After the Storm

May 28, 2010

Finally the Red Shirt storm has passed for now and life is getting back to normal.  Symbolic of this is the big clean up going on in the streets of Bangkok.   Civilians have come out to wash down and sweep up the streets where all the protest were, covering up all the problems and putting the smile back onto the Thai face.  The streets have never been so clean.

I won’t go into the politics of the latest “color wars”.  I’ll let the journalists and historians deal with that.  My stance is that all my colored shirts are in my closet and I am wearing lots of grays lately, but I am still in support of a legitimately, and democratically elected form of government.  And I am hoping that happens as soon as possible.

What I wanted to do is answer some of the questions people who are interested in making Thailand a home have about personal safety during these strange times.  The best way to do this is to describe how the protests and the “state of emergency” have affected my life.

During the weeks of protests there were occasional Red Shirt rallies here in Chiang Mai.  I’d see the flags and the vans full of people.  What they were doing was getting ready to drive down to join their compatriots in Bangkok.  It was a jovial atmosphere, like people going on an outing.  Sorry to say that things didn’t stay that way.  How did the protest affect the Expat community here?  Unless you were watching TV, or reading the newspaper,  or maybe got behind one of those vans with the red flags taking off to Bangkok, you were not affected at all.

When the Bangkok Reds didn’t break up their gatherings in the face of military actions I knew there would be problems.  I had seen it all before.  Thailand has had dozens of coups and military takeovers and I have been here for a few of them.  What you do during those times is take “shelter from the storm”.  I am sad to say that a few Expats, journalists, and a few very very curious visitors, were caught up in the violence.  In an earlier post I said that it would be best to simply keep your head down and stay away.  Most of us did just that, and because of that, most Expats remained safe and sound and were never in any real danger.

What about the curfew?  There has been a curfew on in about a quarter of the country’s provinces for the last week or so.  To give an example of how it has affected me I can tell you that I really don’t know if there is still a curfew going on now or not.  The latest curfew went from 11pm to 4am.  I’ll give you one guess what I have been doing between those hours.  Curfew’s affect on me, nil.

I did have a friend who needed to go to the airport at 2am the other day to pick up his son visiting from the States.  He said that driving to the airport and back home again he didn’t see one road block or check point.  So much for the “state of emergency” here in Chiang Mai.

These have been harrowing times.  But during troubled times, if one keeps a low profile, you can stay safe as you let the storm pass.  There is an old Persian Sufi saying, but it could just as well have been a Buddhist saying, “This too shall pass.”  The storm is over for now.  I send compassion to the families of those on both sides who were caught up in the violence.

When I see the clouds darkening and wind whipping up again, It will be time to take shelter once more.  For now though, I am enjoying the beginning of the rainy season and praying for peace.

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One Response to “After the Storm”

  1. Catherine said

    Hi Hugh, excellent post as usual.

    Chiang Mai was indeed peaceful in comparison to Bankgok. But even here, if you kept off the streets and didn’t do anything naughty on the internet, you had a good chance of staying safe. Well, unless you lived or had to work in the hot zones and needed to get on with your day. Then it could get sad (and did).

    And I agree: Peace, Thailand. Peace.

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