Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thai politics for dummies

Even the most complicated things (like Thai politics) can reach a "saturation" point of complexity, when all about them can be explained in the simplest ways. The following "Thai politics for idiots" has been requested by some foreigners and inspired by a great blog about the upcoming vote for Scottish independence. This is for all the nine-year-olds out there.

Imagine a compact family consisting of a husband, wife and teenaged son. The man is a cheater, a frequent and very shrewd one. And although his record on child support is almost unblemished, the wife has had enough. Of course, the husband is the Pheu Thai Party, the wife its opponents and the boy the red shirts.

The man has been caught cheating time and again, but he's got the teenage child's full backing. Every man cheats, so what's the problem? the boy often argues. Daddy takes good care of him, and that's what matters. He takes the youngster to the hospital. He buys him an iPad. He's even planning to get the boy a fast car a few years from now.

"He's spending my money," the mother hisses at her son. "And you know why he has to pamper you? He wants to use you as a shield, because he knows I'm going to kill him."

She's right in a way. The man has been playing the sympathy card, and quite effectively so. Neighbours love him and view her with suspicion. He rarely spends money out of his own pocket on family matters. His own money, which she firmly believes has been siphoned off from her contributions, is allegedly used on luxurious personal trips and princely candlelit dinners with lovers.

The couple are engaged in an inheritance battle. She wants to wrest control of household finances from him, but he insists that, with the boy on his side, it's two against one. She has therefore been rebellious, and the fierce legal disputes have held back the family on all fronts. He can't freely spend, and she won't cook. The boy, meanwhile, has threatened to go on the rampage in support of his father.

Last week, the court said another inheritance hearing was needed. The husband had thought it was over, with him victorious. He was incensed by the court ruling, but the boy's reaction was more worrisome, because he started throwing things around. He's old enough to think of drastic measures, but maybe too young to exercise restraint.

The husband has been telling the neighbours that his wife often carries a kitchen knife around the house and so there is not much he can do. Once in a while he will show up next door with bruises. He was apologetic one time when a fire alarm went off and smoke billowed from the house, saying that because of his abusive wife, the boy was under a lot of stress.

The neighbours know the man is not entirely faithful to his wife. But to comprehend the real scale of cheating is difficult. It's a case of he-said-she-said, and what she says is often met with doubts and contempt. She's never friendly, to begin with, and more than once has yelled at the neighbours, asking them to "Mind your own business!"

She never cries in public, whereas he has blubbed a few times. The tears go well with stories of him having to sleep on the sofa or stay nights at friends' homes. "Without me the boy has no hope," the husband always says. "He hates the mother."

The kid is growing every day, and wanting more and more of a say on household issues. He's been bringing money into the family as well, which is another reason why he's defying the mother. Like his father, the teenager is well-loved by the neighbours, despite a reputation for rowdiness and occasional violence. "With a mother like that…" one neighbour comments.

The inheritance matter is threatening to tear the already strife-torn family even further apart. He's a big cheat and must not be allowed anywhere near the family's coffer ever again, she says. That will be at the expense of the child, who is the family's future, he shoots back. Oh yes, hiding behind the boy again, she shouts. That's nice coming from someone holding a kitchen knife, he scoffs.

And on and on this will go. He never says sorry for cheating, and she never says sorry for beating him up. The new inheritance hearing may or may not happen. It may hand financial power to her or return it to him. Nothing will likely matter. The neighbours will keep on gossiping about her or boycotting her. Not that she will care. The boy, in good faith or with blind faith, will keep fighting for the father. Nobody knows how this will end.

Writer's note (2): You wonder why they don't just get a divorce. After all, if both sides think they are absolutely right, it's time to go separate ways, right? Well, let's just say he still needs the money and she, deep down, still needs the boy to "complete" her. As for the teenager, maybe this turmoil is an essential part of growing up. What's that again? Does the couple need to grow up, too? You tell me.


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