Cloud Cuckoo Land
Those of us who live in Thailand have always known that the Thais live in their own enclosed world, their own little bubble, with almost no knowledge or interest in the rest of Planet Earth. Things happen in Thailand that just would not happen in any country that considered itself anything other than a banana republic. When people talk of places that are close to the bottom of the pile they usually think of most of Africa, or the chaos and filth that can be found in India. Certainly, the state of the footpaths in Bangkok and the badly maintained buildings everywhere are far closer to India than Singapore. So Thailand is down there. And the governing of a country is another measure of where on the ladder it stands. Guess where Thailand is.
Especially now. Where, except in the worst countries of Africa, would you have a police force that does little more than look on as people riot on the streets, attack each other with golf clubs and machetes or lob hand grenades and use rocket launchers against each other. And where the army, summoned to restore order, do absolutely nothing. But that has always been what the Thais do best – nothing at all. Ignore anything unpleasant, anything at all, and it will go away. It will be invisible.
Now it’s payback time for the head in the sand mentality, because as well as messing up the country for themselves they’ve now taken the suicidal step of involving foreigners, both business people and families on vacation. The sham that existed for years on TV commercials, in newspaper and magazine ads and so on, promoting Thailand as the Land of Smiles, has been blown out of the water for ever with the events of the past few days. Thais often have an inflated opinion of their country’s importance, even its size, and think they know more and are better than anyone else. When in fact the absolute opposite is true. Many are ignorant, although usually well-meaning, the education system is a sick joke, every embassy in the whole world knows you cannot trust a word that a Thai says. And the pretence that Thais are a peaceful race has now been shown up for what it always was.
It’s been okay while they just wanted to take over the government offices and turn the place into a site for an never-ending party. The government, of course, did nothing. Just moved somewhere else, ran away from the problem. The police? One brief confrontation, which they handled badly, surprise surprise. How about the troops restoring order? No. Let the mob rule and control a part of the city. Still, it was okay, a small area and they kept their quarrel to themselves, in-house. Then they started moving outside their little fiefdom, demonstrating in the hubs of the city, on Silom, outside Central World, on Sukhumvit. Visitors were now getting caught up in the bad vibes that were far removed from the smiles on the TAT posters.
And then. And then. If a country can commit suicide, Thailand did it. In any country in the world, taking over an airport would be considered an act of terrorism. I'm pretty sure that the penalty for that in many countries, including Thailand, is execution. Have the PAD leaders considered that, or do they care. And do they care that their actions will almost certainly put hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Thais out of work as foreign companies and tourists go elsewhere. And the police just let them do it, totally outnumbered, out-maneuvered, out-motivated. After all, you get paid the same whatever you do, so do nothing. It’s the Thai way. And, let’s not forget, many might have had their wife or other family members among the mob. The PAD wanted to let the world know of their cause, and that was their way of doing it. You know what? The world doesn’t give a flying fcuk about Thai politics. Both sides are as bad as each other, only interested in themselves. The world knows that most Asian countries are corrupt, and let them get on with it. That’s it. End of story.
But, because some people believe that Thais are the centre of the world and everyone is interested in their political shenanigans, we had families sheltering their terrified children as men dressed in full riot gear strode through the airport. Imagine what that is like for a young child. They could have nightmares for years. And that was just the beginning. The Thai staff do what Thais do best, and fled the scene leaving thousands of passengers stranded and confused and without any kind of assistance whatsoever as a lawless mob took over the building. The effectiveness of security at the airport has been questioned ever since it opened, and it fully lived down to expectations. The mob was able to take control of the entire complex, including airside, without the slightest resistance from anyone. Thousands of people, who came to Thailand because they believed in the fantasy, were trapped, unable to return to the city because almost all transport disappeared as quickly as the airport staff, and they spent the night and the whole of the next day sleeping anywhere they could. While nobody did anything at all to resolve the situation. Can you imagine that happening anywhere else in the world? Except an African banana republic. Because Thailand is the centre of the world it didn’t matter that people had jobs and family to return to, business meetings to attend in anywhere other than Thailand. Finally, the country was exposed to the entire world for what it really is, underneath the veneer.
Thailand may not recover. With pictures of gunfire on one of the busiest roads in the capital, knives held to citizens throats as they beg for mercy, setting fire to property, hand grenades being thrown around all over the place, and taking over supposedly secure airports while the police look on and the army ignores requests for help, why on earth would anyone at all consider visiting or doing business in a country without any semblance of law and order. Everyone who wants to fly out of the capital has, effectively, been held hostage even days later. I would expect that many airlines will now suspend flights indefinitely, not only because there'll be no passengers but because safety of their staff and property and planes cannot be guaranteed. The FAA and others have lists of airports that are safe and those that are not, and advise airlines accordingly. I guess Bangkok has now joined their blacklist. I've written before that it was only a matter of when, not if, Thailand suffered a terrorist attack. I just never imagined it would come from the Thais themselves.
Many foreigners feel that the Thai authorities have been far too slow to act and this has SHATTERED confidence. Just how they go about fixing the situation, I do not know. Reclaiming the airport will be difficult enough but restoring foreigners' confidence in the country? I don't know if it is even possible to do that now…