Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Brutal karma at the shrine?

On my daily walk to work yesterday there was something strange going on at the Rajprasong intersection. Usually there are many people milling around at the junction of Rajdamri and Ploenchit roads as one of the most famous shrine's in Bangkok, San Phra Phrom (or the Erawan) is positioned besides the crossing. The area around the scene was even busier today but as i approached i saw that the shrine was closed off with police tape and the actual statue itself was covered with white sheeting. Asking my usual coconut seller what had happened i got the answer that someone had hit the statue.. After further conversation in pidgin Thai I understood that it was someone considered 'crazy' and that they had used a hammer to damage the four headed image of Brahma. Further more during the incident a fight had broken out with the guy involved and he was tragically beaten to death by two street cleaners. Actually the answer i got did not make any of this very clear as obviously everyone was pretty agitated about what had just happened. Later that day more details leaked out and the death was confirmed in the press. I have yet to read the papers today but this picture I took shows the covered statue and the makeshift placement of offerings outside this revered shrine.

I am sure that the majority of people will consider the death to be a vicious Karma and will have little thought of wrong doing on the part of the killers, even if it is true that the man suffered from a mental illness. What it highlights to me is twofold; first that however placid and full of smiles Thai people are, that once pushed too far they can snap with real force and about things that may seem strange to those with little understanding of the local culture. Secondly, that the power of belief can be immensely deep and often causes actions out of odds with everyday behaviour, and the Buddhist religion- if you consider it a religion, contains an extremely diverse range of devotion and adherence.

Hopefully (for my coconut seller for one) the shrine will soon be repaired and open for the tourists and the devotees once again. I will also keep an eye on the trial of the two accused of this death, but I expect that the law will deliver a relatively lenient sentence, perhaps the thinking will be to allow Karma to judge the killers also?

More here from the real journo's..

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Taksin's last stand?..

So today is billed as 'D-day' for Taksin Shinawatra the caretaker PM of Thailand. Another mass demonstration is due tonight at the Sanam Luang parade/event ground close to the Grand Palace and it is widely believed that the mounting pressure will see the Premier stand down before the April 2nd snap elections. Taksin however has repeatedly stated that he will not stand down unless voted out or if his Majesty King Bhumibol tells him to go.

For those of you who have not been aware of recent events the main reason for the backlash against Taksin, who has presided over a fairly impressive economic rebound from 1999 is due to the sale of the Shinawatra family's Shin Corp communications company. The company was founded by Taksin and passed onto his family in the hope to ensure against the accusations that are now being levelled. It is alleged that Taksin manoeuvred the company using his influence and even by passing regulations within the communications industry to remove competition and guarantee contracts. One particular regulation that was passed by the Taksin government was to 'protect national interests' by restricting foreign investors from purchasing a majority stake in certain industries, this just happened to stop a well placed competitor from making use of foreign capital at a critical point and led to huge gains for Shin Corp. Then just last year this regulation was revoked and suspiciously soon after Taksin made a $1.9bil deal to sell Shin Corp to the Singaporean government’s Temesak holding. More recent revelations have brought more light on this merky deal as Taksin's son and daughter have been disclosed as purchasing an 11% stake on the eve of the deal!

Watch this space to see if Taksin manages to hold on or is forced out, it should be an interesting few weeks but I really hope that the protests are handled peacefully by the security forces; It would be terrible if as in 1992 there is violence. However I am not concerned about any wider trouble as regardless of politics the love of the Thai monarchy is so strong that His Majesty himself ensures the stability of the country.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Things you see in the park..

I have written before about the many amazing, strange and wonderful things you can see in Lumpini park. This weekend walking back to have a bowl of noodles on the way home I saw this poor guy who must have dehydrated running around the track..

This was setup for a green tea advert, but what was really funny was the genuine look of concern from the people walking past!

This weekend I went over to Thonburi to spend the evening with some friends at a resteraunt/bar. I do not often go out over the other side of the river but this place was really lively and we had a great evening- the jokes were mostly at my expense (being the only Falang guy there) but what I have always found with Thai people is that their sense of humour and fun are not really pointed at anyone inparticular but rather at whoever will cause the most laughs!