The Thai government has imposed a strict curfew until this Sunday. Armed soldiers are patrolling the streets and dozens of embassies, including the US embassy, have issued travel warnings advising their citizens to avoid Thailand unless absolutely necessary.
Thailand is no stranger to political instability–there have been 17 coups in the past 70 years, the last in 2005, but it’s been decades since there was violence on this scale. And while this week’s military action put an end to protests, nothing has been done to address the deep social, economic and regional rifts that started them the first place.
As the dust settles and cleanup begins, everyone is trying to make sense of the current situation. Some political analysts say Thailand has changed forever and the “Land of Smiles” is a thing of the past. Others are more hopeful and believe that the Thai people can and will work through the issues brought to light by the protests and reconcile with one another.
I’m not sure what the future holds for Thailand. People are saddened and shocked by recent events and there isn’t a lot of smiling going on in Bangkok right now. But the Thai people’s general openness and kindness towards strangers has not changed a bit. Even the soldiers, a menacing presence in any situation, have been generally kind – one offered me a cold bottle of water yesterday while I was out walking my dog.
Much of the country, even Bangkok, is the same wonderful place it has always been for visitors and when things stabilize (hopefully in the next week or so) there’s no reason to skip a visit here.
Photo © Suzanne Nam