People in Hong Kong knew in their gut that this day would come, the day when there would be an inevitable showdown with China over the former British colony’s autonomy and desire for full democracy in all its governing institutions.
Looking hardly a day over 60 million, Godzilla turned sixty this year; brought back to life as Hollywood resuscitated the slumbering giant monster and turned what had been and still is a Japanese icon into an American smash hit of global proportions.
I received the news in a telephone call from Japan, which is two hours ahead of Thailand: “There’s been a coup!” my wife exclaimed after answering the phone. “Where”? I asked stupidly. “Here in Thailand.” We turned on the television to get more news, but every channel was just showing file footage of the King.
The first impression one encounters in Ho Chi Minh City is the swarms of motorbikes. I’d seen pictures of this, but nothing quite prepares you for the spectacle of thousands of the little scooters flowing along the streets and even sidewalks like an endless river. By some estimates there are five million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh, a city of about eight million, which works out to one for practically every able-bodied adult in the city.
Bangkok in 2014 is looking more and more like Madrid in 1936 every day. That was the year that the bloody Spanish Civil War began, which lasted until 1939 and killed hundreds of thousands. Could such a bloody event engulf the Land of Smiles?
Thailand has had a pretty good year since the demonstrations of April-May 2010 that culminated in a bloody crackdown in which at least 91 people died. The country is largely peaceful, the economy is thriving, unemployment is low, and the currency is strong. All these things are usually good omens for ruling party success at the ballot box, but the national election, which will be held on Sunday is more likely to muddy than clarify the long-running political drama that has divided the country for more than a decade.