As you’ve probably heard by now, Thailand is in the middle of its 12th coup since 1932 (not including seven attempted ones). After 6 months of increasingly turbulent and violent protests, General Prayuth Chan-ocha finally had enough and said “Yeah, I’m in charge now.” This is my second coup in Thailand, and while neither I – nor most people – can say with any certainty what comes next, I can say that living through the Thai coups so far has not been what an uninitiated westerner would imagine them to be.
When I was sitting in Mrs. MacDonald’s Social Studies class during all 3 years of high school (okay, 8 years), the term “coup” came up several times, and was usually followed by pictures of bloodshed, violence, riots, and death. Granted, we never studied the “nice” coups, or the “boring” ones that go off without a hitch – high school kids don’t react well to the study of complicated political manoeuvrings. The Russian Revolution of 1917, the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, and other ones lost to the mist of time were studied – the ones with some serious fallout.
But while coups in Thailand’s past have certainly been tragic and terrifying, thankfully, coups in Thailand in the 21st century have not been anything like that, and I hope they never will be.
During the 2006 coup, I was really nervous, as images from my high school textbooks flashed into my mind. But my (Thai) girlfriend at the time calmed my nerves, saying “Don’t worry, this is just how we do things in Thailand.” She was right to an extent, although it’s not like everyone was holding hands and singing after that.
Here’s what happened today: I got a message from my wife saying “Did you hear the news?” I immediately checked Twitter and bam, coup. Then I continued working. The rest of the afternoon was filled with pockets of conversation throughout the office discussing certain points, keeping coworkers up to date, and pontificating this way or that. M’Lady and I had already booked tickets to see a movie so after work we headed to the theater to grab dinner first. Then we got word the curfew would start at 10pm and the trains would stop running at 8pm, all but ensuring a nightmare commute home. We decided to see the movie another time and call it a night. Now we’re at home watching movies.
Since the curfew has been in effect, things are eerily quiet. I went outside around 10:30 and took a picture of my street, which is usually jammed with cars and bikes and people eating dinner at this time of night. Tonight…nothing.
For most of the city, people have no choice but to grit their teeth, shake their head, and go about their lives. I sincerely hope the powers that be (and those that oppose them) manage to keep this process as boring as possible, ensuring that it doesn’t descend into the chaos and blood of coups past.
To end the post, I took another picture in my neighborhood of something that I’ve never seen before. When this happens, you know things are serious: a closed 7-11.