What color is your shirt?

April 11, 2010

With the events of the last few days I thought it would be a good thing to give a report about how the protests and violence are affecting those of us trying to live a peaceful retirement here.  If you are a friend of Thailand and if you are considering living and maybe retiring in Thailand you probably want to know what is going on and whether you can stay safe here.

First of all I would like to say that in Thailand I am completely apolitical (in my actions), and suggest that other expats and retirees consider acting similarly.  We are guests here and should leave the decisions about how this country should work up to Thai citizens.  I can say that I am a true believer in democratically elected governments and non-violence.  But all my yellow shirts, red shirts, pink shirts, and even purple shirts are stored away in my closet.

It would probably be useful to get a little background to the current situation.  Here is BBC timeline, a pretty good overview of Thai history over the past few hundred years http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1243059.stm.  But the current situation started with the military coup in 2006 that replaced the duly elected government.  Here is a timeline starting with those events, with links to news stories of the time http://www.mapreport.com/citysubtopics/thailand-p-r.html.  If you are unaware of what has transpired over the last few days here are some pictures and observations from Facebook.  Be aware that these are very graphic and aren’t for everyone http://www.facebook.com/UDDThailand?v=wall#!/UDDThailand?v=photos.

So what does this all mean for foreigners living in Thailand during these tumultuous times?  I have seen a few foreigners dressed in various colored shirts and taking sides.  I have seen them get on stage during a rally and voice their political opinions.  These have all been in English and they obviously did not have great command over the Thai language.  In my opinion, if you are not Thai then you should be absolutely fluent in Thai, both spoken and written, before taking a side and choosing a colored shirt.  If you aren’t fluent then you probably don’t have a clue about what is going on here and should probably sit safely on the sidelines.

For us sitting on the sidelines, unless we live in Bangkok and have business anywhere the protestors are gathering, then our lives have been going on pretty much as usual.   I live in Chiang Mai and have passed by some Red Shirt staging areas (Chiang Mai is a major Red Shirt province).  They have been peaceful and polite and I haven’t even experienced a traffic jam.  I would say that, being a foreigner, unless you specifically join a protest rally then you will most likely not even know that there was a government crisis going on.

This is not the first political crisis I have experienced.  During each one I have stayed away from trouble and kept my head down.  There are tens of thousands of expats living here and most of us are simply waiting this all out peacefully.

I would like to express my extreme sorrow and condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives, and my thoughts are with the hundreds who have been injured, on both sides.  And I pray for a peaceful resolution to these problems.

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4 Responses to “What color is your shirt?”

  1. Bob said

    Thank you Hugh for the links and useful information. I also pray for a peaceful solution to this political situation. It is sad that expats choose to get involved in these internal political issues. They risk causing problems for all expats who want to let the Thai citizens decide how to run their own country.

  2. Catherine said

    Hugh, I’m of a similar mindset. This is their country, and other than documenting what I see, I stay out of it. As for taking sides, I have not put the work into researching the situation so my reaction would be mostly emotion anyway. It’s sort of like what we are seeing in the comments from Thais but the difference is, I’m not Thai. I will never be Thai. I do wish them well though (no matter who takes over next).

  3. norris hall said

    Your timeline of events over the last 4 years was interesting. If you read what happened in 2006 when protesters rallied against the PM, took over the airports, and forced the PM’s resignation it’s a carbon copy of what’s happening today. Only the shoe is on the other foot.
    It makes me a firmer believer in the rule of law.
    Coups and street protests may produce the results you want…but only for a time. Until the other side resorts to the same tactics.
    Better to have firm fixed rules that everyone has to abide by….win or lose. Your side can win. But win by gathering the most votes…not the loudest and most destructive protests. And if you don’t have the most votes, you need to work within the system to convince more people that your solutions are the right ones or… compromise with the other side to get some of what you want by giving them some of what they want.
    That’s how democracy works.
    Thais have never understood democracy.
    To them, voting was useful as long as the military was happy. Once they started getting out of hand the military would step in and the dance had to start all over again.
    18 coups in 60 years is NOT a sign of a growing democracy.

  4. Jacques- Henri Ramseyer said

    Dear Hugh,
    I have to compliment you on a very well done web-site.
    Tons of very useful information. Thank you for the very timely blog concerning what color is your shirt?
    Let me introduce myself. My name is Jacques. Right
    now we are living for 6 months back in Coquitlam, B.C.
    a suburb of Vancouver / Canada. I had the pleasure
    to play a few golf games in your charming company and
    we should be possibly neighbour in a not to distant
    future,( Doi Kham III)if our dream does not turn into a nightmare considering the present political
    situation and the lack of dialogue between the
    party involved….
    According to you it is business as usual in Chiang Mai. Hopefully you are right since we just purchased
    a plot of land and we should start building October
    2010. Any additional advice or comments are welcome
    since the news seen on TV of BKK burning is not quite comforting for our future plans. Anyway we
    will be back in C.M. at the end of September. Look
    forward to see you and Khun Picun again. Give our best regards also to Caroline and Robert your
    neighbour. Look forward to your reply. If possible
    can you enclose Robert E-Mail address.
    Cordially yours, Jacques & Eady

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