Land of smiles in tears (The Financial Express (Bangladesh))

As one alights out of the aircraft at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi international airport and proceeds through the boarding bridge, he or she can in no way miss a big signage at the entrance of the mammoth concourse of the terminal building. It reads “Welcome to Thailand – land of smiles”. Truly one gets excited in reaching the destination planned for a relaxing holiday or for a business engagement. However, the gruesome incident of a bomb explosion at the centre point of Bangkok last week must have sent chill through the spine of everyone whether planning to make a sojourn to Thailand or those who have already visited this country.

Thailand has always boasted of tranquillity on different fronts. With green hills, sprawling farm land, snaking rivers, deltaic marshes and exotic islands, Thailand is blessed with a tranquil nature. Added to it is the social harmony poised by co-habitation by people of different ethnicity. Economically too, Thailand showcases several success stories.

Historically Thailand has been a land of peace. The Ayutthaya kingdom (1351 -1767) was well known for welfare of the common people. Besides tremendous development in cultural outlook, the kingdom spearheaded the cult of friendship to foreigners. The spirit reigned high till to date and that is why Thailand is one of the few countries in the world where tourism contributes about 10 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP). Last year the country alone bagged almost a quarter of international tourists coming to south East Asia.

The rogue terrorist attack at the Erawan shrine in central Bangkok last week would compel the shine to fade, at least for a while. Though Thailand has passed through similar turmoil in the tourism sector in the past due to horrendous flood couple of years ago and the political disturbances last year, the sector bounced back quickly. However, the scar is feared to be deeper this time not just due to the severity of the bombing act being unmatched in the country’s record but because many foreigners were in the casualty list too. The unfortunate and unexpected blast could also pull down the hopeful calculations of the Thai authorities to have a relief for the sluggish economy accentuated by a slump in manufacturing and trading sectors. Incidentally, the authorities pinned on tourism to be the headwind of the recovery plan. With only two hours flight time away, an economically strong neighbour can be good for Bangladesh and others in the region.

According to a Malay proverb, the river is quiet does not mean the crocodiles have gone away. In today’s world, despite deployment of high tech monitoring and tracking tools, one cannot be reassured of the potential dangers. But the dire truth is that dangers loom large everywhere and anywhere.

Traditionally, the Thais have the enduring appetite for living in peace and harmony like any one in civility, anywhere. Though the Erawan blast may have bolted them to a temple of shock and tears, they ought to stimulate their resiliency to such acts of horror. They should be smiling again!