The Ambler

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Ray King: politics in Thailand

Ray KingLike so many  places throughout the world politics in Thailand are convoluted, complex and not always what they might seem.

Despite any impressions you might have seen on the news, let me assure you that neither Bangkok nor Thailand is in chaos. There are no out of control mobs raging around the city or the countryside. There is no blood running down the streets and there is no destruction of buildings or houses. There is no rioting and medical establishments and media facilities are all working as normal. One thing that I will point out is that Bangkok traffic is as horrific as ever.

I have no wish to write about the political arguments that have led to the current protests but I thought that I would share some recent observations. As I looked down from the 22nd floor balcony of my son Gary’s apartment last week I witnessed what I thought was a carnival.  It was, in fact, thousands of anti-government protesters marching along the boulevard with their brightly coloured Thai flags waving in the breeze, music blaring, whistles blowing and their leader spouting his vitriol towards the current government. It was all very entertaining, and from my vantage point, very good humoured. How long these protests will last seems to be anybody’s guess.

Just before Christmas Gary and I were invited to his business partner’s palatial residence in order to celebrate her birthday. She had told Gary that it was just going to be a few close friends, nothing too elaborate. It turned out to be an extravaganza of least 50 close friends. Soon after we arrived Princess Soamsawali, a close friend of Gary’s partner and the niece of the King and Queen of Thailand, arrived with her entourage of bodyguards, servants and close associates.

Gary and I have been to some fairly grand functions over the years but nothing quite like this. The word “surreal” comes to mind. The vintage champagne flowed throughout the evening and into the early hours – 70 bottles were consumed.

Five of Thailand’s opera stars were on hand to sing some well known arias with complete orchestral accompaniment. Then dinner was served by uniformed waiters. After dessert a jazz band  entertained us for the remainder of the evening.

Gary was asked to sing and he chose his favourites: “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Misty” and “My Funny Valentine”. For an encore he chose “What a Wonderful World”. I had not heard him sing for quite some time and I was astonished at his intonation and interpretation. During his performance the princess presented him with a red rose. Gary’s singing career has always been a sideline and now with his business in full swing he seems to have time for little else.

His new business venture has been very therapeutic for me as I have a keen interest in its development. I’ve been going through a difficult time with chronic back, leg and foot pains and now my eyesight seems to be giving out – what next? But, as the old saying goes, “Life must go on!”

Ray King
Bangkok

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