We have some business in Thailand, so current events there always register on the radar, particularly when they sound like this:
Thai troops fired tear gas and bullets at protesters, who responded with stones, slingshots and homemade rockets, turning parts of downtown Bangkok into a battlefield on Friday as the military moved to seal off a broad area where the protesters, known as red shirts, have camped for weeks.
Most (but not all) of our operations are in the benign middle of the country — not far enough south where there are Islamic-related tensions, not far enough north to risk involvement in the periodic counter-insurgency and coup events that seem a norm in Thai history.
(Thailand is a very long north-to-south country, in case you’ve never taken a good look at the map. If you go to Bangkok, you’re still south of the vast majority of the country, yet you’re still well north of a lot of the beach resorts you might hear about on the peninsula.)
An international relations expert here put something on our discussion list to share some thoughts. He’s not an Asia expert, but he is a comparativist well-versed in Third World patterns. And he always has interesting observations.
One of the variables commonly ascribed to Thailand is that they have a culture that discourages violent upheaval — that a coup there is different from a coup elsewhere; it happens often, but with little bloodshed. Something about those Buddhists and their zen-like demeanor, the thinking goes.
(And Thai Buddhism is indeed its own unique brand, influenced in part by the land’s cultural history and in part by all those oh-so-helpful Christian missionaries who have historically found Thailand’s beaches nice for relaxing people ripe for converting. I know that not because I know stuff, but because I get to interview professors from time to time in my work.)
Anyway, I’m sharing here some of what the expert wrote about the current events, because it’s an interesting non-news-article take on things. (Names obscured/text plagiarized to protect my own half-anonymity): Continue reading This world and that world, or how my father made me pay attention