Has PAD Gone Too Far?
While on holiday in Bangkok in October, I met up with two local photographer friends in Silom, and off we went to take some pictures in a nearby park. We walked straight into a large PAD demonstration. The protest was about police brutality against PAD the previous week or so that had resulted in some PAD followers being killed. Being photographers, we waded right in to the noisy throng and had a great time, taking many, many pictures. The crowd was a diverse cross section of middle class Bangkok, lots of older women, children and teenagers, office workers, students and academics, all noisily and passionately protesting. We had carte blanche access, as we were carrying large cameras and big lenses and I guess they just assumed we were professional photographers assigned to cover the event. Everyone was happy and friendly and very helpful and I even got some nice pictures of the “muscle” there to protect the demonstrators if things got ugly.
It felt good to be there. It was nice to see – for a change – Thais getting passionate and vocal about perceived injustices against them. Most of my Thai friends are (were) generally supportive of PAD and its aims. Sawain wanted the CD and pamphlet I had been given so she could take it to her mother – an avowed supporter – in Surat Thani. A couple of friends were concerned for my wellbeing and relieved that there had been no violence. Only Wongduan expressed unhappiness, saying that it pained her to see Thai against Thai and that no good could come of it. How prescient she would turn out to be.
I returned to Australia at the end of the month. I was surprised as anyone to see that PAD had taken over the airport last week. We know what most farang think of this action and its consequences for tourism and the wider economy, which will be immense and long lasting.
But what do my Thai friends think?
And this is where it started to get very interesting. Naturally I asked them. I was surprised that almost all of them initially did not want to discuss it at all. Over the past few days, as the crisis has continued and an apparent impasse has been reached, they are slowly opening up. Sarawin is aware of the consequences. She works for an Australian company and is deeply worried. Had plenty to say initially but very little now, now that no easy or obvious resolution is in sight. Others didn’t want to talk about it because they feel ashamed for their country and what is happening to it. They are hoping against hope that the King may be able to resolve it. Support for PAD has quietly gone from being overt to covert. In fact very few are blaming PAD. The only criticism I can detect is that they should not have chosen the airport for their takeover, as it is making the country look bad in the eyes of the world, what with all the stranded passengers. No comprehension of the damage being caused to the rest of the economy.
May, who was due to fly to San Francisco the day before the takeover and who is now stuck in Bangkok has been by far the most forthright of all. These quotes have been verbatim from her social networking site:
"Democracy doesn't mean U can do any F*&ing thing u want!!"yellow or red, U R THAI..where the hell is your sense of awareness!!????
This is the best u can F*&ing do??!!Declaring a bloody red zone for 2 airports!!?U MUST BE SHITTING US! first time in my life I’m disappointed in my country…
May is watching 2 days of "Not giving a Shit" actions–is it worth it? one person u hate with whole nation going down hill..SELFISHNESS, BOTH SIDES…”
I have noticed in the past few days that my Thai friends are on the Messenger and Yahoo less and less. Turns out they are out partying and having a good time instead, trying, as Sarawin says, “to forget the hurt and the shame and the helplessness.” In true Thai style, what you cannot fix, you ignore. So while the Titanic slowly capsizes, they are out partying and having a good time, hoping the problem will go away.
But not this time.
My photos of the PAD demonstration are on my blog here.
This quote from your submission says it all. "No comprehension of the damage being caused to the rest of the economy." Good intentions and their love of their country is to be admired. But to what cost?