Some like it hot, but we'd prefer to chill

The Israelis like it hot. Hamas likes it hot. The "BB" lovebirds Boonchai and Bongkot, naturally, like it hot. The southern insurgents, painfully, like it hot. The 3G bidders like it hot. The British tabloids, fantasising about Barack Obama's flirtatious eyeing of our LOL prime minister, like it - or wish it - hot. The anti-Yingluck Facebook brigade, taking their cue from the tabloids and elevating the initial fantasy into a sexist smear campaign, like it hot. Marilyn Monroe, who liked it very hot way back in 1959, would be turning in her grave.

Most sensationally, however, is Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, who, while acknowledging the deep-freeze cryogenics of this country, also likes it hot. Hot like freshly-baked samosas, like lust, like hell. From his podium he's likely to be summoning the Four Horsefaces of the Apocalypse to strike thunder to make good his vow of muan diew job - signed, sealed, delivered, a coup! To combat the heat, the government surprisingly likes it hot. PM Yingluck Shinawatra invokes the Internal Security Act claiming that the Pitak Siam rally, which is taking place right now, poses a credible threat, with the possibility of violence, and her TV appearance turns what could've been a cold dish cooked by a retired general into political hot fuzz haute cuisine.

Perhaps we all like it hot. Calmness is disturbing, as we know it's an illusion, for we've been attuned over the past six years to be constantly nervous, slightly rattled, habitually jittery. We've been trained to distrust our own pep-talk that we can really cool it and move on.

Or maybe it's simpler: the hotness is all political gamesmanship. Each move by each side is strategically calculated, especially that the censure debate is coming up tomorrow.

The Pitak Siam rally is obviously bent on crippling, humiliating, even sawing off the legs, of the government - and to be fair, a democratically elected government is not above criticism and street protests. But even if we factor in the invisible string-pullers and the cosmic forces that might wish to play against the PM, the surrounding circumstances, the social climate, and the general anti-Thaksin/Yingluck/Pheu Thai pressure, do not have the same terrifying intensity as in 2006 or 2008 that can justify any non-democratic intervention. Remember that even the atrocious seizure of the airport by the yellow-shirt mob didn't really overthrow the Somchai Wongsawat cabinet; it was a court ruling that did him in. And likewise with Samak Sundaravej.

Still, the government and its allies willingly turn up the heat by trumpeting a stern response and giving credit to the mass mobilisation led by Gen Boonlert (a rally mascot has never been this unappealing). Even red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan likes it hot by saying earlier that the rally today is part of a calibrated campaign to sabotage the government - by unconstitutional means, he implied - within a week's time.

Instead of checking the temperature, PM Yingluck contributed to global warming by her televised announcement on Thursday night, and what some pundits believe is that it's all a counter-strategy to prepare for the parliamentary grilling led by the Democrats that begins on Sunday. The darkest fear of Pheu Thai (and many of us) is to see the rally catching fire, building momentum, even stirring the military in the next few days, and in that worst case the PM might dissolve parliament, thus avoiding the no-confident debate or, well, the putsch. If it comes to that, no worries: Ms Yingluck will win an election again anytime.

And yet from most visible angles, it's all just hot wind. It seems highly unlikely that Gen Boonlert can manage what Sonthi Limthongkul did years ago, and I wonder if the PM's reaction hasn't somewhat played into the hands of the other side who, of course, wish to see things getting hot, the hotter the better, perhaps hoping to relive the giddy moments before Sept 19, 2006. The need to show command, to be cautious, to prevent a snowballing, to do things by the book, is understandable, but if the government flaunts its democratic rights by discouraging others from showing theirs, then it's not so much democracy as hypocrisy. And there was a hint of that in the PM's speech on Thursday.

Marilyn liked it hot, but we prefer it cool. The rally is likely to be protracted, then fade out, the signed-sealed-delivered promise of Gen Boonlert sounding like empty bombast despite all the invisible hands. What the PM should focus on is answering the questions in the censure debate, because that's what an elected government should do best and that's how to stop the temperature from going up further. Unless she knows she won't be able to do that convincingly. Let's see tomorrow.


Kong Rithdee is Deputy Life Editor, Bangkok Post.

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Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Deputy Life Editor