January, February, and March (Oh please, not July, too) 2014
Tomatoes & Democracy - June 2014 (and a July post script)
Ten days into a new "interim" government and things are normal and peaceful. I went to the supermarket yesterday without a Kevlar vest.
Just about everyone who has been detained by the military following the coup have been released with the admonition that they not become involved in anything political for the time being or make public statements that would incite unrest. They are all keeping their mouths shut. At least two major red shirt leaders have decided to throw in the towel and get out of politics.
People are still being invited to check into the Army's "safe houses." Thailand's ambassador to the U.K. will surely be part of the next batch. He was previously consul general to Dubai, where he reportedly got a little too cozy with Thaksin.
There have been small, sparsely attended anti-coup demonstrations in Bangkok, which was probably to be expected. In most cases demonstrators have met at a MacDonald's restaurant near Siam Paragon/Siam Center. Demonstrators, for some odd reason, have been using the Golden Arches on their signs, which is pissing off Ronald and Company in a big way.
General Prayuth announced a "road map" late last week, with elections probably 15 months away. This will be in three stages, the first being reconciliation, which is a very tall order. Reconciliation will be followed by the appointment of a legislative body and prime minister to take over running the country from the military. A separate group of legal experts will draft a constitution. The most recent version of the constitution was drafted in such a way that it gave some groups of people certain legal advantages, while marginalizing others. This has been the source of much of the political discord of the last decade. I only hope that the constitutional experts will avoid the kinds of provisions that will lead us down this path again.
The U.S. State department yesterday made statements that showed its disapproval of the military's road map. I do not recall Thailand's government ever making public comments condemning anything the United States ever did. Personally, I do not give a shit what the Obama administration's opinion about Thailand is. They obviously have gone to absolutely no trouble to study the complicated issues that have brought Thailand to this point. It is probably easier to listen to Thaksin's mouthpieces and lobbyists. It would not be such a bad idea for Thailand to decline to accept America's whopping $6.5 million foreign aid this year. Obama has already withdrawn $3.5 million.
The military's first "reconciliation event" was held yesterday in a rural red shirt hotbed. People got free food, haircuts, health care, and a show. It is hard to say whether this approach will bring about the desired results. However, this is the only attempt any government has made at reconciliation since Thaksin Shinawatra was swept into power in 2001, so it is a beginning, at least.
Thaksin is reportedly on a shopping trip to Tokyo.
Prayuth is cleaning up Dodge. (That is an American idiom which you should know if you have ever watched old Westerns. If not, you need to expand your cinematic horizons.)
Anyway, in coordinated sweeps across the Kingdom over the last weekend, almost 300 alleged drug traffickers, anarchists, Tea Party Republicans, and those with either illegal weapons and/or autographed portraits of Darika were apprehended and will join those already enjoying complimentary stays in Club Safehouse. More importantly, authorities say they collected many more "war weapons" destined for the hands of those who would make us all see red, include AK47s, lots of and grenades, and RPGs, ammunition, and Kevlar vests.
It is impossible not to consider that the head of the Royal Thai Police and the Special Investigations Division (SDI) held their jobs for years and never managed to find any of this stuff or make a single arrest. In their self-described "democracy" police work was official political muscle, and not as peacekeeping or the protecting of victims. If I ever get to it, I will write a treatise on how Thaksin was obviously an avid student of Hitler's methods, and has emulated many of their political principles, from consolidating power into one party, to official xenophobia, to the killing and marginalization of ethnic minorities, to brown shirt police tactics.
Last night I came home, punched up the tellie and got an avalanche of cinema and sitcom debris washing up onshore my living room that rivals the BBC foodie shows that are still playing over and over after a decade. So I tried CNN in desperation and was thrilled to see that they are back on the air here, along with the other major international news outlets. Purely political propaganda channels are still dark.
Military leaders are focusing on the economy, particularly the national budget for the next fiscal year. They are prioritizing spending by long term necessity for the good of the country. Period.
What does reconciliation look like in Thailand? You might not believe this, although it is really true. A group of hard-core red shirt leaders, and a group of hard-core PDRC leaders met in Khorat last weekend in an event encouraged by Prayuth and company. They talked amicably, and agreed to disagree. Then they made a public vow in a ceremony at a revered shrine to put the politics of colored shirts behind them and find ways to work together. They did this on their own behalf and not as representatives of groups. I hope you agree that is a healthy sign of what is possible. Many Thai people have, under the spell of long-gone charismatic leaders, forgotten that they are, above all else, all Thai. The burden on General Prayuth now is to remind Thai people of the common vision, values, and destiny they share. (The values part could probably use some repairs.)
