Welcome to the captivating tale of Thailand’s intriguing political scene, where former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, an icon that draws as many fervent supporters as he does impassioned detractors, has yet again captured national attention. With the casual ease of a seasoned pop star, Thaksin greeted his fans with a wave as he arrived at Don Mueang airport on a balmy August afternoon, the 22nd, 2023, to be precise. His entourage? A slew of photographers with flashes ablaze, capturing this moment for posterity (Photo by the diligent Pattarapong Chatpattarasill).
In the heart of Bangkok, nestled within the whitewashed walls of the Police General Hospital, Thaksin finds himself a patient, but not in any ordinary sense. You see, Thaksin is not just battling the ailments of the body; his prolonged ward stay has inadvertently become a litmus test for the steadiness of the nation’s helm.
Enter the scholarly ensemble at the National Institute of Development Administration, better known as Nida Poll. This brain trust of civic curiosity took to the phones from January 15th to the 17th, dialing 1,310 individuals across the societal spectrum, from spry 18-year-olds to venerable pensioners, from the humbly educated to the academic elites, engaging laborers, corporate honchos, and everyone in between. Their mission? To gauge public sentiment regarding Thaksin’s extended medical sojourn and its implications for governmental equilibrium.
When prodded about the possibility that this curious case of hospital hospitality might destabilize the government, the good people of Thailand delivered a response as spicy and varied as their cuisine. A hefty 39.62% shrugged off the idea with equal parts disinterest and nonchalance. In their eyes, the government’s keel is as unshaken as a seasoned sailor in mild surf.
But then there are the 15.42%, who with knitted brows and a grim tone, prophesize dire consequences. These Cassandras anticipate ripples reaching far into the political pond, potentially causing a tempest of trouble for the powers that be.
A balanced 21.98% foresaw moderate-sized waves rocking the governmental boat, issuing a cautious advisory to the captain to steer wisely. Meanwhile, 18.70%, sporting their life-jackets, predicted only gentle swells – bothersome, yes, but unlikely to capsize the ship of state.
Others, equating to 4.28%, chose to stand on the shore, gaze at the horizon, and stay blissfully silent on the matter.
The plot, however, thickens when discussion pivots to street protests. Could Thaksin’s prolonged hospital hiatus return the Land of Smiles to scenes reminiscent of the turbulent yellow-shirt and red-shirt demonstrations, or the frenzy of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee rallies?
The population is starkly divided: 41.60% confidently assert that storm clouds aren’t hovering – there shall be no clashing thunder on this political front. Equally hopeful yet slightly apprehensive, 41.30%—imagine them with a half-smile, half-frown—concede that squabbling could emerge, yet sans the past’s vitriol and violence.
Meanwhile, 11.15%, donning their clairvoyant hats, envisage a brewing storm potentially escalating into a full-blown crisis, ushering in echoes of political battles thought to be laid to rest.
And finally, 5.95%—perhaps the most enigmatic of all, whether out of indifference or an intriguing lack of foresight—chose to leave an empty space where an opinion might have been etched.
So there we have it, a nation teetering not on the edge of chaos, but rather, balancing on the diverse opinions of its populace. Whether Thaksin’s hospital stay is simply a cameo in the ongoing dramedy of Thai politics or a pivotal scene setting the stage for the next act, only time will tell. Until then, keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you — political theatre, after all, often serves the most unpredictable plot twists.