A country depending on a single heartbeat
Thaksin Shinawatra has declared that he will not remain as Thai Prime Minister. The decision is said to have come after "a word in his ear from the country’s 78-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej". Huge protests on the streets of Bangkok, and a very strong "none of the above" vote in an election boycotted by the opposition had earlier failed to achieve this result.
Once again, as he has many times in the past, the King, through a mixture of moral, religious and traditional authority, has brought Thailand back from the brink. But he is, of course, the 78-year-old king, and although his mother lived to 99, he's not going to go on forever.
And the recent political turmoil has once again illustrated the huge gap in Thailand between Bangkok and the rest. The geographers tell us it is the most absolutely primate city in the world (meaning wealth, education etc is most concentrated there). Bangkok was resolutely anti-Thaksin - responsible for both hideous human rights abuses such as the killing of "drug dealers" in custody and for some distinctly dodgy financial deals - but the rest of the country, where political opinion is controlled almost entirely by local "big men", and which benefited from largess flung to farmers, was resolutely for him.
There is, in Thailand, the kind of division that existed in Cambodia before Pol Pot, and the same culture, that insists on public decorum and a jai yen [a cool heart] - no display of emotion or feeling. (It is no accident that the word
beserker amok (amuck) comes into the English language from this part of the world.) When such repressed feelings finally emerge, they tend to do so explosively.
I wouldn't be making any longterm investments in Thailand.
Elsewhere, an example of what the hysterical beating up of "terrorist threats" has done in the UK:
A MAN was "frog-marched" off a plane on suspicion of being a terrorist - because he'd played the Clash song London Calling on his MP3 player.
A taxi driver called the cops after Harraj Mann, 24, played him the punk anthem, which includes the lyrics "now war is declared and battle come down".
He also played Nowhere Man by the Beatles and Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, which includes the line: "The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands, to fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!"
He was inconvenienced, and no doubt a bit scared, but for where this sort of thing really leads, three men, subjected to the American "rendition" procedure have spoken about their 18-month ordeal.
The three men, none of whom was ever charged with any terrorism-related offence, were seized in 2003 and then held in four secret locations by "black-masked ninja" US operatives who made considerable efforts to ensure the prisoners did not know where they were being held. They were eventually released about a month ago.