Thais reflect on recent military coup

On the streets of Chiang Mai, residents and expatriates give their opinions on the military's seizure of power.

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    Thais reflect on recent military coup
    Montri, a Buddhist monk, believes Thailand is following Europe's historical footsteps [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    Chiang Mai, Thailand - Since May 22, Thais have been living under a military government which has suspended constitutional rights and legal protections. The new military regime has banned gatherings of more than five people in a bid to diffuse protests, and protections for freedom of speech have been limited. 

    Over 250 academics, politicians and activists have been taken into custody since the coup began.

    Some Thais have welcomed the military's action, as they believe it will help return stability and economic growth to the polarised country. The military's actions last week followed a court ruling which removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office for abuse of power. The court's ruling came after months of street protests by Shinawatra's opponents had gripped the country. 

    Supporters of Shinawatra, who won office in a democratic vote, often hail from Thailand's poor northeast and are known as Red Shirts. Her opponents, including many in the urban middle class, are deemed Yellow Shirts and have generally backed the coup. 

    Al Jazeera talked with several Thais and expatriates to see how they felt about the coup and the country's recent developments.

    Wi, 24, 7-Eleven employee
    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    Due to the curfew, people working at night work less hours, but if someone is working in the mornings, it's ok. I don't know if the curfew will last a long time; I am not sure.

    I am not sure if we will have elections. I just think if we can work, it's ok. If the army protects us, it's ok. In my work, we don't talk about this, we just work, but I check many things on Facebook. I just see, I don't comment, I don't say anything. So many people speak on Facebook about the situation in Thailand.

    It's ok that the army protects the country, but I say nothing about the coup.

    Aom Sin, 18, university student in politics
    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    I don't think the army will fix the problem.

    I worry that I can't hang out [at] night with my friends. When we hang out in the nightclubs, the nightclubs lose money because we have to get out at 10pm.

    I want [the] army to stop this situation. It's bad for business. We don't have people to buy products … we want democracy.

    Montri, 74,  Buddhist monk
    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    As monks say, karma can explain this problem. This situation is the result of all the mistakes that we made in the past. This is applicable not only in Thailand but also all over the world. So we monks, we are just observing what's going on and we accept that we can't change conditions.

    Actually, many people say that people in Europe or other Western countries experienced this one hundred or two hundred years before already. Thailand is just on the way. Maybe we have to come across the same situation in France or something like that. That's what they say.

    Thapanee, 39, business owner
    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    I like the army taking over because in Thailand, it is different from anywhere else, like everywhere in Europe. And then we see many things from the army in the news, like they are helping the rice farmers and giving them the money back and helping the rubber workers and they're not really making any problems. It's different, for example in Chiang Mai, even though we have curfew, here we are comfortable. They say curfew starts at 10pm but they are not really strict with that here in Chiang Mai.

    We hope they can sort it out fast and we can get back to normal again. We have hope, put it that way, we can see the light … it could be wrong or it could be right and we don't know but we have hope.

    I am not a Red [Shirt] or Yellow [Shirt], I am Thai.

    Mark, 46, retiree from the US and resident of Thailand

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    I didn't see [the army] at all [in Bangkok].

    I think a lot of the former supporters, they might have got stuck. Where did their money go? Well they know corruption took it away. Thailand was also one of the main exporters of rice and now it's all sitting in bins going bad. Does that make anyone happy?

    I really hope the West stays out of it. That's probably my biggest fear. They kind of like to get involved in these things to make sure of their interests.

    I hope true democracy is restored.

    Virasak, 37, travel guide

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    Most of our customers book through the website, but now we have less bookings.

    For tourists in Chiang Mai, I think it will be ok as they book normally with us in advance but I don't know for the future. Most tourists here in Chiang Mai come from Asia, but now some of them are scared about the situation in Thailand.

    When [the coup] happened four years ago it was scary, but for now, this time, it's ok in Chiang Mai.

    Right now it's low season, but this year is much worse than other years. Normally in the morning, we see many foreigners coming to restaurants and agencies but now there are no tourists.

    Deia, 29, sex worker and 'ladyboy'

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera]

    Attack the government: Is that ok? I don't know … but I don't like it. It goes on for such a long time. For tourists, it is not good. It's also a big problem for the country, for businesses. It's not good like that

    I'm a little afraid. I don't like soldiers sometimes, but that's ok. For three days now, I [haven't] come out [to work]. I think this situation could go on for one month.

    Business is not going well now in Thailand; with the military, what will happen? I don't know but I'm in the middle. I don't like politics and I have to send money to my family to support them.

    Edward, 23, tourist from US

    Edward (right) [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera] 

    You hear about how here in Thailand you can party till the sun comes up, so you kind of look forward to that. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit bummed about that.

    I would still come to Thailand; it's still an incredible place. You can still learn a lot. Everyone here is incredibly friendly. I'm still learning a lot; I'm still learning the world is a lot bigger place than America.

    In all honesty, I don't feel I know enough to make a statement [about the situation], I don't want to embarrass myself. I've tried to learn about it. I've asked locals; some of them have told me a bit about but it seems they don't want to share, they are almost embarrassed.

    There is definitely a barrier about what they want to share with people that aren't from Thailand.

    I've never felt like I was in harm's way.

    Puy, 26, radio station worker

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera] 

    They [the soldiers] have come here three times [to the radio station]. I don't know when they will come back.

    I don't know the answer to when the radio station will start again.

    They were just ping pong balls [confiscated by the army in one of the raids], not bombs, but the soldiers said they can be made into bombs.

    I have to accept the situation. It depends on the two sides if the situation will end soon.

    Marina, 25, tourist from Switzerland

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera] 

    I felt safe when we were on the islands. They don't care there, there was no curfew there.

    We are leaving for Cambodia, we would do it all again even if [we knew] this happened.

    We were just in Bangkok for a few days. We were just around Khao Sarn so it was no problem and we arrived by bus at night. You could see outside it was a little bit different then around Khao Sarn. If you go outside [Khao Sarn], you could see [the military]. Yesterday, we went home around 12am and everything was still open.

    Seng, 42, pharmacist

    [Omar Havana/Al Jazeera] 

    My opinion is that I'm feeling good with the army because I think now is a good opportunity to get rid of the corruption.

    I'm scared for the Red Shirts … I try and tell my customers, 'It's ok, take it easy, it's ok. Take it easy but don't go out after curfew or something like that.' For me, it's ok.

    I think in the future, soon, in one or two months, if we have a good man, a good team, we can reset again. I hope so. There are some things I don't like from the army but I think it's ok for Thailand, but not for the world.

    I reference [information] on Facebook because I don't trust the TV stations. I also get information from my friends.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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