So we had a coup! Our presence has seemingly lead to the destabilization of a number of countries, but this was our first coup. What happens in a coup, in Thailand anyway, where people have a lot of practice, is that everyone heads to 7/11 to stock up on water just in case things go terribly wrong. Things have not gone terribly wrong so far. The first thing that happened that impacted us was the imposition of a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m.; no one is supposed to be on the street, and even the 7/11 is shut down, which means that things are reasonably serious? However: our balcony looks out over Charoen Krung, a fairly major thoroughfare in the city, and it’s clear that not everyone is obeying the curfew. Maybe they are all going to the airport? One of the first thing that the junta had to say was that if you have to go to the airport the curfew doesn’t apply to you. This was perhaps the first sign that they are not the most competent rulers in the world.
The country is now headed by General Prayuth, whose previous notable achievement seems to have been the banning of pad kaprao from Army kitchens. Having fixed that problem, he has taken it upon himself to fix the country’s problems; most national political scientists and journalists of note have been taken to army facilities so that they might change their opinions. There has been, of course, a lot of criticism of this, which seems to fluster General Prayuth, who wishes that everyone would just quiet down and behave and is confused about why many people don’t think a coup is a good thing. Well.
Besides the curfew, most TV stations were initially shut down. Here’s what we saw on the first night:
The new administration was at first given the mellifluous “National Peace and Order Maintaining Council”; a loop of patriotic military songs played over their logo. They seem to have let the French movie channel go through, perhaps because they didn’t understand it; more recently, they’re letting some more channels through but most international news is still blocked. Perhaps because someone told them that “National Peace and Order Maintaining Council” was not the best phrasing, the junta’s name has been changed to “National Council for Peace and Order”. The printed newspapers are heavily self-censoring: from the front page of a recent Bangkok Post (“The Newspaper You Can Trust”) you can’t really tell that there’s much going on here:
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Obviously the first thing that we did after there was a coup was to go to the beach. We were not trying to behave like the worst people in the world; however, we had already planned to go to the beach, and it seemed likely that the beach would be safer than Bangkok. So we went to Koh Samet (เกาะเสม็ด), which is an island off the coast of Rayong, where we’ve previously been to the beach. It is a confusing thing that somehow we have not been to any islands in Thailand, though we have gone to an island in Cambodia. Who knows? But a coup, we are learning, is a good time to make good for past behavior, so we started going to islands.
You may, it is possible, be familiar with Koh Samet from the poetry of Sunthorn Phu, who is the closest thing there is to a Thai national poet. Probably you are not familiar with Koh Samet from his poetry; if you are, doubtless you have better things to be doing than reading this.
There are a number of beaches that you can go to on Koh Samet; the one we went to was a little less touristed than ones that are more convenient. The sand is fine and white, the water is warm, and it was hard to tell the military had just taken over the country:
Strictly speaking, there isn’t very much to do at Koh Samet, which is maybe the point of going to the beach. It’s a fine place for swimming:
And junior boating:
And adult boating: the technical term for the thing that looks like a hotdog is “banana boat”. Everyone sits on it and then the other boat goes very fast and the passengers try to avoid falling off.
As is customary in these situations Harriet got a tattoo: a crude but effective rendition of Hello Kitty who took well over a week to rub off.
After that we all went home. Life goes on under military rule.