Ever since the coup in Thailand a couple of weeks ago, I have been concerned for my Thai editor and friend, Chaichitri Limcharoon.
Chai is editor of his family's daily newspaper in Thailand's second-largest city, Chiang Mai, and president of the Chiang Mai provincial council. In addition, he is a leader in press associations, including the Confederation of Asian Journalists.
Our families have become acquainted the past decade, going back to the summer of 1995, when we hosted Chai in our home for six weeks. I visited his country later that year. The entire Cooper family visited Thailand in late 1998. I made another trip there in 2000, to attend cremation ceremonies for his late father. Chai and his lovely wife, Pat, came to the U.S. in 2002 to attend our older daughter's wedding.
How did the coup affect Chai, a prominent journalist and regional politician? My e-mails went unanswered -- not terribly unusual for Chai, who keeps very busy -- but I was concerned nonetheless.
So, this morning I placed an international call to Chai's cell number. That cell phone is a virtual appendage of Chai. With the 13-hour time difference, between Dubuque and Chiang Mai, I figured that my call would reach him about 8:30 p.m. today.
My time calculations were correct -- except that Chai was nowhere near Thailand.
"Brian!" he answered. "We are in Switzerland."
My next thought was that he was in exile after the coup.
Nope. Just on a business-and-pleasure trip with his wife and two children. His duties with the Asian journalists group take him all over the world.
The coup had no impact on him, he explained, because he is a regional politician. I hope that is all there is to it -- military governments have a tendency to not embrace a free press.
Chai said he will be visiting the Thai ambassador to the US, in Washington, in November. We'll compare calendars to see if we can get together.