Here's my belated Happy New Year to you all, but 2014 is picking up where 2013 left off. Which means, if you were able to celebrate the countdown at all, welcome straight back to the eternal political nightmare. And forget the usual "Fasten your seat-be
So, whose shoes would you want to be in now? Yingluck Shinawatra’s and you could become a lame-duck prime minister at best and another political exile at worst. Suthep Thaugsuban’s and you would be treading that super-thin line separating hero from traitor, the latter with a “lunatic” label and a mountain of legal problems to contend with. Tarit Pengdit’s might be a good choice if you fancy playing a two-headed spy whom nobody trusts.
Thaksin Shinawatra’s could leave you exasperated but philosophical about what money can and cannot do. Abhisit Vejjajiva’s and you would be wondering how you went from a political whiz kid to a man maligned by the foreign media and someone barely hanging onto the helm of your political party. Adul Saengsingkaew’s would make you curse your teachers for not being thorough on “serve and protect”.
Sukhumbhand Paribatra’s and the “Bangkok shutdown” would tear your conscience apart. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s and you would want everybody to leave you alone, but would probably start to believe their assumption that you were up to something. Jatuporn Prompan’s and you would be torn between the raw urge to smack them all and the fear of that backfiring badly. And despite being considerably wealthy, he, Nuttawut Saikua, Arisman Pongruangrong and the likes have all but kissed “middle-class” shopping malls goodbye. So if you love Starbucks, don’t choose their shoes.
How about the local media’s? You would be taking sides, or accused of taking sides. The foreign media are no better off. In their shoes you would be chided for having blind faith in Athens-era democracy. You would be asked why you overlook certain things while similar things committed by the other side made you scream from the top of your lungs in protest.
You might like to be in whistle-makers’ shoes, or election campaign poster-makers’. They are smiling, obviously, although their products are serving absolutely contrasting purposes. If you were Thaksin’s strategists or lobbyists, you would probably be laughing, too. Crises are making them indispensable. Not only is he unlikely to change horses in midstream, he will also make sure the horses are well-fed.
Who else is chuckling? If you want to be happy, the shoes of Singapore’s or Vietnam’s leaders are the place. With the launch of the Asean Economic Community just around the corner, surely they cannot believe their luck. A joke is already doing the rounds about Thailand’s hoped-for role in the economic bloc: “How will the Thais lead regional integration when they don’t even know who should lead them?”
Some Thais say they can’t wait to vote. Be in their shoes and you would find out that you would not actually be voting for your own benefit, but for something that makes you think you are voting for your benefit. The same goes for those boycotting the election. Be in their shoes and you would be full of the kind of ambivalence that haunts that woman in the “Phantom of the Opera”.
The election commissioners are being threatened with imprisonment, and so are many other people. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, apparently. Political Facebookers look cool, but if you hate “unfriending” or being “unfriended”, you don’t want to be them. Remember this: “Likes” never mean you are “right”; they only mean you are lucky that Facebook doesn’t have a “dislike” button.
The same goes for bloggers. In fact, the same goes for every “We know better” individual, whose shoes you might not want to be in. Compliments come cheap in the Thai political divide, so for every “thumbs up”, who knows how many “thumbs down” are out there?
It can be fun to be in trolls’ shoes. But then again, if you weren’t paid you could get bored quickly. This is not taking anything away from resolute lone warriors out there, though. You would have a sense of purpose being them. That’s one of the few good things about the Thai crisis. It has preoccupied many souls.
With January 13, the Bangkok shutdown day, approaching, you might want to own a 7-Eleven store. Stuff should fly off the shelves this weekend. You would get a good business head-start for 2014. It’s funny, isn’t it? 7-Eleven, emptied during the 2011 flood disaster and the political violence a year earlier, is set to be raided again. And all because humans, no matter how ideologically different they think they are, have to eat.