5 June 2014
Australia has spoken out against Thailand's temporary government, saying it will "downgrade" its relationship and members of the military are not welcome in Oz. People here are furious and there have been demonstrations outside the Australian Embassy in Bangkok (even though such gatherings are against the rule of Martial Law).
How democratic is a country that maintains police forces in foreign countries (including Thailand) to spy on its own citizens traveling abroad and to arrest them if they are naughty? Sounds like the former Soviet Union to me. Australia's police forces abroad were originally intended to fight sex tourism, which Thailand is perfectly capable of dealing with on its own. This has cost Australian taxpayers millions but guess how many naughty Aussies have been apprehended? Make a fist and count how many fingers you are holding up.
And what kind of democracy forces another country to arrest its citizens on completely phony charges, prosecute them, then tell the judge what the verdict should be? And what kind of democracy does this in order to win re-election? Ask Robert Scoble, who is no longer able to leave Australia. After being deported from Thailand in chains, he was forced to register as a sex offender and his passport was revoked. He did absolutely nothing against the law. Australia's love for democracy and justice has probably cost me $100,000 since I was unable to pay myself a salary for more than one year, not to mention legal expenses of my own, and a lot of prescriptions. The whole ugly story: www.yawningbread.org/arch_2005/yax-435.htm. John Howard ultimately lost reelection. Let him rot in hell.
News flash: I have already downgraded my relationship with Australia. Don't these countries realize that their own citizens don't really care and that they are inciting xenophobia in Thailand? This could be the end of long and happy relationships with the United States and Australia because they have wrongly messed in Thailand's business without being asked.
The military is beginning to open reconciliation centers around the country, beginning with Udon Thani, a red shirt hotbed. They have also asked the public to participate in the re-writing of Thailand's constitution by voicing their opinions. They want as much input as possible from the public so a new constitution does not lead to the kind of conflict we have experienced for a decade. "Peoples' councils" will be set up in all 77 of Thailand's provinces to conduct open forums where anyone will be able to make suggestions or speak their mind. Wait a minute. This does not sound like a military dictatorship at all.
Queen Elizabeth's Bangkok birthday celebration has been cancelled "because of the situation," according to the British embassy.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of nine individuals who are suspected in multiple attacks on PDRC demonstration sites with firearms and RPGs. The dead include several children. Two men have been arrested so far.
Yingluck may be out of a job, but she is not out of the hot seat yet. The National Counter Corruption Commission is inching closer to indicting her and four Fellow Travelers with criminal charges related to the rice pledging scheme. A Shinawatra may end up in jail after all! NCCC will investigate the finances of each of the five. They have also said that they want to do the same for General Prayuth and the other leaders of the current government. Let's see how that plays out.
I told you so (well, kind of). India's NDT news wire service report today reported a New York Times News Service story that ocean sensors recorded an "event" off that country's southern coast on the night of March 8th, the night that Malaysian Airlines flight 370 did not crash into the Southern Indian Ocean. This story did not appear on CNN, BBC or in any Thai- or English-languages in the Kingdom, or on Al Jaqzeera, the LA Times.or any of the other news outlets I spend two hours with from 04:30 to 06:30 every morning. Separately, the Press Trust of India published a story today about a report made by an Australian woman to the Aussie coordination center that is handling the MS370 investigation. She and her husband were sailing their yacht from Kochi (Cochin, on India's southern tip) to Phuket. On the night of 8 March she took the night watch and saw something that "appeared to be a plane on fire." She apparently did not think it was significant. She and the hubby have been on a 13 month trip around the world and apparently are not able to watch Anderson Cooper 370. She had not come forth until Sunday because her husband objected to her becoming involved. Personally, I think she may have actually seen the UFO that abducted the Boeing 777. General Prayuth told Chinese business leaders today that a National Assembly will be formed within three months. Reportedly, 100 will be appointed from different sides of the political divide. A separate group knowledgeable in matters of law will write a new constitution.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which is what the military government has named itself, has pulled the plug on a 350 billion baht water management/flood control project initiated by the former Yingluck administration. Apparently quite a bit of work is under way, although there was no bidding, nor were any contracts signed. Like the massive infrastructure that was pushed through as an "emergency" measure not subject to public transparency, this one was also not the result of a any legislative act. I predict that this will come back to haunt a number of already-haunted individuals formerly employed in government.
