The fall of the Iron Curtain inspires various other countries to embrace democracy. Eastern Europe opened its borders and their populaces flooded the West and the American voters exiled the GOP from the White House. Asian countries were not so lucky with their aspirations for freedom. Their leaders were well-supported by the rich, the military, and the police. Burma remained under a draconian dictatorship. Nepal's monarchy repressed the dissidents with gunfire and I was in Bangkok during the 1992 demonstrations against the return of military rule.
The newly-appointed Prime minister had broken his vow to the King. The resistance of the Thai people was bolstered by the lack of action from from hometown troops. No one thought that the protests would ended in violence.
"Violence not Thai Way," Kenny told me, as we stood at the tail-end of the hundreds of thousands gathered before the Democracy Monument. The sun blazed down on our heads. Kenny and I retreated to the Hotel Royale. Tourist had fled the city in anticipation of serious trouble and I booked a room for a quarter of the normal price. The balcony overlooked the entire avenue and we surveyed the masses with a pair of counterfeit binoculars I had bought in Patpong.
Our beers were cold, but I spotted a shift in troops deployed beyond the distant traffic circle.
"Things are going to get ugly."
"Why you say that?"
"Fresh troops are replacing the city regiments. their replacements. Thousands of frightened murmurs wavered through the crowd. "Suchinda has found loyal soldiers."
"They not shoot Thai people." Kenny had a bar near the Malaysia Hotel. He dealt with the police and soldiers. They laughed playing poker in his backroom. None of them ever mentioned anything about his being gay.
"I'm not so sure about that." I focused the binoculars on the new troops. Something about their sinister smiles spoke murder. "Suchinda and his bosses don't want the people to be free."
"Free?" Kenny dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. "No one free. My mother slave to father. Father slave to big people. And Kenny slave to good time. But Khon Yai not free. Rich people slave to poor people. Everyone know place. Good. Not mob. No one know what come next."
And I was right.
The troops had been transported Bangkok from ban-nok or up-country. Their officers told these raw recruits that the King had ordered them to put down a communist revolution. The gunfire came as a surprise to the demonstrators. They died by the hundreds. The number will never be known.
Kenny and I hide several in our hotel room. The police wanted to take them outside. Kenny gave them all his money. I gave all mine too. The students were left alone.
The next day I traveled by a bus to Chiang Mai. Suchinda was ousted by the King.
A week later everything was back to normal. Kenny was right. The Thais knew their place.
Nearly thirty years later the people are not so obedient.
The yellow-shirts represent the old school of Khon Yai.
Privilege and power.
Cars are 30% more expensive in Thailand.
The money lines the pockets of the rich, but violence is only a weapon for the rich.
The poor fight the Khon Yai in their dreams.
Sadly it is the only way they can win that war, because it's the only place the poor can be free of the rich and powerful this side of ban-nok.