I know it’s not like me to write about current events, but there is no possible way I can ignore this one.
I have been trying to write this piece for several days. It has undergone many revisions, edits and rewrites as on rereading it was unpublishable, for many reasons, in the present climate.
So I deleted everything I had written and started again.
As most of you will be aware by now the country which I now call home has undergone some rather radical changes in the past week.
On the 20 th may at 3am the Thai Royal Army announced through a television broadcast that it was assuming control of security and peacekeeping duties and the whole of the kingdom was now under the rule of Martial law. This was to put an end to the protests between rival political groups in the Capital which had been ongoing since November of last year and were escalating to a point that was no longer acceptable.
The following two days saw the protest sites of both camps closed down and the protesters dispersed while the chief of the army General Prayuth Chan-ocha gathered the key figures from both political parties in order to seek a resolution to the crisis.
On May 22nd, seeing no advance in the discussions the general assumed control of national administration and a coup d’état was announced on all national television stations.
Since then it has been hard to keep up with developments.
Large numbers of troops have been mobilised and there is an extremely visible presence on the streets of most large cities.
All of the politicians and civil servants who were at the meetings were detained and many more have since been requested to report to the military.
The senate has been disbanded and all law making powers rest in the hands of the military under the name of the National Council for Peacekeeping and Order (NCPO)
All TV stations ceased regular broadcast, ( although most have now been reinstated)
A national curfew has been imposed during the hours of 22.00 – 05.00, with exception of essential services, transportation of food, and those with legitimate travel plans.
Certain international and domestic web sites have been blocked as they were deemed to be promoting instability or of being critical of the coup.
A ban has been placed on all political gatherings of 5 persons or more.
Despite this ban there were a number of anti-coup protests in Bangkok and here in Chiang Mai on the 24th on May, which in the main passed of peacefully with only a handful of arrests.
On 25 May 2014, the NCPO authorised the military courts to try all cases concerning lèse majesté, sedition, national security or violation of NCPO orders.
In military courts, civilians are not allowed to have themselves represented by lawyers.
This is a very brief summary of some of the key events that have taken place over the last week.
Obviously I am unable to make comment on these events as we are operating under extremely strict rules regarding both the activities of the military and civilian populations. There are many good sources of information available outside of the borders of the kingdom if you wish to look into this further or if you are unfamiliar with the strictures of martial law or the details of lèse majesté.
Whilst I’m certain that the general has far more important things to do with his time than to trawl the internet reading through ex-pat blogs I’m not ever so keen to be among those who are testing this theory so I shall be keeping my opinions very much to myself. In the words of the character Francis Urquhart, ( or Francis Underwood if you happen to be a fan of U.S television drama), ” I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly comment “.
Now how is all this affecting the life of Small person and I.
Well in all honesty, not a lot.
Other than an extra day off school for small person on the 23rd it hasn’t really had an impact on our day to day living. As I do have a small person in the house, being out after 10pm is rarely an issue. And getting out of bed and out of the house before 5 am is unheard of. I’m not really one for protests, certainly not in a country where I am a recent arrival and whose politics are far more involved than anyone who has been here for only 9 months can have more than a basic grasp of at best.
Day to day life in the city is carrying on in an almost normal fashion with very little disruption. There is a large military presence in the city, but on the whole the few soldiers I have come into contact with have been courteous and friendly and have been extremely helpful at stopping the traffic to allow small person and I to cross the busy main road when the traffic lights were broken.
Clearly this is an extremely fragile time for this wonderful country, and we are not naive enough to believe that it will be plain sailing from here on in, but as of this moment we are happy, at peace and safe.
No-one knows what is going to happen over the course of the next days, weeks or months, I pray with all of my heart that Thailand will emerge from this time as a stronger and more unified country and that democracy will be restored. But until such time as that happens we just need to be vigilant, but most of all ( and much as I hate to use this hackneyed phrase it does seem rather appropriate in the circumstances), just keep calm and carry on.
Jer Gan Mài