Of Coups and Men

A guest entry from Dave:

So I promised an entry on the coup and here it is! I found out the morning that I was due to leave Flagstaff to start my journey here to Thailand about the coup. Of course, it was a little disconcerting that the very same day that I was due to travel to a country, the military would seize control! I was lucky enough to be bringing a work laptop with me so at each layover I would connect to the internet and see what the news sites and the US embassy had to say about the situation (I’d just like to say that the embassy was extremely slow to put any information on their site and it was usually two stages out of date). In particular I found that, when I reached Taipei, there were a large number for westerners (and I include Australians in that) that were desparate for information…I became very popular very quickly!

So anyway, I reached Thailand knowing that the coup was going very smoothly and feeling pretty comfortable that the military was doing everything in its power to keep the peace. Of course, I was a little nervous, never having been in the midst of a coup before, but I wasn’t particularly worried. Arriving in the airport, I don’t think I saw any soldiers. Other than brief glimpses as we drove to the hotel, we didn’t see any soldiers until Emily and I went to Siam Square (a shopping district with 4 malls). Having grown up in the military, it didn’t feel particularly weird to see a small group of soldiers standing off to the side, holding their M-16 rifles at ease. What surprised us, though, was that so many of the Thai people were walking up to the soldiers and taking pictures with them. On the base you left guarding soldiers alone! Many of the soldiers seemed very young and enjoyed the attention, though. This, more than anything else, helped us to be very comfortable with the situation here.

On Saturday we wanted to go to Viman Mek Teak Mansion (amazingly beautiful, by the way) and our tuk tuk driver dropped us off outside a Wat whose name I don’t remember anymore (we didn’t go inside). Honestly, I think we made our driver mad when we wouldn’t let him take us to a scam, but that’s a different story. Anyway, there were a couple of tanks outside the Wat and tourists, both Thai and Farang, milling around everywhere. It had the feeling of a parade or exhibition! People were posing with the soldiers all over the place, taking pictures, and generally treating it as an attraction in and of itself.

That has really been our our experience with the coup. The Throne Hall picure gallery shows some pictures of soldiers outside the throne hall posing with a number of tourists, including some really cute scenes of children with the soldiers.

As a side note, Emily and I were watching BBC World News last night and they had a piece about the coup. They had a news correspondent standing in front of the throne hall by tanks we had seen just a couple of days before. The tanks had been cleaned of the flowers and signs and all the tourists had been cleared out of the shot. The scene that they manufactured looked a lot more menacing and scary than the reality of the situation. It was a sobering reminder of what business the news companies are actually in and the simple fact that they’re not always objective in their coverage of events.

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