Today is the last day the public can surrender "war weapon" without punishment. It appears some are leaving their discarded weapons in places they can be found easily by police, who found lots of goodies today, including automatic weapons ammunition, TNT and land mines, grenades, grenade launchers, and a smoke bomb. Near the local 7-Eleven seems to be the favorite repositories.
Red Shirts in Chiang Mai, one of the groups greatest strongholds, have closed for business. Tomorrow is expected to be an important turning-point in reconciliation between former adversaries in the great political divide, as several large scale events will be held. Red shirts and PDRC will come together in several giant hug-fests.
General Prayuth is not only a national leader, but he is now a pop music star. With no fanfare or announcement, he wrote a song about healing entitled Bring Peace to Thailand.Thailand and posted it on Youtube. It has received nearly 200,000 views. It's in Thai and very sentimental. You can find it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-JnwTmGLsU
While I was hunting for Prayuth's ditty I did find this: [CLICK HERE] . Wow! This short film was so well done. It was created by the Network of Thais Overseas. You can find their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/. Please encourage them by "liking" it.
I am hoping you are inspired by now to write a letter to one or more misguided politicians outside of Thailand --Particularly those in the US, UK an Land of Oz-- to tell them that they got it all wrong. And let me know if you do.
At the suggestion of my sister, I really have written the following to John Kerry. I promise to publish the reply, if any. I am sure some minor underling will tap dance around all of these issues and, in the end, say nothing. Isn't that what diplomacy is anyway?
OK. So now I will have an NSA file in addition to the one the FBI has squirreled away somewhere from a couple of decades ago.
Thailand's Miss Universe contestant has relinquished her crown because of the blow-back she got from suggesting on Facebook (or was it Twitter?) that red shirts be executed. She also used social media to admire her own breasts. I can't think of a single smart-ass thing to say about that. Don't think I need to.
Have we been experiencing some kind of through-the-looking-glass Sadie Hawkins holiday where we were supposed to wear our clothing backwards? It seems that way. Maybe because it's Friday the 13th and there is a full moon.
I began the morning by reading, among other things, the Bangkok Post, which ran an editorial under the title "Criticism, It's Just Noise, Forget It." I thought it was awfully funny as I read it. This op ed says that we should not believe things politicians say, because they only say things that are politically correct. Then it goes on to mention John Kerry in particular, and quotes the same speech I have quoted more than once in this blog. In the end the author says that the "US and Thailand will always be BFF (Best Friends Forever, like totally)."
While I admire wit and sarcasm, I have a hard time accepting that we are obliged to look the other way when politicians opt for political correctness instead of what is right. And I hardly believe that criticism is just noise. If these things were true Thailand would not be wallowing in this particular mud hole. I cannot excuse John Kerry's shallow and patronizing political indecency. If you can't either, I hope you will write him a letter: John Kerry, Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20520. I do not like the Tea Party one bit, but their candidates are getting elected because they cut through the politically-correct crap and see things they way they believe them to be. (They are delusional, of course, but at least they have something resembling integrity.)
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announced yesterday that they did not stage a coup, they simply took over the leadership of the government. At first this sounded pretty flimsy. However, the more I have thought about it, that really is probably the case. What was left of the government was in chaos. General Prayuth told both sides he would take over if they could not work things out and they said something like "go for it." He did. There were no tanks in the street or soldiers bombarding the presidential palace with artillery. No pro-government protestors throwing Molotov cocktails from behind barricades. And there has been no sign so far that they plan to stay in power permanently or run a totalitarian regime. The army now has an elite unit of spin doctors at work but remember, it's just noise. Forget it.
Courtesy of the NCPO everyone in the Land of Smiles gets to watch every World Cup game on TV free.
Move over Columbine, Las Vegas, Seattle, Isla Vista, and all of the other sites memorialized in America's proud history of mass shootings in schools that goes back to 1764. These could have been eclipsed in Samut Prakan. Seventy-four students have been apprehended in a market there by authorities this morning. They were all armed and prepared to confront students in a rival school. Thailand has a gun problem, too.
The curfew has been lifted throughout the country and I have been declared the Queen of the Heirloom Tomatoes Yep, the moon is full.
Unless you skipped the first five months and went directly to see how this saga ends, you should probably receive some kind of award for endurance. I have been writing this blog for eight years and, as I have said many times before, I can't understand why people read it at all. To satisfy my curiosity, I hope you do not mind giving me a piece of your mind by answering a few questions below. This questionnaire does not identify you in any way. Thanks in advance.
