Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mai Pen Rai Gone Wrong

Thousands of people have died in the south of Thailand over the past four years. Every day someone dies from a gunshot or an explosion in that corner of the country. Mai Pen Rai. The tourists still come.

The day before the Buddhist holiday of Khao Phansa, a bomb exploded in downtown Bangkok. Four days later, a grenade went off in Soi Rongnam. Mai Pen Rai. It's all destiny. The tourists will still come.

Don't think too much. Mai Pen Rai. Stay home. Pretend everything is all right. Have a Grand Sale. Be sure to remember this is Amazing Thailand.

I am amazed and sad and looking for a new home.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monsoon Seasoning

I'm becoming used to the thud of rain on the tin overhang inches from my bed, and my balcony has become a vivid green profusion of well-watered plants. From the upstairs veranda, it's plain to see that the low, grey canopy of clouds is going nowhere and I stand still for a few minutes, feeling the unfamiliar sensation of coolness on my bare arms.

For me August has always felt like the end of the year, with September launching a new one, and the coming months promise enough change that more than ever this seems true. I suppose if I were more comfortable with change, I wouldn't counter it with motion but once again I'm moving.

And I really don't know where. I promised my family that if violence persisted as an undercurrent in this city, that I would find another place to live. At the beginning of this week, a bomb exploded at a bus stop as people headed home after work. One man died, another had shrapnel picked out of his skull, a boy passing by "suffered injuries to his right leg," and seven other people were hurt. The explosive was an M69 grenade with an explosive radius of 15 meters; that is over 49 feet. Its timing and location (in the area where protests occurred this spring) clearly reveals a trend toward terrorism falling into place in a city where public safety has been a keynote for decades, if not forever.

I've made grim jokes since I arrived here almost two years ago about the perfunctory security checks at subway entrances, where the guards are embarrassed when they peek into bags. They direct flashlights into opened purses and glance furtively and fleetingly, as though they've just caught sight of a naked body.

The government has just identified the subway system as a likely spot for another bombing.

People I love are coming to visit me in the next few months. I can be blithe about my own safety but not about theirs. Is Thonburi far enough from random violence? Should I investigate Penang as a future home when I go there next week? Or is Kratie calling to me for a good reason?