May 27, 2011

Writing on Thai Politics

In my two years in Thailand, I have learned three important things from wiser people than myself: grabbing a taxi on the top level instead of the bottom level at Suvarnabhumi saves you the 50 baht "airport fee", you're less likely to get sick from street food than restaurant food, and never discuss politics with a Thai person. Avoiding the latter is difficult, because like in most countries, politics manifests itself in just about everything. Even in the cozy confines of my wife's village in Khorat, the English teacher once asked me, "So, what do you think about Thaksin?". I tried to divert the topic by talking about my recent admiration of Dok Som See Tong (a super classy Thai soap).

Politics is a pretty nasty topic of conversation in any country, but in Thailand it's exceptionally ugly. If you're a foreigner, it is considered very impolite to comment. Thai people are normally receptive to us farang types, but don't think they want to hear your political opinions on their home country. I can somewhat sympathize, because I used to hate euro-weenies lecturing me about the evils of George Bush inside American borders. Think speaking your mind on the current political situation is a good idea? You should talk to Dan Rivers, who got suitcase-tossed out of Thailand for making perceived pro-red shirt remarks.

However, eating the forbidden fruit and discussing politics with Thai people has yielded some interesting observations:

1) The typical media tagline about red shirts being ignorant, oppressed peasants from the northeast and the pro-Abhisit contingent being fancy Khunying ladies is not always the case
2) There is a ferocious struggle for power and resources and no one knows how it will end
3) Since Thai culture is so much about saving face, it is difficult to understand what people are really thinking
4) Ordinary people tend to bear the brunt of poor decisions and corruption of politicians
5) There are no good guys and bad guys in this story

I'm interested in exploring some of this complexity in contemporary Thai society in two novellas. The first would be about a middle-aged woman whose son in the army was killed during a red-shirt protest in May 2010, and he haunts her dreams until she finds the killer. The second would be about a group of politicians and businessmen who get together and convince a 12 year-old boy from a working-class family to make all the major decisions for the country. What do you think?

I haven't started writing either, so I'm very open to suggestions. I plan to write it in a way that someone could enjoy the book without having ever set foot in Thailand or read about it in the paper. First off, I don't know enough about the situation to write a really detailed book that talks about all the different players that run this country, and, second off, it probably wouldn't sell well. Remember David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, where you had to have all this prior knowledge of the Twin Peaks series prior to seeing the movie. That thing was a collosal dud.

The story basically has to be accessible, but conscious of the complexity of the situation and the people involved. Should be fun to try to write, and hopefully I don't get deported.
Democrat Party Poster at On Nut BTS Station Taken Last Weekend


1 comment:

YongyuthKathoey said...

The recent beating of a transgender individual in the media highlights the problems facing transgender individuals. The world might be educated by studying how Thailand views and treats transgender individuals. In Thai we call them Katoeys which is translated into Ladyboy in English. I have pioneered the recognition of Ladyboy rights at Uttaradit University in Thailand and look forward to educating people about Thai ladyboys and networking with international ladyboys. As Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Uttaradit University I am in a unique position to practice what I preach. I have been a leader in recruiting Ladyboys into my faculty where I have learned about their aspirations and their fears. They are very beautiful, just like real women, and Thailand consistently produces the winner of the international Ladyboy competitions throughout the world. I hope this blog helps to dispel some myths about Ladyboys and helps to create an international dialogue.