Is Thailand about to join the list of Buddhist countries with truly tragic modern histories -- Imperial Japan, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, Sri Lanka, Tibet, and Myanmar? Not if the people I met today have anything to say about it.
Outside the US Congress today, I came across some wandering Thai monks.
One of the monks, Appai, was eager to talk about the situation in Thailand. I asked him what message Thailand's monks had for the people of Thailand.
"The people on both sides need to obey the law" Appai said. "The political leaders want power above all else." He told me that with the King getting older, the chances of settlement seemed slim. He felt that this time was not like before, when the king was able to step into settle the dispute.
Appai was gloomy, predicting violence that he feared might escalate into civil war.
I asked him what Thais could take from Buddhist teaching that might help them resolve their disputes.
"Thais need to practice loving kindness towards one another." Appai said.* Then he referred to a message that he would repeat to me several times: "Thailand is a democracy. Thais must respect the rule of law. "
I asked Appai what he thought of the airport take-over by the PAD group.
"Taking over the airports caused hardship to many Thais, as the travel industry is very important to Thailand. It was not good. People must obey the law."
*Loving kindness or metta is a central tenant of Theravada Buddhism (the sect of Buddhism followed in Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia). See this video to hear a lovely rendition of the metta-sutta in Burmese (which includes subtitles).
Update: As originally posted, the second paragraph from the bottom contained a typo which has been corrected (thanks to Mid for pointing it out).