Julia Knight

A time of uncertainty

How the coup has affected my life in Bangkok

It's nearly two years since we moved to Bangkok. I don't think we would have made the move if the events of the last week or so had happened in the run up to us leaving London.

I have been watching the news about the coup from different angles, reading twitter feeds and the various takes on the reasons behind it. I make no claim to understand the policies or politics which led to the army coup but what I do wonder is the effect it will have on the reputation of Thailand as a hub for SE Asia. Some have said it will have little effect, tourism will pick up and Thailand will go back to its rightful claim as the destination of choice for holiday makers. Except it isn't just the tourism industry that will be damaged.

Family concerns

The military are on the television, they are set out before the public in their regalia, more reminiscent of a North Korean regime than a democratised middle income country. My mum called me, alarmed to check that my small family are ok. And I could understand why she was fearful. I tuned into the BBC news via Expat TV and watched the coverage (the local cable channels cut off BBC and CNN).

The images of empty Bangkok streets, armoured vehicles and personal on the roads was frightening. I tried to explain that my village was as sleepy and as safe as ever and that my biggest worry was how to water the garden with a fractured foot. She told me not to make light of the situation and to think seriously about coming home.

Twitter provided rumours about the suspension of internet and a crack down on social media. It reminded me of the 2011 riots in London, it stirred up paranoia and stoked the fires of fear. But I am a little more aged toward Twitter and when pictures from the 2010 protests surfaced I knew to research rather than retweet.

Media attention

Sky news, the BBC, ABC Australia and NHK World from Japan all took slightly different takes on the view, with the BBC being far more dramatic than the others. I watched a measured response from the Ambassador, Mark Kent which contrasted with the advice being given by the US consulate. For tourists and holiday makers, the decision to come or not to come must be terribly confusing. Japanese news network, NHK World centred on the economic impact of the coup and how businesses such as Toyota and Honda would respond especially as they were still feeling the effects of the Flooding.

UK teachers who are considering resigning have got until 31st May to hand their notice in and for some, the May half term deadline has already passed. Insurance companies won't pay out for travel or medical expenses during a coup. So what do you do if you are about to relocate to Thailand for a teaching job?

Second thoughts

We probably wouldn't have come. We would have thought twice before we got on the plane to the unknown especially with an 18 month old baby in tow. Even though I know the pictures being broadcast are highly dramatised, I don't think I would have taken that risk because there is an underlying uneasiness of 'what if?'. This is the ripple effect of the coup and those ripples are evermore increasing as Thailand has more to lose now than ever before.

So it won't just be tourism that is affected by the Thai Coup, it will be schools, businesses and the world's confidence. Thailand receives a significant amount of aid from the IMF and other global contributors, they will not accept the excuse that 'this is Thailand' for much longer. Thailand needs to realise that with every political protest and civilian unrest, it allows its neighbours to take the lead in economic matters which will greatly impact on its future.

About me


I'm with my wife and four year old son in August. Coups and the military are part of the political process in Thailand, like it or not! The army are stabilising the country at the moment and most Thais see it as a good thing. Remember that, He who should not be named, has endorsed the coup. We lived in Bangkok from 2004 to 2011 and I've never felt safer anywhere else. We currently live near Margate and the streets are very dangerous here, after dark. Perhaps the military could impose some peace here too!!!

By Paul, UK (4th June 2014)

Yes time will tell with all this but maybe the coup will cause so many English teachers either to leave Thailand or not come they will actually have to increase the salaries here instead of keeping them at the level they were at 10 years ago but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

By Thomas Husted, Thaialand (29th May 2014)

If I was now in the UK contemplating coming to live in Thailand (as I was this time last year) then I wouldn't come - as the military coup would have put me off. As I am here, however, it really does seem nothing to worry about. I was greatly concerned that there was going to be violence at the time of the election but there really wasn't that much and this coup does appear less tense in comparison (which sounds a crazy thing to write - but I believe it to be correct). Dare I even say that it could be for the best.

By Robert Davies, Bangkok (28th May 2014)

This will be my last contribution to this discussion.

Although Thomas has a few valid points, I beg to differ that a coup will make everything alright. Just look at how it backfired in 2006. That coup actually brought the Red shirts into being and got us into the current mess.

And let's just wait and see how it plays out now that the army have taken the very controversial step of totally controlling the Internet and blocking Facebook. Should everyone just take that lying down? They have really shot themselves in the foot now if you ask me. Thai people are easygoing, but take away their soap operas and Internet connection and they get really cross. This sort of censorship is worthy of North Korea.

By John Brown, Bangkok (28th May 2014)

First of all the US and other democratic western countries have been directly and indirectly involved in many coups over the years. Especially American back coups in Latin America with the over throwing of a number of democratically elected leaders and replacing them with dictators that did the bidding for the West. So any out cry by the West and especially by America over a non violent coup is very hypocritical. I am not saying coups are all good but in some cases you cannot necessarily say it is all bad either as nothing in life is just black and white. Just like democracy is not all good or all bad either, it is both. And as far as the IMF is concerned I am not going to go into all the damage the IMF has done to many countries around the world over the years, you can research that yourself and become more informed. I actually believe this coup is going to help Thailand to get their house in order as the two political parties were acting like little children who were fighting and it was going nowhere so an "adult" had to step in to stop the fighting which was tearing the economy and country apart so a coup was the lesser of you could say of two evils.

By Thomas Husted, Thailand (28th May 2014)

Thanks John, I remember being scared witless as London rioted. The sky from our flat aglow from the fires that had been ignited. I vividly remember two things; 1) asking my hubby why the gov doesn't send in the army and his respone was that the UK couldn't afford to have the army on the streets, and 2) if this was the feeling of anarchy and war then my heart went out to all those suffering in Syria, Libya etc.

People shouldn't feel that this is normal wherever they are in the world.

By Julia, BKKK (27th May 2014)

I'm with Julia on this one. All the foreigners here claiming it is just the way of life in Thailand and we have to accept that would probably be up in arms if something remotely similar happened in their country of origin.

Ever thought about the US military ousting the Obama administration? Tanks on every junction in Canada? Strict curfew in London? Internet blocked in Australia? I am sure this would be met with the harshest condemnation.

A coup can never be good for a country, just as corruption can never benefit the people as a whole.

By John Brown, Bangkok (27th May 2014)

I don't dismiss there have been many coups, the point is every one is damaging and they should not been seen as part of the system. People will get fed up, the IMF will get fed up, the businesses will get fed up with this 7 year cycle. At some point, it needs to end otherwise the country won't enjoy the level of success it currently does. I already know of three teachers who are leaving as soon as their contract ends because they have had enough.

By Julia, BKKK (27th May 2014)

Actually this is nothing new for Thailand they average a successful coup, not counting the unsuccessful ones, every 7 years or so. Living in Thailand this is going to be expected to happen sooner or later as it is how the political systems here works for better or worse. Like most things in Thailand you cannot compare it to our Western standards or way of doing things as it's true this is Thailand take it or leave it. Also so far no one has been killed or injured due to this coup as there have been other coups in the past where many people were killed or injured. So this coup so far at least is a mild one even though some of the western media is blowing it out of proportion as drama sells and increase ratings.

By Thomas, Thailand (27th May 2014)

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