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Bangkok Under Siege!

Order will not be restored in Thailand until military takes control of airport loud-squeakers.

By Dave Fox
Bangkok

In times of civil unrest, airports are often the first places that descend into chaos. I’ve traveled in a lot of countries, been in a few sketchy situations, but landing in a place whose military has just imposed martial law was a new one.

Bangkok Airport: Yesterday's tomorrow ... today!

Bangkok Airport: Yesterday’s tomorrow … today!

So as I changed planes last night at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on my way from Singapore to Germany, I was thinking, “Woohoo! My first coup d’état! Check that one off the ‘Been There, Done That’ list!”

“Dave!” you are probably wondering. “What’s life like in a city under siege?”

It was anti-climactic, actually. I saw more soldiers fondling machine guns at the airport in Singapore than I saw in Bangkok.

That’s not to suggest all was calm on the outskirts of the Thai capital. No! The scene at Suvarnabhumi Airport was one of total chaos.

Travel bloggers, for example, were restricted from writing about the strife, due to the fact that if they took the time to figure out how to spell out how to spell Suvarnabhumi, their onward flights would have left without them.

Kattina and I disembarked from our 787 into a dimly lit tube of a building that resembled what people predicted the futuristic year of 2014 would look like in 1983. Signs directed us to flights departing for places like Chiang Mai and Hat Yai, which would have been extremely helpful if we were going to those places. Our flight to Frankfurt was not so clearly marked.

We had to go through a long tube on one of those “travellator” human conveyor belts. (Fortunately, the martial law curfew had not affected the travellators.) During our ride, we had a spirited discussion as to whether or not we were going the right direction.

Also, Kattina informed me, she has been paying close attention to the Thai Airways safety announcements, and she is pretty sure “Kattina” is the Thai word for “seatbelt.”

We finally reached the waiting area for our flight, where video monitors were showing Thai television dramas, along with a news ticker at the bottom, which kept repeating the message in both English and Thai, “As of the 22nd May 2014, Suvarnabhumi  Airport is  an area under the Act of ‘Martial Law B.E. 2457’ (1914)”

Sure, they're under martial law and a curfew, but they still have tasty coconuts!

Sure, they’re under martial law and a curfew, but they still have tasty coconuts!

We watched this message scroll by a few times, and then, determining the national curfew does not apply to airport shopping, went to acquire coconuts.

When traveling in Thailand, fresh coconuts are a favorite non-alcoholic beverage for me and Kattina. (Well, and sometimes, if we’re on a beach, we splash some rum in them.) As we slurped our beverages, ready to hop our flight to Europe, Kattina noted they would be our last coconuts for a while. “Unless a stray one washes up on the shores of Svalbard or something.”

Coconuts don’t usually wash up on the shores of the world’s northernmost inhabited islands, where we hope to go shiver violently next month. Usually the polar bears munch them down before they reach land.

So anyway, there we were, relaxing with our coconuts, thinking, “Life under the current military junta doesn’t seem so bad.” But then, out of nowhere, just feet from our table, a horrific noise shattered the calm.

It was a four-year-old-girl in squeaker shoes.

I don’t know who invented those shoes that squeak when kids walk in them, but I would like to find that person, and a pair of squeaker shoes that fits me, and kick the shoes’ inventor for several hours – squeak, squeak, squeak – “You think this is a clever idea now, Squeaker?! – squeak, squeak squeak.

I mean, seriously, at eleven at night, at Suvarnabhumi  Airport, in a city under a military curfew, why are children still allowed to roam freely in squeaker shoes?

Personal message to the head of the Thai military: You say taking control of the government is a peaceful act to restore order to Thailand? Then do something useful with all of those tanks your people have been cruising around in. Confiscate all squeaker shoes, and run them over, back and forth, multiple times, until they squeak no more. That is what a benevolent leader would do if he truly wanted to restore peace and stability.

So I am skeptical about whether or not the imposition of martial law really will restore order to the Thai people. That change will have to come from within. There are two factions battling each other – the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts. I support whichever faction will make it its top priority to rid Thailand of squeaker shoes. They get bonus points if they then peacefully invade other countries in Southeast Asia with the same objective.

What I can report with absolute certainty is that (1) most of the people at Suvarnabhumi Airport were smiling and calm, in spite of the menacing statements flitting across their TV screens, and (2) despite their claims, the Thai Army is absolutely not in control of the airport at the moment. Young children in obnoxious footwear have taken over. It is not safe to travel there now.

Published on Monday, June 9, 2014

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