Goodbye New Zealand

No, I don't mean the Test match in Adelaide. At about this time I should be arriving in Dunedin in New Zealand to attend a conference (PDCAT'08). It was to be my first trip to New Zealand. Although I had four days of conference to attend, I was looking forward to the visit - enjoying some good food, some famous white wines, Speight's Brewery and catching up with colleagues. Unfortunately, here I am still in Bangkok. Both Bangkok airports (Suvarnabhumi and the old Don Muang) have been shut down for about 5 days due to the protests by the PAD Thai's. No, not the delicious dish, pad thai, but the People's Alliance for Democracy. From what I can gather, there are two main political sides in Thailand: the Democrats (and PAD) that have the support of the middle/high class based mainly around Bangkok; and the PPP that have the support of the poorer, rural folks mainly from the north (Chiang Mai) and north-east, i.e. Isaan. I'm not sure how the south of Thailand fits into this - of course, there are other significant problems there (1000's of people killed from fighting between Buddhist and Muslims). The PPP have the numbers (i.e. win elections), whereas the Democrats/PAD have the power (money/army). Throw in a guy who made billions from satellite communications (IPStar), and probably millions from dodgy deals as a prime minister, his brother-in-law (the current PM) and Samak (the previous PM sacked because he enjoyed cooking), and you have a recipe for confrontations between the two sides. It hasn't been too violent yet (handfuls dead from small scale grenade attacks), but there is a lot of tension that things could turn ugly soon. The only saviour may be the King, who has his birthday this Friday. This is of course an over-generalisation of some very complex issues within Thailand. In practice, apart from a missed conference, it hasn't affected my life here much. I don't have any additional concerns for my safety, and life is proceeding as normal. The only thing is that I might start carrying my camera with me more often, in case I come home from work and find the streets lined with tanks again.