The last few months I spent in Bangkok in 2010 had left a bitter memory.
I still remember the sound of helicopters flying around at night – going where? Sathorn Road abandoned with only a couple of army vehicles, the barb wire on Silom – and then grenades being fired, a rebel general being assassinated, the amplified rumours of an imminent crackdown on the protesters. And an ending that left me angry and deeply saddened.
I left for Paris for a couple of months and then moved to Australia early 2011.
Now, after two years spent in Melbourne and Sydney, I have returned to live in the city of my choice. Something in the air is different, a renewed sense that the opportunity is here. People are busy. Smiles are different; they do not hide the embarrassment of a struggling people, they show that hope is back for the many.
Political stability has improved and with it, economic growth has returned; last week Bangkokians re-elected their governor, and though he is from the opposition party he was immediately congratulated by the Prime Minister.
The resilience of the Thai people has been tested over the past few years through political instability and environmental disasters. Many things still need to be improved: corruption, layers of administration that are making it difficult for the country to reform itself, the traffic alone, which had always been chaotic and is now completely out of hand.
But if yesterday we feared a civil war, today we see no reason why Thailand cannot face its demons and overcome them successfully.
The ASEAN’s ambitious agenda for 2015 will create a common market of 600 millions individuals. Bangkok, home to almost a third of Thailand’s citizens, is now a regional hub for the economies and societies of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar that are opening their doors at lightning speed, and could well become the capital of a south-east asian renaissance.
If the last century had profoundly divided and damaged this region with Western colonisation and then the Cold War, this moment in time has all the conditions for South-east Asia to reach its full potential.
It will be the responsibility of a new generation of leaders and change agents to make this transformation succeed and to implement systemic and inclusive policies in this patchwork of economies and cultures, where the correlation between economic growth and social impacts is so strong.
As the West sees its economic engines faltering, South-east Asia is the place where it’s possible to invent new models and maybe finally get rid of the command-and-control paradigm inherited from the industrial era.
Home is where you return. And as we create a new venture that promises to shift our expectations towards work and life, I have chosen to return, and start anew from Bangkok.