You know you’re in Thailand when…

you notice a highly unorthodox promotional in the pro shop: Buy a polo shirt of your choice and receive a red shirt – the symbol of the underprivileged political opposition – free.

The particular venue is Black Mountain Golf Club, one of several good layouts in the Hua Hin resort area, about three hours southeast of Bangkok. (Full disclosure: The writer has worked for the company that represents a consortium of courses and other properties in the area.)

As a golf writer, of course, I’m temperamentally enjoined from actually spending money on a polo shirt, regardless of the deal and its socio-economic overtones. But as my friend Steve, who’s not similarly constrained, bags his bonus purchase, we’re moved to wonder: Is golf in Thailand the province of a predominantly conservative stewardship, as is true in the United States and elsewhere?

Is there something about the game itself that suggests a kinship to conservative outlooks, or is the pro shop just trying to move some red product and clear inventory? We notice, for example, that there’s no similar offer on the table for yellow shirts, favored by the faction that favors more forceful suppression of the red shirts.

To outsiders, though, the issues seem as ponderous as the ongoing dispute. Golf, as is often the case, offers a blissful, arguably escapist, diversion from the civil strife that, in its lethality, seems so out of character with Thai personality.

On the way to the airport, though, we roll through roadblocks where the authorities are checking vehicles for, among other things, red shirts. It’s unlikely that we’d be mistaken for local dissidents, but, bargain or not, best to keep that free souvenir under wraps until we get home.

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