I don't like public speaking, in fact I get quite nervous when doing so, but I still volunteer whenever my school needs sometime to address parents or other public figures. I figure it's good practice for when I return home and enter politics.
Still, when my school told me yesterday that I was to literally take the stage alone and address all parents about the Songkran festival I was distinctly concerned, despite the hidden compliment. Firstly, although my vertigo has greatly subsided, it was not totally cleared up and a little stage fright could make it worse. More importantly though, the English in my statement had several faults and I was forbidden to correct it. This may seem strange to those who have never worked in Thailand but the rest will be neither surprised or lost for a guess as to how this could happen. Finally, I am always anxious about teaching Thai adults about their own customs.
I needn't have worried. Last night PM Aphisit declared today (Friday) a holiday to clear out the red shirt protests in Bangkok. The teachers in my school arrived for work anyway, but the students were not daft enough to pass up the chance for an extra holiday and those with a choice did not arrive. School - and my speech - were cancelled.
But this could be the beginning of something big. Thaksin's comments last night seem to have passed over as another rant. In fact, I found them to be the most blunt and revealing so far. Thaksin has already broken a key taboo by attacking a privy councillor but yesterday's remarks seemed even more surprising.
It's a truly compelling deadlock. The reds lack the support of elite institutions that so transparently aided the yellow shirts during their rampage that climaxed with the takeover of Bangkok airport, but the sheer number of red shirt protesters has clearly shaken the government. Whilst it remains unspoken, the reds have been notably lacking in certain accouterments that are usually obligatory in any gathering of Thais. There seems to have been a real change in the political thinking of some northern Thais and it's just possible that another military crackdown may not be able to quash the problem this time. Once freedom has been found, it can never be forgotten.