Thailand

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Photograph of Thai Airways International Boeing 747-400 at Sydney Airport

Just 18 months ago, I wrote about how this ordinary aircraft would change my life. And it did. This Boeing 747, or one very like it, took me on my first trip outside Australia, to Thailand. I’m about to be changed again. Dramatically.

I can’t tell you about my SEKRIT project just yet, except that it will expose me to things which are Very Different from anything I’ve experienced in my life so far. This morning, though, I’ve been re-reading the pieces I wrote when I returned from Thailand, each labelled “Unreliable Bangkok”.

You may like to re-read them with me now. I quite liked them at the time. If nothing else, the photographs are interesting. Perhaps.

My SEKRIT project will also involve international travel, but not to Thailand. I’ll be posting every day while I’m away — because that’s the point of the trip! — and more reflective pieces upon my return. Stay tuned.

News is just coming through that Thailand’s Constitutional Court has disbanded the ruling People Power Party for electoral fraud, and banned prime minister Somchai Wongsawat (สมชาย วงศ์สวัสดิ์) and 35 others on the party’s executive from politics for 5 years.

What happens next is up to the Red Shirts, the pro-Thaksin loyalists. As I explained in my backgrounder, the People’s Alliance for Democracy (พันธมิตรประชาชนเพื่อประชาธิปไตย) wanted the PM to resign, so their aim has been achieved. Will the Red Shirts accept the ruling, though? Or will they turn violent? Certainly the Red Shirts are the more violent of the two factions.

Breaking News says AP reports that the second and third parties in the coalition, Matchima and Chart Thai, have also been dissolved.

I’m guessing the army is ready to roll. We’ll find out any moment…

Photo of PAD protesters at Bangkok airport

Thailand’s long-simmering political crisis finally made it onto Western TVs this week when protesters closed Bangkok’s international airport, disrupting [shock horror] Western tourists.

The essence is that the People’s Alliance for Democracy, the guys in the yellow shirts who’ve shut down the airport, want prime minister Somchai Wongsawat (สมชาย วงศ์สวัสดิ์) to resign. They reckon he’s the puppet of a former corrupt prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

You could argue that Somchai’s election, while controversial, was constitutionally valid. But PAD has run out of patience with the string of corrupt and presumed-corrupt politicians. Even the army chief reckons it might be time to call fresh elections to clear the air. But Somchai won’t budge.

This isn’t a simple story of The People versus the Evil Politician though. The roots of conflict go deep into Thai history and culture.

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[This essay was written for the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance's report Life in the Clickstream: The Future of Journalism [PDF], to be launched in Melbourne today. It was published under the title “Smart brains find ways to spread the message” and trimmed to fit the space available. This version includes all of the extracts from @smartbrain’s Twitter stream which I’d originally supplied.]

Photo of burning Jeep Cherokee after it exploded in Bangkok

Bangkok, 7 October 2008. A Jeep explodes near parliament, killing a man. Body parts are thrown up to 20 metres.

Meanwhile, 5,000 members of the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy are occupying the Government building grounds — well-organised but largely peaceful. Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign a month earlier, but his successor Somchai Wongsawat is seen as a corrupt puppet. PAD has given him until 6pm to resign. He does not. The car bomb detonates. The ultimatum expires. The demonstration explodes into riot.

Tear gas. Gunfire. 381 injured. Another death. It’s the worst violence in 16 years.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, my ex-pat Thai partner and I are sinking beers. We take our laptops online but not even Thai news outlets say what’s happening now.

Then, using Twitter, we find @smartbrain.

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The Christmas decorations are in the shops, people are having Christmas parties, the current affairs programs are off TV, so the year has ended, right? What do you mean, your calendar has something called “December”? Bah! This is the 21st Century! One-twelfth of the year is just thrown away!

Back in January I made some Predictions for 2008. Since 2008 has already ended, let’s see how I went.

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Actually, the sexiest woman in all Thailand, Leena Jangjanya (ลีนา จังจรรจา), fell into Bangkok’s polluted Khlong Saen Saeb (คลองแสนแสบ) canal while campaigning today. It’s more like sewage than water.

val told me a short time ago, but it’s being reported in Bangkok’s two leading English-language newspaper websites, The Nation and the Bangkok Post.

Leena reportedly fell from a boat near the Pratunam pier, but is unharmed. That is, until she gets the bad case of diarrhoea.

[P.S. Do not do a Google Images search for "leena" just by itself when safe search is turned off. You have been warned. However it's nice to note that an image search for "leena jang" currently has four of my pages in the top 12.]

As you perhaps already know, I reckon that Leena Jangjanya (ลีนา จังจรรจา) is the most beautiful, most sexy woman in all of Thailand. I’m therefore thrilled to discover that she has a new hairdo and is running for Governor of Bangkok.

Photograph of Leena Jangjanya

That Leena runs her own cosmetics business as well as being a prominent labour rights lawyer should hold her in good stead. But, my Beautiful Leena, you need to update your website and destroy last year’s posters.

Photograph of Trinn Suwannapha taking a photo in Bangkok

This is my photo of ’Pong taking this photo in Bangkok. Recursion is always an interesting phenomenon.

Speaking of my journey to Thailand, ’Pong has just published a bunch of photos of me he took there, only one of which you’ve seen before. Some of them are not particularly flattering.

22 March 2008 by Stilgherrian | 1 comment

Poster for the movie High School Musical

When I went to Thailand last year, Thai Airways International was generally excellent — except for their choice of in-flight movies. Sorry, but even after a couple glasses of wine and several brandies High School Musical is a piece of shit.

I’d originally guessed that it was only screened because it somehow matched the Thai sense of sentimentality. But no. I soon discovered it was such a success — it even won an Emmy! — that Disney made a sequel with the imaginative title High School Musical 2.

I was really, really hoping that was going to be the end of the story. But no (again). Touring Australia in April and May is… High School Musical: The Ice Tour.

Sadly, this show doesn’t involve the dentally-perfect racially-balanced lead characters in some meth-fuelled rampage but… yes… ice skates. Somebody get me a bucket.

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