Monday, April 20, 2009

In the Streets Tonight...

For some reason I have Phil Collins in my mind. After a moment of thought I can see why, given the lyrics that I'm hearing. "I can feel it coming in the air tonight...oh lord..." Although I always thought he heard them calling in the air, and at the moment I'm not sure which is more appropriate.

I used to think that U.S. politics were divisive. You hear things all of the time about how the country is tearing itself apart, red state blue state, that there is a divide between Americans that cannot be bridged. I have to say to everyone in America tonight that we know nothing of divisiveness, and for that we should be eternally grateful.

100,000 men and women marched in the streets on Thursday night, protesting what they call an illegitimate government, mirroring the protests that took Suvarnabhumi Airport back in November, a lifetime ago. Then it was the yellow shirted People's Alliance for Democracy; now it is the red shirted United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorships. Then it was protesting the Somchai Wongsarat government's ties to exiled leader Thaksin Shinawatra. Now it is Thaksin leading protesting against Abhisit Vejjajiva's government, saying that members of the government were responsible for the military coup in 2006 that ousted him. In November the government dissolved itself and held elections, while this one shows no signs of doing the same.

It is the Thai festival of Songkran, the New Year and the water festival. Songkran is a time when the old and dirty is washed away to cleanse the soul, to take in the new year fresh and ready to do better. Men, women and children take to the streets and hurl water at eachother, or go to temples and cleanse images of the Buddha to make merit. To be better.

There are tanks in the streets of Bangkok tonight.

The Prime Minister has declared a state of Emergency, and the army has moved tanks in to key positions to keep order in the city. The Army has said it is not in charge of enforcing the decree, only to work with the police to keep the peace. Vejjajiva has referred to the red shirt protestors as enemies of the state, and promised that if they are not peacable there will be retribution. The last several protests like this have ended peaceably, and yet there is always a first time.

There are tanks in the streets of Bangkok tonight.

Men and women pour out to face the police, flowing in their red shirts like the blood of a wounded democracy. But who has wounded this ancient Kingdom? Five months since the last protest, less since the last election; is it Democracy if, when outvoted, you take to the streets to try to bring down the government? Thaksin calls in from afar saying to his followers 'bring your children' while his have just left the land. Vejjajiva has called in tanks and decried the very same tactics that put him in power, that he supported when they were bringing down those on the other side.

There are tanks in the streets of Bangkok tonight as old foes play games of brinksmanship and politics with eachother, with all the people in the Kingdom as their players and their prize.

There are tanks in the streets of Bangkok tonight as a city quiets, holding its breath and stilling the normal explosive life that haunts its' winding roads.

There are tanks in the streets of Bangkok tonight as a million people hold their breath and wonder if they will see use when the sun comes over the city on Songkran, and one farang sits in his apartment holding his breath with them.

I can feel it coming in the air tonight...oh lord...