ANALYSIS : After the birthday bash, what’s next?


It was a day when superstition, high technology and artistic creation blended almost perfectly together. And arguably only Thaksin Shinawatra can make that happen.

Rituals – from basic to extraordinary – were conducted at various temples all over Thailand, barring the Democrat-dominated southern region, to mark his 60th birthday. Red-shirted members gave alms to monks in the morning and then had their faith in Buddhism strongly tested by taking part in ceremonies that could have made Lord Buddha shake his head.

The came the “twitter” exchanges between Thaksin and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and the much-anticipated “big surprise”. There was no hologram nor concrete reconciliation announcement, and analysts could only watch wide-eyed when a video of Thaksin singing a specially-composed song, “I’ll be back”, was played and described as the “big surprise” everyone had been talking about.

In all, Thaksin’s “sae yid” events were meant for superstitious results as much as political ones. Holy knives were used to “cut” his karma (sins). Clods of earth were gathered from eight directions and blessed in order to reinforce his stars. His photo was attached to a coffin in a “sadoh kroh” ceremony to dispel his misfortunes. Overturned monks’ bowls were put right side up to signify that the boycott he had endured would come to an end. One of his portraits was bound with thorny wintergreen branches, which were later cut off. Wintergreen’s name in Thai is rakam, which also means suffering.

Politically, Thaksin has shown his opponents that his support in Thailand remains strong. This can also go a long way to repairing the international damage to his reputation from the Songkran events. Thaksin over the past few days has tried to repaint himself as a peaceful man and erase the image of the belligerent one whose rabblerousing helped shove the country to the brink of bloodshed in April.

Whether or not those political aims of his “sae yid” events will be met, the latest Abac poll gave him a narrow edge in popularity against Abhisit for the first time in months. Abhisit, who remains more liked in Bangkok and the South, sent Thaksin an ambiguous tweet saying the former leader would be happier on his birthday if his eyes could see dharma. Thaksin gave a polite twitter thank-you reply that ended with “If you need any help on national affairs, I’m pleased to help”.

As with various Thaksin big shows, yesterday’s events carried various objectives so he must have met some targets. But since a person can have only one birthday a year, the question after the sae yid parties has to be “Now, what’s next?”

By Tulsathit Taptim
The Nation
Published on July 27, 2009


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