Future in Focus
Reading my iPad while caffeinating with an early morning espresso fix last week, I scanned stories about Thailand's elections from leading media outlets around the world.
The canvas was painted with a decidedly doomsday picture.
Damned if we do, damned if we don't, forget breaking even, the weekend elections was a lose-lose situation, the subtext screamed from headlines. A military coup was seemingly unavoidable.
The world was poised to relegate Thailand to the trash bin, slam the lid shut and take a summer holiday. Never mind that the country is Southeast Asia's second-largest economy and one of the most desired tourism brands on the planet.
The gods had called it in and determined the fate of an entire nation was damned before the event had even taken place.
Well surprise, Thailand and Phuket are indeed still alive and well.
Yes, all those images conjured up by foreign correspondents of a country in flames with only the cinders of burning despair left glowing were indeed far off the mark by Monday.
The only flames present on Sunday were at an ill-advised weekend barbeque at home, where after the third bottle of red wine I scorched a large cut of beef so badly that even CSI couldn't work out what it was. As the blackened flesh broke into a small fire, I realized my life as a tongmaster was in question and perhaps not a viable second career option.
Democracy was on show across the land on Election Day. As I drove by voting stations and saw Thais exercising their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, there was a startling sense of peacefulness in the air.
From local shops and restaurants locals watched news updates on TV. They watched and waited in trance-like self-determination.
While you'd expect tensions to run high, perhaps the opposite was true. But it was not a matter of apathy either, as citizens went to the polls en mass.
Soon we will have a new prime minister, and – yes – high drama on the possible return of Thaksin Shinawatra remains just a page turn away in democracy's next chapter. Yingluck does take a great photo though, so at least it will be glamorous controversy.
For the overanxious and often excitable media, all I have to ask is. "Could the West have done it any better?" Go take a Xanax and chill out. Asian democracy has a long way to go, but political miracles such as Indonesia and the Philippines have made the transition over an amazingly short period of time. Yes, Vietnam and China are works in progress, but cast a wider eye to see what a volatile world we live in.
Role models are few and far between. George W Bush is still checking under his bed for weapons of mass destruction before he goes to sleep at night.
Berlusconi… Let's not even go there. And Greece, now there's a place where you could torch a kebab just with the heat coming off the tear gas from street demonstrators. Libya, Yemen, Bahrain… Yeah, how are they coming along?
Last Friday demonstrators hit the streets in Hong Kong over property prices and a widening gap between the rich and poor. It takes a lot to get their citizens out of the shopping malls, much yet the aircon – but skyrocketing food prices and inflation are becoming global problems that are tipping the iceberg.
For Thailand, please give the country a break. It's moving in right direction – the direction its citizens have determined in a democratic process.
Sure things could go awfully wrong in the days ahead. Along with a whole lot of other people, I hope it can continue on a peaceful and prosperous course. The signs are already emerging that the country has an appetite to get back to work, and this can only bode well for the island.
An airport expansion and convention center could well accelerate as the incoming government looks to make brownie points in the economic community and instill confidence back into the direct foreign investment regime.
Our attention spans are short in the days of Tweeting and Facebooking, but I'm only looking to get back to the barbeque next weekend and try not to mimic an Agent Orange attack on an overgrown chicken.
I am, after all, a would-be tongmaster and am happy to call Thailand my home.