoy being a member of a big group where everyone dresses alike. But such conformity allows for other passions that simmer beneath the surface and which seem unfavorable for dispassionate discourse and compromise, the processes that make democracy work. So there’s doesn’t work very well, but they all seem to enjoy the many rally’s they get to go to, with endless speeches and colored banner waving.
Last night, while I was watching TV, a BBC show explaining the ramifications of martial law in Thailand, the screen suddenly went dark. I flipped to other channels, and they were all dark, as well. Then a banner appeared on some channels, a statement written in Thai and then in English, The National Peace and Order Maintaining Council. Military music played, which here sounds like operettas from the 1930’s. Every once a while the graphic would be replaced by a medium long-shot of an officer reading something. Then back to the graphic and the patriotic tunes.
Turns out there has been a coup d’etat. The military is now in control of everything. TV and radio, Internet. Freedom of speech and the Constitution suspended. There is a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. No groups of larger than 5 persons can meet. The leaders of various political parties have been arrested.
Wow, I’m suddenly living in a Graham Greene novel. I wanted to see what it was like on the streets and stock up on food and drink in case I would find myself trapped in my room for a while. A lot of people were milling about, all giddy with excitement. People were buying things impulsively, crazy things, liked donuts. I bought a 2 liter of Coke and some yogurt. What does one buy for a coup d’etat?