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Away From The “Reds” In Bang Phra Fishing Village

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

The “Reds” are trying to force the fall of the government in Bangkok by bringing in a promised half a million or a million of rural folks in pickups to paralyze the city.  The government is threatening to impose a state of emergency.

Ordinarily a groundswell of rural people would illicit some kind of sympathy but in Thailand nothing is ordinary.  They are supporting the return of a very corrupt  former Prime Minister who bilked the country out of a couple billion dollars, was convicted by a court of corruption and who lives abroad to avoid a three year jail term. The premier has rejected the crowd’s demands to dissolve parliament and call elections which are scheduled for next year anyway.  It is generally thought that Thaksin, who issued $25 loans plus interest to the farmers before he was deposed, is using them to gain reentry to the country so he can appeal the court’s decision and reclaim his money.  Go figure.

At a press conference held by the Reds at the Thai Foreign Correspondent’s Club that I attended last week, they wouldn’t admit to the Christian Science Monitor to paying people. “Most of them are volunteers” was all they would say.  But a YouTube video shows them handing out two 1000 baht bills (about $60) and their pickups are nice and new.  Their strategy, they say, is to peacefully paralyze the city…forcing the government to either fall or [get baited] into a fierce bloody repression.Well, today is March 14, the day of the big Bangkok rally and the Bangkok Post claims 80,000 people…others estimate 100,000…but the week is not over. 

Ex Prime Minister Thaksin has been in Dubai and rumored earlier to have flown to Siem Reap Cambodia where he has struck up an odd alliance with President Han Sen…no friend of the people there.  Today the Bangkok Post reports that Thaksin claims to be joining his family in Berlin.  Who knows where he is. But one thing is sure…he wants back into Thailand where he can appeal the Supreme Court’s decision to freeze much of his assets. I watch the news on Thai TV but of course cannot understand any of it. I just watch the video and photo parts.In the meantime, many people in Thailand are just shrugging their shoulders.  They’ve seen 16 military coups in the last 30 years…the most recent when the elected Thaksin was toppled in a 2006 military coup. 

Oxford educated Prime Minister Abhisit came to power in December 2008 after a controversial court decision removed Thaksin’s allies from government following an airport blockade by the Royalist Yellow Shirts. Yeah, I’m confused too.

So I decided it was a good time to explore a fishing village about an hour and a half NE of Bangkok. I am here in a separate room in a family compound. They are spoiling me rotten…bringing me breakfast, lunch and dinner…all of which I cannot hope to eat… and all manner of other things like water, coffee, beer and daily copies of the Bangkok Post. Music and announcements wafts over the village from the nearby Wat.  Thai hospitality at it’s finest!A brother has retired here after 30 years living in Texas so his English comes in handy.  A niece works as a Health Prevention manager. The sister wants me to stay here in April while her husband spends the month as a monk in a monastery.  I have no idea what he does…or did. But this is an educated and accomplished family.

The room I am in is a big dorm room…usually used for students at the university near here. But when my friend Jiraporn, who is a professor of fisheries at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, and has some of her students working on a fishingcrab study here, brought me here the family happily consented to rent the room to me.My room has aircon but the family set up a table outside…with a fan…where I can fiddle with my WiFi-linked computer set up by a nephew who is a computer programmer…after taking early morning walks to the sea…actually the Gulf of Thailand…where I can watch the fishing and crabbing boats come in with their catch.  The families boil the tiny fishingcrab, used in soups, in big pots fired by propane.  Little children run around unattended…happy and at home on the entire beach.How long will you be here, the family asks.  Maybe I stay forever, I say. We all laugh. Sigh.