Anti-government demonstrations have disappeared and, according to their own poll, 90% of Thailand's population are content with the military stepping in and what they have done so far. Obviously that includes me, considering the alternatives.
All rice farmers have been paid. In many cases, loan sharks were waiting to deprive farmers of what they have been paid. The NCPO has stepped in and has been rounding up loan sharks. The "rice pledging scheme" is dead. For the 2014/15 harvest, the government will pay a small subsidy to farmers and will guarantee 3% interest loans. I will need one of those pretty soon as I am on month two of no salary.
Getting a taxi at Suvarnabhumi Airport will be easier in the future. NCPO is issuing drivers cards with micro-chips to identify which drivers get only short trips and which get only long trips. A "mafia-like" organization at the airport has been giving trips to places like Pattaya and Hua Hin to drivers who pay a bribe, making taxis somewhat difficult to find for those who want short trips.
Over the last year proposals for major investment projects requiring government approval have been piling up. If I were really catty I could suggest that government types were negotiating their private windfalls before recommending them for approval. The interim government has begun to approve those worthy of approval, which could result in hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
Yesterday representatives of the military leadership held an extensive briefing for the military attaches of countries with embassies in Bangkok. They want governments that are bitching to know in detail what their plans are and what they have done so far. The Americans and Australians actually showed up. Laos and Spain didn't. I was shocked to see on the Bangkok Embassy of the United States' website yesterday that Kirsty Kenney sat down with an NCPO spokesman, at least long enough for a photo. The photo showed nothing below the knees so there is no way to know how said spokesman crossed her moat.
This blog is getting dangerously close to a July page. Thankfully, most of the drama is behind us and Thailand is getting on with life as usual. So far I have not had any time to watch all of those free televised football matches. Actually, I have never actually seen a football match, but I'm always up for something new. Am I supposed to shave my head, paint my face and buy bananas in order to enjoy that?
My next adventure will be several trips to Cambodia to write a story for an important newspaper's travel section about the remarkable Phare Cambodia Circus in Siem Reap. I have been peddling words for about 40 years already and am hoping for the brass ring this time.
There will be more to come. Unless I run out of dots, that is.
Yingluck is still "on trial" by the National Counter Corruption Commission. I'm not sure what kind of punishment they can exact on her now that she is out of a job. Send her to Dubai? The results of her assets investigation should be interesting reading if the public has the chance.
The only big tragedy since the military took over running the country has been the mass exodus of 220,000 Cambodian workers from Thailand. A rumor started to spread that Cambodian workers would be killed by the army, so they have been fleeing by the truck-load. The government has no intention of killing Cambodians or anyone else, although it is cracking down on human traffickers who are exploiting undocumented foreign workers.
These people are going home to poverty-stricken villages with families who depended on money sent to them from Thailand. Wages are at least three times as much in Thailand as in Cambodia. Khmer workers are critically important in the construction, fishing and agriculture industries and they take jobs Thais consider distasteful, like picking fruit and pouring concrete. Now they are a burden to their own country and to their own families. Thailand will welcome them back if they choose to return.
General Prayuth has been planning to retire in September since long before the "coup." Apparently his plans have not changed and there seems to be an heir apparent to his leadership of the army. Punters have the odds on him becoming the interim prime minister leading up to the promised elections.
Meanwhile, the EU has decided against signing agreements of cooperation with Thailand until the country is "returned to democratic rule." It's their loss. People in the EU will still buy our textiles, shoes, tuna, fruit, rice, cut flowers and computer components. They will just pay more for them. Japan reaffirmed its friendly relationship with Thailand yesterday.
Last night I was watching a particularly dreadful film on TV produced by the Vatican in which Robin Williams, who has died relocated to heaven, tries to extract his also-dead wife who ended up in the Other Place because she committed suicide after the deaths of all of their children. (51 words in that sentence. I am really proud of myself.) Thank God it as interrupted by an announcement from the NCPO. We get those almost every night. Originally they were lists of people who were invited to check into Club Safehouse the next day. Heretofore, announcements have shown an official document signed by General Prayuth which is read by a man with a particularly gruesome voice who does voice-overs for foreign movies dubbed in Thai. Instead, the General appeared himself, having done something attractive with his hair, and spoke extemporaneously about the D- grade he expected Thailand would receive from John Kerry about human trafficking. There were even English subtitles. The whole thing was very genuine, sensitive and a welcome change.
