From Siam with Love

Haze, that dreaded smog stifling the mega-city Bangkok as it was at Malaysia's poorly maintained LCCT airport. The plane landed safely, though the flight was dotted with turbulence, and a two-hour lethargy. Travelling the usual route back and forth, since 2011, brought about older memories of overseas relief work and adventures.

The driver from the airport took me to a wrong turn, and with apologies he managed to steer the vehicle to Sungai Pelek, my intended destination. An old town where you can easily find rural plantation workers, farmers, fishermen and an assortment of characters from the city or from distant states. Nothing impressive about Sungai Pelek though I usually found similarities of the small town square and wet market as those in the southern provinces of Thailand, the towns of western Indonesia and Cambodia. It's the same, and I constantly welcomed the familiar sights of rural southeast Asia.

Even at night, some familiar faces of villagers living in some housing estates near to Sungai Pelek had approached me, some eager for news of my travels while others sought news of Siam (Thailand) ~ Malaysians are somewhat used to Thailand's pre-independance name, Siam, with the usual reference to the Thai's (Siamese) characteristics; oh hell, stereotypes are common in this corner of 'civilization' where tall palm-oil trees in institutionalised plantations outnumber humans and cattle.

"How long will the curfew be?" a 37-year-old local plantation worker asked as he offered me a seat at his comfortable porch. The sea breeze, flowing from the beach halted my walk after leaving the taxi.

"No curfew lah, Harun." I replied, setting my heavy black backpack down on the floor. "Where did you hear about this so-called curfew?"

"You know lah, there's sure to be curfew when a state of emergency is declared, kan?" he said, offering me a kretek (clove-tobacco cigarettes from Indonesia). 

I took the stick of kretek, smiled and settled down for the traditional pleasantries, with hot sweet coffee and sweetened bread. Harun has lived in these parts since 1995, in his family home partly surrounded by local spinach and papaya trees. 

"No curfew, when I left and I don't think curfew will be enforced." I smiled as Harun shook his head. "No lah, they (Thai government) are not keen to lock-down the city, nor will it solve the bad blood of politics if they did."

"Is this (Suthep's Bangkok Shutdown campaign) connected to the Pattani campaign? Is this how the Pattani people resisting the Siamese?" he asked, referring to the ultra Pattani-Melayu nationalists and murderous militants. "I never thought Pattani would have a Buddhist leader like him."

This time it was my turn to shake my head.

"No lah, Suthep and PDRC, are not part of the ThaiSouth nor will the militants recruit Suthep for their cause. You're misinformed." I replied.

"Then why this protest? Don't understand." he gave me a look of disbelief. "Why?" 

I couldn't start telling him from scratch, nor would I want to. My mind's energy was almost depleted, and lethargy was kicking in, a second time. However I did my best to explain the politics of feudalism, and how a minority of urban-based politicians and their 'horde' of southerners are trying to derail the February 2 election; not forgetting the ultra royalist "Yellow Shirts" and funds by a small consortium of wealthy businessmen. 

Harun, who has never been to Bangkok, though has made numerous visits to the Narathiwat province, said, "Them again? Don't they have anything better to do?"

I laughed, though Harun swore much later that I gave him a mocking roar.

"No lah, my friend. They don't have anything else to do. I guess they initially thought by running amok in their city would have immediately unnerved Yingluck (prime minister) and her cabinet." I said, deeply inhaling the kretek. "You can never know what Abhisit, Suthep and the fucked bunch of elites want of their country. Same-same with Malaysia kan?"

"Eh, you brought gifts for me, Zashnain?" he asked suddenly as his eyes glazed on my backpack. Perhaps because Harun is a race-based nationalist associated with the ruling Melayu party, and not eager to duel words with me about Malaysian politics. Similarities. Same-same, as the Thais would say.

I chuckled, shook my head, pressed by palms together in the Thai Buddhist ritual greeting, "Indeed, from Siam, I bring you stories of love and peace."

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