Surely Vint Chavala is viewing his homeland through rose-tinted glasses when he says Thailand can still be called “the land of smiles”, since Thaksin Shinawatra hasn’t been assassinated yet.
Let’s face it – many others haven’t been so fortunate. Two badly mutilated bodies were recently found in the Mekhong and identified as being political dissidents living in exile in Laos. Remember the young hilltribe boy shot dead for allegedly threatening troops with a grenade, though video footage of the incident has never been made public? He was just the latest in a long line of people, mainly political and environmental activists, who have either disappeared or been eliminated in suspicious circumstances for being a nuisance to the authorities or to “influential people”.
There are still some things to smile about in Thailand, but not everything is rosy, and there are dark nooks where it would be unwise to linger.