Daily Archives: March 14, 2006

Political Crisis In Thailand

We are a group of journalism students at Ramkhamhaeng University Bangkok. We worked out some articels about the current political situation in Thailnad and want to present them on this blog. Please feel free to give any comments !

SANAM LUANG, 26TH FEBRUARY 2006. We, six journalism students and their professor from a local state university are standing in the middle of the park, 300 meters south of the infamous tourist destination Kao Sarn Road.

Unlike Kao Sarn Road, the park is empty.

Masses of people we expected, carrying banners and yellow t-shirts, calling for the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign. Sanam Luang, the traditional place to gather and show the leaders of Thailand that they are not wanted anymore, has a long history in past uprisings.

In 1992, ten thousands of people gathered here to release their anger and frustration about the military government of General Suchinda. In the 1973 insurgence 77 people were killed and 800 injured at the nearby Democracy Monument when the government put down a demonstration.

Tonight the wide place is empty. The stage where activists yesterday called for Thaksin to step down looks smaller than in the television. The day before the park was crowded with people, now only some die-hard opponents of the prime minister and homeless people sit and sleep at the few spots were still grass grows. The big demonstration was moved to the 5th February.

A bit lost we stand in the center, looking for a sign of the political crisis that keeps the Kingdom of Thailand busy for the last few weeks.
Triggered by the sale of Shin Corps, the telecommunications company owned by Thaksin, to Singapore, more and more people join the “Alliance for Democracy”, led by Sondhi Limtongkul, a former friend and business partner of Thaksin.

The sale of Shin Corp. brought the Shinawatra family 73 billion Baht, around 1.9 billion dollars. Not a single Baht tax was paid. Although not illegal, allegations of nepotism and corruption grow louder. Especially since the law that allowed the deal to be tax-free was passed a few days before by Thaksins Thai Rak Thai (Thai love Thais) party. The prime minister finds himself under more and more pressure; he dissolved the parliament and set the date for a new election for April the 2nd.
The other three major parties in parliament, Democrats, Chat Thai, and MahaChon Party agreed to boycott the election. They want Thaksin to step down.

We decide to leave Sanam Luang when we see a hand waving at us, belonging to a middle-aged man standing in a stall built with anti-Thaksin banners.
“Have a look”, he says in broken English and points to a sign attached to a banner, reading “Overlapping interests. Corruption. Sale of Motherland. Thaksin get out”, and a cartoon of Thaksin, depict with a square head, the horns of a devil and red eyes.

The activist, who says his name is “Small”, wears a black headband, saying: “People for Democracy”. This, he explains, shows that he is a member of a hardliner group, involved in the 1992 uproar and willing to fight.

He holds out with two other men and a woman, they hand us bottles of water, “sorry – no have fridge”, they say when we drink the warm water on this hot, humid evening in the heart of Bangkok.

Corruption, sale out of public property, not holding promises, that’s why they are here Small explains. “He talks in a good way, but bad things follow.” His face is angry.

Quickly they print more headscarves; we have to hold them for two minutes until they are dry. Two for each one of us. Than we pose for a picture with the little group; I wait for the feeling of being used to come, but it doesn’t.

How far would you go in your resistance, we ask them. After the demonstration of the 5th, something has to happen, Small says. A kite is flying above us in the dark sky with fast moving red clouds. And if it turns violent? His face remains uncompromisingly. “Something must happen.”

Short biography of Sondhi and Chamlong

Continue reading

Visa Shuffle!

Lek and I dropped our pens after a full day of mind bending K-1 USA Visa conscription; we were both drained, yet happy to be free of it. Splayed across the hotel kitchenette counter lay neat stacks of documents: notification by State Department, medical exam reports, birth certificates & passport photo copies, criminal investigation inquiries stating my sweethearts clean record, my financial statements and evidence of support, various forms stating over and over Lek’s family history. Yet the largest bundle contained proof of our collective five year relationship- letters and emails and a wad of photos illustrating our collaborative travels by bus, train and jet to Chiang Mai, Lampang, Sukhothai, Khorat, Phimai, Khon Kaen, Vientiane, Phanom Rung, Ko Chang, Jomtien, Hua Hin, Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, Trang, Trat, Krabi, Ko Lanta, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Hat Sichon, Suret Thani, and all point in between. As well as a plethora of pictures recording special moments with Lek’s family in Thonburi; clearly showing the magical growth of her (now mine too) daughters over our years spent together. Everything was signed off and completed, nothing to do but send the official statement that we were ready, and to request an appointment with the American Consul.

We sat back and enjoyed a drink, and a few well deserved hugs; then off we went on a short stroll up Silom Blvd to the UPS kiosk to send the sacred document, and afterwards some side street shopping for holiday things; and a bit of gai yang and som tam to take back to the hotel for lunch.

Today is farang NEW YEAR’S EVE and everyone is in a festive bustle and there is a band of HS students from Yala jamming drums and voices on the corner. The temperature is unusually mild and not so humid; the street full of honk honk downtown BKK traffic, skid marks of tourists heading to over priced, crowded holiday parties and chaos, as time marches on…

After lunch Lek was sleeping on the big bed, and I drift into timeless contemplation behind a few beers. Ten months since filing the K-1
petition with an emigration attorney in San Francisco, then a stream of couriered paperwork between California and Siam; and sweating out the Homeland Security background check, before moving onto to more of the same with INS; and can’t help chuckling a wee bit while pulling off a fresh Singha, recalling my first visit to The Kingdom in 1996.

Upon clearing immigration at Don Muang International I was struck in awe by the playful, relaxed friendly Thai vibe, especially juxtaposed against the rude pushiness of Hong Kong where I’d been staying; and I like HK. But instantly realized I’d entered a magical sphere of exotic smells and sights, where the Buddha walked hand and hand with common people; a place where doing the Right Thing was practiced in graceful everyday movements, and human interaction; yet still enough edge to make it delightfully real, modern and interesting.

That was then and this was now, with our only one common goal- to be legally married in the country in which I was born, in front of my family and friends, and to share with Lek a slice of the terra firma of Northern California and my origin. And then Lek to return to her heart country and daughters, and momma and family on the Klong stop by Wat Intharam- where boys become monks and at sunset golden rays slide off the temple spires like illuminated fingers reaching out…

On March 1st Lek was granted her K-1 visa at the American Embassy; we will be married in California in April.

All the Best- S. Stampfli