Since Thailand’s Democratic Revitalization and Happiness Restoration Under Traditional Thai Principles Program kicked off in May, an increasing number of confused Thais have chosen to extend their stays abroad.
Many were alarmed when their names appeared on the nation’s television screens along with an invitation to attend information sessions initiated by our leader, General Prayuth Chan-ocha.
These informal tête-à-têtes were intended to elucidate some of the finer points of the general’s democratic facilitation initiative, as well as to clear up any misconceptions by those who criticized the events of 22 May and thought they were right. Noodles were readily available as was good cheer.
Alas, overactive imaginations and paranoia bordering on the clinical resulted in many declining the invitation.
The General’s arms, however, remain wide open. “Please come home,” he recently implored. “Living abroad is not comfortable at all, unlike living in Thailand.”
How true. It is not within the capacity of a heart truly imbued with Thainess to forsake his homeland in favor of inclement weather and bland meals that hang in one's gut like ballast.
Of course, paranoia aside, many of these expatriate Thais do have legitimate concerns about their ability to overcome the effects of their stays abroad and reintegrate into mainstream Thai society.
To assist them in this transition, the Royal Thai Government is launching a special employment program. Like all Prayuth-era policies, this initiative is multi-pronged, but all of the prongs plug into the same outlet: happiness. These are some of the program’s initial areas of focus:
Purveyor of History With Thai Characteristics
This position was created in response to the irresponsible utterances of those who vaingloriously dub themselves “historians”. Thais’ ability to take umbrage at slights to our sacred institutions should not be underestimated. Posthumous trials to persecute the first man to have the gall to etch something onto a rock about a monarch are not out of the question.
Our current education initiatives celebrate this approach of ensuring that the historical record is palatable, and lends itself to rousing patriotic blockbusters that make good use of the nation’s otherwise idle elephants.
Kamol Rodklai, the secretary-general of the Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC), pointed the way forward when he said that our history education must emphasize “proper democracy”.
“It shouldn't focus only on the details of what happened,” he so correctly noted, “but also focus on creating a sense of Thainess and patriotism for the children."
Happiness Poll Statistician
An informal poll of everyone around me with a pulse finds that 100 percent of respondents believe The Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association (TRICHA) have been doing an exemplary job in carrying out opinion surveys in the General Prayuth era.
Joining them might seem to be an intimidating prospect for many expatriate Thais under self-imposed exile abroad, many of whom made their livings gassing it up at lecterns and would be hard-pressed to figure the amount of income tax they owe let alone complicated statistical formulations.
However, in this case, it doesn’t take advanced mathematics to recognize how Prayuth’s numbers are trending. Since taking power the poll numbers reveal that he has catalyzed a tremendous amount of grassroots goodwill and if this trend continues, the happiness pollsters might need to hold two polls: one to register the overwhelming approval, and the next to poll the pollsters on just how delighted they are to be around all that good cheer.
Creator Of Worthy Entertainment
In less than a year, Gen Prayuth has gone from dedicated, unassuming soldier to a creative force in our cultural industries. In the early blush of his administration, he penned a stirring patriotic ballad that became an instant classic and later offered a scintillating, not to mention scathing, critique of the nation’s evening soap opera entertainment.
He teased a potential Prayuth-helmed soap opera; however, this may have been a case of the noblest of all intentions eclipsing the pragmatic needs of the day, such as shepherding the country to transparent and fair elections unsullied by the money politics of yesteryear. That would leave him with time to write possibly one season’s worth of superb, culturally uplifting television programming – two seasons, tops.
There is then some room for others to heed the General’s edicts on entertainment and develop cultural products that heal rather than exacerbate societal divisions and contribute just a bit to restoring the ear-to-ear grins of which our nation was once so proud.
Foreigner Quality Assurance Expert
In recent months, we have fallen victim to a systematic, orchestrated campaign to demonize the kingdom and question whether the rule of law really does apply to anybody except the poor slobs unable to buy their way out from under it.
A step was taken recently to combat this with the announcement that anyone speculating on social media about the, admittedly unfortunate, demise of two foreigners at a Thai paradise resort could be subject to imprisonment of up to five years.
That is a move in the right direction, but it is not enough. From the cavorting Portuguese offending an otherwise tranquil people in Ayutthaya days to the ragamuffins arriving on our shores now, Thailand has traditionally opened its arms to foreigners.
No more. The Thai government is now seeking Foreigner Quality Assurance Experts who will help enforce a new, rigorous screening process for those looking to enter the Kingdom. Foreigners who wish to step through our national gates must pass a multiple part screening that will include, but it is not limited to, a multiple choice mix and match test on the virtues of the esteemed octogenarians responsible for the country’s largesse and still offering paternal guidance; a Rorschach test that will be strictly monitored for suggestions related to the sacred institution; and a test to determine one’s ability to embrace Thainess, the details of which have yet to be finalized.
Tom LaFleur is a pseudonym for an expatriate living in Thailand.