Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Black Songkran 2009

So it had come to a point where the newspapers called the day Black Songkran. The first day of the festival, was covered in violent clashes and some bloodshed. I spoke to some local folks. One that runs a laundry had gotten sick of the protester and only wanted it to end. She mentioned that the reds are ruining the business for Songkran and interrupting the everyday lives of Bangkokians. She was fuming mad when she spoke of the situation.

And so I spoke to another most interesting character. In Singapore, everyone works. Over here, there exist people who do not work for their entire lives. Alcohol is part of his body’s chemistry. And fuming mad he said, the reds had been treated unfairly, why the soldiers used forceful tactics on the reds when during the yellow protest there was not. Luckily laundry lady and drunk, who are relatives, did not get into forming their own member groups and trashing it out.

Too many stories to hear, too many frustration they want to vent. Frustration is not just about which side one should be on, but the frustration of living with constant poverties in their lives. Frustration over many more matters we could not comprehend, but we know violence is a way to release them.

If you had ever caused chaos, you know it felt great and could be addictive after the adrenaline rush. And this was what had taken place, with many more people joining the protest just for the adrenaline kicks I reckoned. Thais called them the Third Hand. They declared war with many local residence and areas of major businesses such as markets. They threw fire bombs into residential flats, they shoot people and people shoot back. They wore red.

The peak of the event was on first day of Songkran when the situation was really getting out of control. All petrol stations were closed near evening time for the fear they will get blown up. All the major malls closed at eight thirty, I was chased out. But strangely on the streets just a few blocks away from many ground zeros, music was on full blast and the transvestites were dancing in wet t-shirts on the streets. The other provinces were in full celebration, the temple I went for tamboon was packed. Thais just want to have their Songkran day.

Thais told me Thais had a brain like a gold fish – short term memory. Thais forget easily. And true enough on the second day of Songkran, the place looked like no violent protest had happened before. The TV showed the red protesters peacefully going on to buses headed back to north and north east. The protest had officially ended, the red had lost. Red, white, yellow, blue and military green discarded their colors, people playing the water had increased in numbers. We could really see the spirit of Songkran now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

This Songkran – State of Emergency

Living in Bangkok is great, is very very great. Singapore, we have State of Fear, where everyone is living in a constant reminder not to toy with the law. Bangkok we get to experience State of Emergency. The yellows were pretty good at closing down major ports of transportation, the reds are now pretty good at closing major arteries of traffic. Actually, reds could jolly well close the airport as well if they close all roads leading to it. What will happen next no one knows but all can speculate. As usual for one that works like a dog ignorant of the situation, I go about doing my everyday thing. So does many.

There was this red truck up front of me on Thursday. I took 2 hours to get to my destination, only to learn today that the road I took was closed by the reds some distance further down. At least now I know why. As the red inches on in traffic, every motorcycle taxi and cab they passed waved and signaled to cheer them on like some rock stars on their nation tour. The support is now fully for the red I see.

Then out of the blue there was the blue, clashed with the reds in Pattaya to get the Asean Summit going. Blue pink green, what color will come out next? Where’s the yellow now I wonder, like M&Ms Bangkok is now. What color shirt should we avoid? Maybe soon we did have to walk around top naked. I truly have no problem with that, to ogle at girls with no shirts I wish (yeah… me pervert).

Thai festivals are excuses for chaos, the people love that it seems. Already people are getting drunk as a prelude to tomorrow which is the first day of the water festival. I almost ran into one brainless bloke just now, with a face looking for trouble, he was trying to prove to the whole road he could ride his bike sitting cross legged and going against traffic. Small gangs of motorcycles can already be seen forming and crisscrossing the roads like flies. Songkran had always been filled with sporadic acts of gang fights, with the situation now I wonder how this year it will turn out to be. It could well be … water plus gang fights plus flying bottles and big red riot. I think the military can use riot control water measures to hammer the reds as a symbol of Songkran but I reckon it will not be appreciated as a festive gesture.

The roads are strangely quiet tonight as I ventured out for a business meeting. Traversing the maze of the Bangkok roads, I didn’t know which junctions were closed and which not. Maybe the quietness is simply how Songkran had always been, with so many gone back to hometowns leaving Bangkok in peace. Peace… ?

Anyways anyhows whatever, no worries we still can go about to do our everyday things. I know news readers overseas will think it’s like Bangkok very dangerous now and we could be run over by a tank or caught in the line of flying bullets or have a grenade land in our laps to blow our balls into outer space. But truly it is not as to many places these days I’ve been. Just be wise that’s all there is.