Can you force people to be happy? That’s a question being asked in Thailand, where the junta that seized power in last month’s coup has launched a campaign to “bring back happiness”. As the hundreds of thousands of UAE residents who visit Thailand each year know, the country generally lives up to the slogan that promotes it as “the land of smiles”.
However, the protests and other disruptions leading up to, and since, the coup have tested the good humour of even the happiest Thai citizens. The army’s answer to getting people’s minds off the military presence on the streets, the curfew and other limits to their freedom? Free concerts, food, music, dance performances and even free haircuts and a petting zoo in the middle of Bangkok.
Perhaps the Thai authorities should look in this direction if they want to know what really makes people happy. The UAE ranks 14th on the World Happiness Index – ahead of the United States, Britain, our Gulf neighbours and Thailand, which is 36th on the list of 85 countries.
While happiness may be hard to define precisely, it surely starts with individuals having a sense of peace, security and prosperity – elements that the UAE has in abundance.