David - Thailand April 2010
  • What does a rocket-propelled grenade have to do with a 5-star beach resort? Well, I’ll tell you:

    Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, much like the UK. So the King (of Thailand) is the head of state much like the Queen in the UK. But the day-to-day running of the country is handled by the Government (“Legislative Branch” in Colonial parlance.) That’s pretty much where the similarity to the UK ends. One big difference: the King is universally revered here, unlike the Queen in the UK.

    In Thailand the democracy practiced is a much more vibrant form than the UK or the US, with many political, business, and military factions vying for power and influence. I’ll leave out the parts where the King plays one faction against the other to ensure the supremacy of the Royal Family because any suggestion of anything untoward regarding His Majesty could land me in jail.

    So a few years ago the Prime Minister of Thailand (who happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the world) got a little too big for his boots and while he was abroad (in the UK I think) there was a coup and the army took over. This is a common practice in Thailand and was actually not the main news headline that day (Tiger Woods was, because he’s half Thai.) The army wouldn’t let him (Thaksin) back and they ended up confiscating half his wealth. Now Thaksin’s party won an election, reasonably fair and square, no worse than normal. So the army ran the country badly for 6 months and in a rare show of political unity all the parties change because the army was running it so badly. Thaksin’s party was banned, just to make sure they didn’t gain power again. The army appoints a prime minister.

    So the new prime minister starts his job and everything’s fine, except Thaksin’s kind of pissed. He’s not been allowed back in the country and he’s stuck in London and frankly, London’s a pretty boring place for a man who’s lost half of his unlimited wealth. So he wants to come home. And a significant portion of the Thai’s want home too. They wear red shirts to show their loyalty. A few months ago they decided that the new guy sucks and he’s not really legitimate since there was no election, so they file a lawsuit with the constitutional court. Just to make sure they get taken seriously they arrange for marches, demonstrations, TV ads, and firebombings of police stations. Pretty much everything that you would expect in a normal democracy.

    So, much to everyone’s surprise the court agrees with them and strongly suggests that an election is in order. Except the new guy, now wearing Thaksin’s boots, doesn’t want to have an election. So the red shirt crowds get bigger and the other side (wearing yellow) start coming out and things get worse and worse until….

    Some dickhead shoots a rocket propelled grenade into a shop and kills one person and wounds 86 people. Like 2 days ago.

    The shop: Just down the road a few miles from the Sheraton where we stay normally in Bangkok.

    Our guiding value (“Safety is never compromised”) coupled with warnings from all the normal democracies in the world to avoid travelling to Thailand means that something’s going to happen. So a few people had their trips cancelled. The rest of us who were already en route or in country were moved to a different Sheraton a long way from Bangkok. It happens to be a 5 star beach resort near Pattaya, a seedy beach town famous for having a pier big enough to handle the USS Carl Vincent and a population of willing hookers to match. This town was financed by sailors on shore leave.

    But the resort is nice, well out of town and it has a private beach that I arrived too late to enjoy. And no rocket propelled grenades.

    I will be suffering through this hellhole all week. Barkeep! Another Mekong please!

    Not David, just in case “they” are reading this

    PS: in a somewhat humourous side note, the Australian guy who’s building our pool is in Thailand on a US-visa-rule-enforced-holiday, with his Philippino wife and daughter. I was supposed to meet them for a drink when I arrived at the Sheraton in Bangkok. So I called to let him know that I’d be nowhere near Bangkok. He said they’d had the same idea and they were moving to Pattaya for the rest of the week. I wonder if I can put drinks with the Aussie on my P-card and end up with a free BBQ?
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