Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Signs

The elections were only five days ago and it already seems like a weird dream. The newspapers are running news again instead of articles about a candidate’s favorite restaurants or what’s on their night stand, people have resumed wearing red and yellow shirts without making bold political statements, and the 8ft tall election posters that blanketed the city have all vanished without a trace. I wanna talk more about these posters because they really are ridiculous. Instead of a small card saying “Elect So-and-so” in some red/white/blue scheme staked in the lawn, Thailand instead opts for larger than life posters on cheap wooden frames placed anywhere there’s a pole or a tree to tie them to. Literally anywhere. I had planned to take some pictures of some of my favorites to share with you but there was some kind of massive, massive clean-up on the night of the 3rd and there’s hardly a trace that they were even there. Here’s a couple I pulled off the internet.

We’ll start with the victorious candidate. This is a typical poster for Yingluck Shiniwatra and her Pheu Thai party. The numbers assigned to the parties are based on some kind of random ping-pong ball machine like the lottery which gathers lots of attention (Thais can really get into lucky/unlucky numbers).

Here’s former Prime Minister Abhiset. You had a good run?

This was my favorite candidate. Apparently he runs every year as somewhat of a joke. He campaigned with the message “enough with corruption in government!” He made his millions as a sleazy massage parlor tycoon. He’s a member of parliament now.

This series of posters created a stir.They have a variety of creatures on them and they basically say “No animals in government” and were directly targeted at members of the Pheu Thai party. Calling someone an animal here, especially a dog or buffalo is a pretty serious insult so this shocked even me.

Here's an idea of how ubiquitous these posters were. During the final week before elections it really approached critical mass. It actually got difficult to find somewhere to cross the street.

That's the story from over here. Hope all's well back home and you're all enjoying the summer.

much love

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th

Well the numbers are in. The red shirts took an overwhelming number of parliament seats and Yingluck Shiniwatra is Thailand’s first female prime minister. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out in the coming months.

The post-election mood here in the city is pretty somber despite it being an absolutely beautiful day. I just hope it’s this nice back home for the parades and especially the cookouts. Eat up on those burgers and dogs for me! Have a great 4th of July everyone.

Much love

Sunday, July 3, 2011


July 3rd. Election day. As the Thai people cast their votes there’s really only one question on everyone’s mind: Reds or Yellows? I think you all are somewhat aware of the political situation here but let me break it down. First of all, there are more than two parties. I know it sounds like it’s just the two sides fighting for control but there’re other players. They aren’t nearly as polarizing (or popular) but they do have their views and they bring in enough votes that they can’t be dismissed. The real big dogs though are the Pheu Thai Party (red shirts’ new party) and the People’s Alliance for Democracy (yellow shirts). Before you ask “which is republican and which is democrat?” let me just say that the answer isn’t that easy and there isn’t really a 1:1 match. All this drama started with Thaksin Shinawatra who was a telecommunications tycoon turned Prime Minister was convicted on corruption charges 5 years ago. He fled the country rather than go to prison and the Thai government has seized something like $2 billion of his money. While he was in office, Thaksin was a champion of the poor down-trodden farmer increasing social spending to rural areas and building a strong voter base (the red shirts) who want to see his policies continued. The yellow shirts, on the other hand, are more closely associated with the military, the royal family, and the city-dwellers (liberal elite?) Thaksin was tossed out on legitimate corruption charges but it was seen by his supporters as a big-city scheme to toss out the one guy working hard for them (and Thaksin played no small part in spreading that idea). The next guy in line after Thaksin was his brother or something so he was tossed quickly too, and then the yellow shirts tossed the third guy after he appeared on a cooking show breaking constitutional law somehow (something about receiving payment for non-governmental service… a very flimsy excuse which rightfully enflamed the red shirts further.) All this led to a yellow shirted PM and a lot of angry farmers.

The elections today are part of the settlement of the violent protests of about a year ago and the outcome will say a lot about Thailand. If the yellow shirts win and retain power, then we will likely see allegations of corruption and vote tampering and probably another large scale protest. The other scenario is the red shirts prevail, elect Thailand’s first ever female prime minister (Thaksin’s little sister), and open up the doors for Thaksin to reenter the country that he divided. Either way there’s gonna be some aftermath so keep watching the news. I'll have some more follow-up on this later.

Much love