NCPO have already identified unnamed persons (which always sounds like a veiled reference to wealthy remnants of the former regime) during the mess caused by the exodus of Cambodian workers. Apparently, these "traffickers" have been charging 20,000/$600 for Khmer workers to scoot across the border to get jobs they had pre-arranged. I sat next to a guy on a flight to Siem Reap a couple of years ago who told me that he was in that business and he was quite open about it. It's odd that Dubai did not score a similar grade. They have many foreign workers whose passports are taken away by employers, therefore enslaving them until the employer feels like allowing them to leave.
This is a bad turn of events for Thailand, and yet another mess caused by wealthy, powerful, immoral Thai elite for the NCPO to mop up. They are already discussing opening processing centers for migrant workers at border check-points to eliminate the middle men. That sounds like a good start, but as good as public flogging.
Follow up: Cambodia has begun to issue visas for $4 (I just paid $110 to renew mine) and Thailand will streamline registration of migrant workers and even provide them with cheap insurance. Some remnants of the former regime will no longer be able to cash in.
29 June: The Eradication of Corruption
Today's headline is not meant to be sarcastic. The new government really is trying to systematically eliminate corruption. They have begun by identifying individuals in influential positions in state-owned enterprises (which includes utilities, several banks, and a big airline, as well as within the ranks of both the police and the army, and even within the Prime Minister's office) who are in one way or another undesirable, perhaps because they have always gotten the we-better-look-the-other-way treatment. Example? A regional police official who has been running casinos and trading in illegally-logged precious wood. The NCPO is also killing off much-ballyhooed crowd-pleasing mega-projects that were not much more than opportunities for the wealthy and powerful to become more wealthy and powerful.
Even the lowly cops on the street are behaving differently these days. Since the army saved us in the nick of time a bit more than a month ago, we have seen the end of the daily sight of pairs of policemen pulling over drivers one after the other to extort 200 or 300. All of that cash moved up the chain of command, so don't blame it on the beat cops. A few years ago I watched a group of policemen bust one of the many sellers of bootlegged software and movies in a large former department store more or less across the street from where I live. It was all a big show for the media, of course. When they were through, they bought a few movies they did not have yet. Of course, this in itself was corruption in order to pretend to eliminate corruption. How meaningful current reforms will be ultimately be remains to be seen. For the time being I like what I see.
Even the lottery is being corruption-proofed, even though it is inherently probably a corrupt scam in the first place since numbers drawn are never televised and the faces of big winners never appear in the press, the way they do elsewhere. Lottery tickets are supposed to cost 80 baht. For as long as I have been here (16 years and counting), the street price has been 100 baht. Lately, it has creped up to 110, and recently 120 baht. Well, the generals have put a stop to that and street vendors can no longer pocket an extra 20 to 40 baht. My monthly budget for tickets is about $20, so instead of six I can get nearly eight now. As I said before, I am going to have them all bonded to some kind of fabric and made into a lavish gown. If you are an established psychic, please suggest numbers.
The National Counter Corruption Commission has released the results of their investigation into Yingluck Shinawatra's finances. During the more-or-less two years she was PM her net worth increased by about ten million dollars (not including some very expensive jewelry she apparently did not tell them about. Do you know how much Swiss hand-made watches encrusted with precious stones cost? A value of a single watch purloined from a name-brand shop in the glam Gaysorn Plaza was ten million baht--a little more than $300,000. I'm not implying that Yingluck is a shoplifter, of course.) While it is possible that she had a night job at Burger King or picked the winning numbers in the lottery every single month she was in office, this seems to be difficult to explain. She may have to.
A Buddhist nun has been scolded by the hierarchy of Thai Buddhism and vilified in the media for driving around Bangkok in her new Porsche. I have been considering buying a used Vespa so that I don't have to beg taxis to take a poor cripple standing in the rain home every night, but can't afford that. (I need both knees replaced and have significant mobility problems when I am not sitting down.) I am considering crowd funding. One reader has given me $15, which has given me hope.
American Ambassador Kristi Kenney, who I have had the pleasure of maligning several times already this month, has actually met with leaders of the new government, although not with General Prayuth. I was surprised to hear that she was very supportive of the "junta's" (sorry, but I really hate that word in this particular case) handling of the human trafficking/migrant worker issues between Thailand and Cambodia. My recent letter must have made a big impression on John Kerry. "He may even answer you," my sister said when she suggested that I write him. I'll be shocked if he does. I would really prefer that he come to Thailand himself to listen to what General Prayuth has to say. If he does, I'll invite him to coffee. My treat. I've got $15 of mad money to spend.
