Message from Thailand

My friend Jenny’s brother Kevin is in Thailand with the Peace Corp. He wrote in to let everyone know what’s going on since last night’s coup:

Dear all,
So, what’s new?
Nothing much here.
Just a military coup that’s all.
Seriously, this has been an incredibly boring event.  My initial excitement when I got the news at 2 am has worn off, or maybe I’m just tired.
So, the military has overthrown the government while Prime Minister Thaksin was in New York for the opening of the UN.  The leader of the coup is a Muslim and is tight-friends with the King.  This is bad, just bad.  Bad for Thailand, bad for democracy, bad for the economy.  Just bad all around.  The initial news reports I’m reading are disheartening.  The people in Thailand who were calling for Thaksin’s ousting are actually praising this event!  Tanks rolling through the streets of Bangkok….  As if that were a good thing.
Actually, since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, there have been 20 coup attempts–10, now 11, of which have been successful.  The last one was as recent as 1991.  Despite that, Thailand has been praised in recent years as a leader in Democracy.  They’ve kept the same Constitution since 1997, the “people’s constitution,” written after the financial crisis.  Thaksin was popularly elected three times.  Now, it’s all over….  What does this mean for Thailand?  For Southeast Asia?  It all remains to be seen.
No, Thaksin wasn’t perfect.  His “war on drugs” killed over 2,000 Thais, and drug use continued.  His handling of the Muslim insurgency in the far South has been terrible, often brutal.  (Couple of weeks ago the first foreigners died down there–two Canadians)  He’s corrupt and loves his shady business dealings.  He’s suppressed critics at every turn.  Poverty continues.  Worst of all, he forced all of Thailand’s entertainment places to close at 1 am–less than 1 year before I got here!  (Will we now see later closing hours??  Could there be some good in all this?  I feel it’s my duty to report and will head out this weekend to the bars and discos to investigate, put my finger on the pulse, so to speak.)  But, he did open Thailand up to free trade and improve the economy (for a while anyway).  And, he was democratically elected….
The coup, thus far, has been bloodless and peaceful.
What does all this mean for me?  Well, I’m currently on “Standfast,” one of the steps in our emergency plan for PCVs.  Just means I’m on alert.  Got a message from our Country Director this morning saying he expects things to return to normal (normal??).  But, it’s good news for me.  The worst thing (for me and other PCVs) would be to be evacuated.  But, for now, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen.
Life in the village continues on as normal.  People are happy because everything’s closed today.  Kids are playing in the streets.  I’m at the office, using the computer, with nobody around to bother me.  Life goes on….
Not terribly exciting, sorry.

Hopefully, things will stay nice and boring and he’ll be just fine.