Friday, 5 January 2007

King Taksin's Army

Up in Chiang Mai last week I was slightly concerned when I saw a lady in a yellow t-shirt. Nothing strange there you might think as no Thai wardrobe is complete without a yellow ‘I love the King’ T-shirt. However, upon closer inspection I saw that it was emblazoned with the slogan ‘King Taksin’s Army’. I watched in anticipation as I could not believe that the people around her would turn a blind eye. Yellow t-shirts are worn every Monday (and regularly on other days too) as a sign of respect for this incredibly popular King. I was sure that such a slogan would elicit some kind of response from those around us.

Although the t-shirt could have referred to the 18th Century King who, following an internal political conflict in 1782, allegedly became insane and started to regard himself as the second coming of Buddha, (He was deposed by his ministers, who then executed him in the custom reserved for royalty -- by shackling his hands and feet with gold restraints, sewing him into a velvet sack so that no royal blood touched the ground, then beat him to death with a Sandalwood club), I thought perhaps it could have heralded renewed military support for the deposed prime-minister.

Despite allegations of corruption and a series of demonstrations last April calling for his resignation Taksin still has an amazing amount of support both within in the cities and in rural areas. One friend in Bangkok recently told me that he would vote for Taksin if he returned as he did not feel there was a viable alternative.

I asked our tour-guide in Chiang Mai if he knew anything about King Taksins Army and he just suggested that the woman was a bit crazy and didn’t seem too concerned about the fact that the Kings colour was being used. So amid rumours of a second coup and the threat of further bombs I will be looking out for more evidence of such an ‘army’.

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