That Coup Life
“Oh my God! They just announced a military coup!” my friend Bianca shouted as I sipped champagne in the shower at The Peninsula Hotel, getting ready for a big night out around 5pm on May 22nd. Rumors had been flying around for weeks that the country was on the brink of military takeover, despite incessant denials from the officials. Locals and experienced Thailand expats made it seem so normal that the government would be overthrown and replaced by army men clad in bright green camo. It seemed inevitable that a coup d’etat would be the solution to the six months of political unrest we had witnessed first-hand since we moved to Bangkok in January. After all, it would only be the nation’s 19th coup in the last 82 years!
Even still, I felt shocked when I heard Bianca’s words echo through the bathroom. What did living under a coup really look like? Were we in any danger? Would we still be able to go out that night?!
Up to that point, Thailand’s political situation hadn’t affected us whatsoever. It makes me laugh to think of my friends and family begging us to change our Bangkok-bound flights back in January because they were afraid the political turmoil would make it unsafe.
It was hard to avoid political protest sites – not because they were everywhere, but because I’m far too curious to stay away from things I’m told to avoid. And of course there was art and imagery everywhere displaying the public’s political positions. One day, we even heard a bomb go off in the distance while lounging at our rooftop pool.
But none of that affected our lives as expats. It was all just part of the daily chaos that was extremely easy to avoid for those with better behavior than myself.
And then the curfew came.
I stepped out of the shower, empty champagne glass in hand, and heard the news announce the 10pm curfew. So much for the weekend of Bangkok-style debauchery I had planned for my visiting friend who only had three nights left of her 10-day stay in the city.
It continued on like that for nearly three weeks, gradually getting pushed back later and later as it became more apparent that there was no real threat of violence. We had a whole lotta movie nights.
I don’t mean to make light of a serious situation, I just wanted to make it known that life in Bangkok isn’t as terrible and scary as the Western media has unreliably portrayed it to be. If the biggest problem I’ve had has been having to cut my night of drinking short, I’d say we’re in pretty good shape.
As for the people who are deeply involved and directly affected by this struggle of power, corruption and freedom, I can only hope for peace and justice to prevail in the months to come.
I don’t feel comfortable or educated enough to make any sweeping statements about the future, but I will say that living here is shaping out to be one of the best experiences of my life. Even if I’m forced to go home early.
This piece first appeared in Forth Magazine.