Thai election update Pattaya 2006

The Songkran festival shifts from Naklua to Pattaya on April 19. Wan Lai falls on the same day as the second Senate election and election officials in the coastal city recommended voters turn out early to cast their votes.

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When I rose at dawn, the city was sleeping, but when several hours later I rode my motorcycle to the nearest supermarket, I spotted few signs of voting, but plenty of evidence that the electorate was boycotting democracy to celebrate Songkran.

As previously noted bars have been shut and 7/11s are refusing to sell beer in accordance with voting regulations against the sale of alcohol. The Thais on the street were ignoring this edict and the spontaneous appearance of roadside beer stands seems to indicate that the populace was casting not so much a vote of ‘no’ against PM Thaksin’s regime as a realization that having a good time supersedes a power struggle without resolution.

Roadblocks of water-fights were manned by dancing Thais. Everyone was in a good mood. I was splashed and hosed by people of all ages. I asked several adults if they had voted today and got the same smiling expression of disbelief.

An old lady pointed to the streets packed with pick-up trucks. “Mai dai.”

There was no way of getting to the polling station and I thanked her for wetting me.

A taxi driver said that he was from another province and could vote in Pattaya. He gave me a slug of whiskey.

One man holding a pail of water said, “Vote for who? Vote for what? Sawadi phi mai.”

“Happy New Year,” I countered, as he dunked the bucket on my head, and then drove the back ways to cross 3rd Road for the final sprint home. Bedlam is the only way to describe the scene. People were dancing in the street. Bottles of beer and whiskey were being exchanged by rival gangs of water throwers. No one was voting. No one was not drinking beer. Cops were getting wet and traffic laws were ignored.

I arrived home and my wife was watching cartoons with my daughter. When I asked if anyone in her family had voted today, she rolled her eyes. No one. Of course the rest of the country is a big place, but in Pattaya Democracy had been defeated by the people apathy and I quietly celebrate a solid vote for anarchy if only for a day.