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.