February the First, marked another violent episode in Bangkok, though this time in Lak Si district where two opposing forces exchanged gunfire. I made my way to Central World, where the so-called People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) 2,000-followers, ultra royalists and Suthep’s devotees had gathered facing an empty stage. The evening here wasn’t the usual bustling of Bangkok’s fashionable heart, where normally tourists, Thai bourgeois, and wannabes gathered. This place, has been somewhat occupied by the faithful of “reform” ~ which basically meant the need to forcibly stop the masses from exercising their right to vote, and if successful, to install puppets from an unelected council, all such fuckery of Suthep, his sponsors and those bent on hate for the uneducated poor, or simply the gutters of a caste system of the 1%.
Wasn’t one of those nights where I was keen to explore a rally site, especially when PDRC guards holding flashlights barricaded themselves on the main roads, checking at bags and barking at those who wanted to venture forth into the site. Alas, that even the PDRC women, carrying handbags and with their Saturday Night hairdo, did not escape the loud commands of the brutish guards. My sling bag was not subjected to a quick search, particularly when my Thai friend had some ‘southern connections’ in the crowd. Malik, wasn’t an admirer of PDRC nor was he fond of leaders like Abhisit Vejjajiva and the opposition’s arch rival, Thaksin Shinawatra. He was there for the Thai Muslims in the crowd, his kin, those from the southern, often forgotten provinces: Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat.
“Don’t worry, they won’t bother you this time.” Malik said, who was carrying a plastic bag filled with Styrofoam containers and white plastic utensils. “Jom, jom (come, come), the cousin is waiting for us.”
I don’t understand Thai, with the exception of a handful of words, though easily, I am familiar with most dialects of ThaiSouth’s Jawi, or simply known as “Bahasa Melayu” in Malaysia. Malik, a Thai Muslim man, motions me to move faster, feigning annoyance at my attempt to toy with my cellphone for the latest tweets. “Jom lah!” he barked, followed with a dramatic sigh. What an amusing fellow.
The first street vendor gave me a suspicious look, oh aye and I am supposed to feel intimidated by his tired eyes and unkempt goatee. He stands behind his mobile cart, which is loaded with fried chicken and cold light-brownish “Muslim” rice.
“Assalamu alaykum” (Peace be upon you) I hailed, offering my hand as I uttered the traditional Islamic greeting.
The man smiled, “Wa alaykumus salaam wa rahmatul lahi wa barakatuh” (May peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you) and shook my hand, though paused briefly to look at my right arm, the one with the tattoo.
Malik jerks his chin at me, and explained to his cousin that I was from Malaysia. As if we Malaysians could get away with anything. Wasting no time, Malik offers the man the plastic bags while helping himself to a paper plate of rice and meat. I wandered about, avoiding the tents and those sleeping on the streets.
By the look of things, more PDRC southerners were sleeping on the streets under the night sky, while their Bangkok bourgeois counterparts, or so-called “peers” slept in comfortable houses, apartments and mansions. Such difference, more fuckery of hypocrisy ~ I take no joy to see the southerners or the poor used like battering rams for the ambition of “lord” Suthep and his elite sponsors.
Barely 17 feet away from Malik, there was another man, who prepared southern-style sweetened teh tarik, or its literal translation as “pulled tea” ~ the 27-year-old man from Narathiwat, mixed the liquid from two tin cups, pouring back and forth repeatedly. He does it skillfully for a gawking tourist who was busy recording the act on his camera. In less than a minute, the vendor pour the tea into a paper cup, ending it with a thick frothy top.
I lifted my hand, greeting the young man with the Salaam. He gave me a surprised look, though relaxed when I conversed with him in Jawi, the standard “I-am-from-Malaysia” ice breaker.
“So hows business? Thai tea in demand?” I asked, offering him a kretek and lighting it after he eagerly placed it in between his lips. “A lot of customers ya.”
He gave me a hearty laugh. “My customers are mainly Muslims or tourists. But you are wrong, I don’t make Thai tea. I use tea from Malaysia.”
“Why from Malaysia?” I inquired, accepting a tall cup of iced tea.
“Because it taste better.” The tea vendor replied, giving me the thumbs-up. “Best”
I asked him about the PDRC’s not-so-shutdown of Bangkok and the general election. He said, in between puffs of kretek smoke, that those from the three ThaiSouth provinces are in Bangkok for the business. Hard times revisited in the south, and Suthep gave them some opportunities to make extra cash. The ThaiSouth folks are in Bangkok, for economical gains, he claimed, and definitely not for the spirit of nationalistic pride. I asked him, do the Democrat Party wield influence in his province. He laughed, an expression of scorn on his tanned face.
“No one controls us in the south,” the man said. “The Siam (Thai Buddhist) people think they control us because we let them think that way.”
Hours later, away from the dirty roads and back on the cramp balcony, I thought of what he said. In truth, Suthep and his band of bourgeois are pawns for the elites, and even Abhisit is seen as a dopey high-society pawn compared to the the whole lot. Most urban social-groups in Bangkok, them in their posh homes, with their ostentatious clothing and jewelries, are clueless when they brought the ThaiSouth folks into their city.
And every time the urbanites, them masters of drama, utter speeches of hate against Yingluck Shinawatra and her self-exiled billionaire brother, this so-called “reform” that has bastardized democracy, this further fuels the brewing cauldron of suppressed resentment, oh or that festering rage, amongst the poor southerners. Naive and witless, Bangkok, this metropolitan capitalistic city, is about to plunge in the cesspool of its own arrogance.