30 June: The End Has Come
This is the last day of June and I have not been arrested or murdered by red shirts. The rain has come. Life is as normal as one can expect here. This seems like a good time to bring this six month adventure to an end.
Kristi K. has not invited any of the top brass of the new government to the US Embassy's annual Fourth of July celebration. Come to think of it, I did not get an invitation either. I have attended in the past and it was boooooring. My party favor was a Barbie magic wand. I still have it and use it occasionally.
Today's newspapers reported the results of a national poll in which General Prayuth was voted most popular to be the prime minister with about one third of those polled indicating they would approve of him. Former PM Ahbisit and former PDRC leader/former Deputy PM Suthep second and third. If I could vote I would tick the Prayuth box. But there won't be an election and Prayuth probably does not even belong to a political party. Elections, we are told, will be in October of 2015. The Prayuth honeymoon won't last much longer and he has his work cut out for him.
Those tomato plants that were not adopted are slowly dying. I would love to find a farmer near Bangkok so I ride the Vespa I will probably never afford to check on them. Life is full of disappointments. Then our leaves turn brown and the cycle begins all over again. I have loads of seeds.
Thank you for reading this and for the encouraging emails I have received. I promised in the beginning to be as objective as possible, but it did not ultimately turn out that way, just as objectivity was not the end result for the majority of Thai people. We have been taking our own poll on Club Sanook's website and the number of people who have participated is staggering. When asked to choose from among five different statements, neatly 60% said "I feel optimistic about Thailand's future" as the one that described their own attitude. I'm glad I'm not alone.
And thanks again Herb for all the dots.
17 July: Post Script...
Things are calm. The "junta" (good god hate that word since this is not a Central American banana republic) is still firmly in control. Many branches of the government and, indeed, even the police are being reorganized to retire the corrupt and limit the potential for future corruption. Thailand has been re-invited buy the United States to participate in joint military exercises, but General Prayuth is balking at this flimsy attempt to repair the insulting damage the United States did when we were saved from a civil war in May by the military. Barrak Obama and John Kerry have forced Thailand into China's arms. Pretty idiotic, if you ask me.
War weapons continue to be found and thousands were melted down last week. The result might be made into a statue but, more likely, a Mercedes Benz. People who caused deaths and injuries at PDRC rally sites are slowly being rounded up. Yesterday's newspapers showed photos of the handcuffed red shirt who launched the grenade near the Rachaprasong site that killed three, including two children. Violent criminals here are often asked to reenact their crimes to avoid the death penalty.
The National Counter Corruption Commission voted unanimously to indict Yingluck for all of the fraud and theft involved with the rice pledging scheme. She will stand trial. Maybe.
The man who the Bangkok Postcalled "Lord Valdemort na Dubai" celebrates his 66th birthday next week, just a few days after friends and I drink our way into my 64th year. I always have a party in a private room in a restaurant that serves amazing Isaan food, washed down with bottles of Sangsom. Thaksin will not be so lucky. Most of his gang in Thailand are prohibited from leaving Thailand so will not be attending his bash in Paris. Amazingly, however, General Prayuth has allowed Yingluck to leave. Perhaps they are hoping she will stay away since having her in the Kingdom will be less manageable. Celebrities who break the law are seldom subjected to criminal trials. They get a lot of bad press, then fade away. I suspect that parading Yingluck in handcuffs into a courtroom to face the judges would probably arouse the kind of public sentiment among some Thais that would not serve Prayuth's reconciliation agenda. If all the Shinawatras are in Dubai they can't run for office again. Fine with me.
Club Sanook's June newsletter included a brief questionnaire to gauge Members' attitudes about government travel warnings, and how they feel about Thailand. Results are in, and they are very revealing: www.clubsanook.com/newsletters/june2014/results.htm.
In March I witnessed a performance of Phare, the Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap. No elephants, clowns or high wires. For me it was a very profound experience, and I knew what my next six month writing project would be. I'm just back from my first of three trips to prepare for a major travel story for Famous Newspaper. I spent three days and nights with the people who make the show happen--workshops, rehearsals, makeup, the application of "tattoos" with Magic Markers (!), kicking a ball around behind the big tent, and the show itself. I expect the next few months to be much more fun than the six months I have spent writing about Thai politics, although no less daunting.
Tomato season is finished, and I no longer live in a farm. I might even start again in December. Or maybe not.
Oh, did John Kerry answer my letter? You know the answer to that.