It’s a question that is always worth asking – but, according to Suthichai Yoon, this question is becoming harder to answer for many in the Thai “middle class”.

Suthichai’s piece in today’s The Nation tries to sum up the current state of Thai politics using the device of an “intimate conversation” with his friend, Daeng. From Suthichai’s perspective, “Daeng typifies [the] modern day, middle class, member of the silent majority ‘average Thai’, who is facing a dilemma (if you are a pessimist) and/or a challenge (if you happen to be an optimist)”.

The reportedly “uncensored” conversation between Suthichai and Daeng ends with a timely reflection on the current state of Thai political affairs:

Suthichai: Even if the worse should happen and both the Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties were abolished by the orders of the Constitution Tribunal, you would still have a choice of whether you want Chavalit, Banharn or Chuan as the new prime minister.

Daeng: You call that a choice?

Suthichai: Or else the political pundits say you have to choose between Chuan Leekpai and Somkid Jatusripitak.

Daeng: You must be kidding. The more things change …

Suthichai: No kidding. The bomb blast over the weekend near Rajvithee Soi 24, they say, was the work of either a pro- or anti-Thaksin group.

Daeng: No. They are dead wrong. We all know who did it. Who else but the “guys with ill intentions towards the country”. That’s why you and I are utterly confused.

This “intimate” exchange obviously skirts around many of the issues that are regularly canvassed here on New Mandala. Did the conversastion with “Daeng” actually veer towards a wide-ranging discussion of the Palace, Prem and the military? We will never know, but Suthichai’s “Daeng” still accounts for what is, I imagine, a common feeling of general unease among many who welcomed the events of September 2006.

On a day when the royal soothsayer predicted abundance and prosperity it is, I’m afraid, not at all easy to be confident about what lies ahead for Thailand in 2007. New Mandala will, as always, be watching closely as new constitutional, legal, political, academic, economic and ecological issues are described and debated. Under current circumstances, there is still much that needs to be better understood.

Your suggestions, tips and analysis are, of course, very welcome contributions to the New Mandala effort to provide analysis on Thailand, and the other countries of mainland Southeast Asia.