An Easy Target For Terrorists
I have obvious reservations in writing this. I am going to point out how inadequate security appreciation is in Thailand, and even point out a prime target. While some might argue that is making it easy for any potential terrorist, it also points out
areas that seriously need to be addressed NOW. I’m sure, anyway, that potential terrorists don’t need to rely on people like me to point out targets. They are quite good at doing that for themselves.
I’ll relate an experience at Don Muang airport last year to indicate the complete lack of security awareness that exists, even in such a high-risk area. I was in the domestic terminal and noticed a bag, a rucksack, left on a seat near one of the gates. No one was near it, and no one was taking any notice of it.
So I went up to a gate which was manned by a Thai Airlines member of staff and told her of the bag left there. It took me three attempts to get her to understand what I was saying as her English was so poor (in an international airport, but that’s another subject), and then she asked me what I wanted her to do (!). I suggested she called security. She tried two or three numbers without success (!) and then asked me to show her where the bag was. We walked up the terminal, with me slightly behind her, and she walked right past it. Even though I had pointed out a suspicious bag was there it still didn’t register with her. To her, the bag and danger was completely invisible.
Just as I called her back and pointed it out to her a young woman arrived and picked it up and walked away, again oblivious to what in other more security-conscious countries might have led to the closing of the terminal and delay of dozens of flights (Heathrow Terminal Four recently, for example). But Mai Pen Rai.
I then needed to go back past the desk where the air-headed Thai Airline lady was working, and noticed another three bags left unattended by the door to the walkway leading to the plane. What about those, I asked. Oh, they belong to the crew, she said. Words failed me. Even the Thai flight crew were so oblivious of the need for security that they had left their own bags unattended. Staggering, isn’t it?
I don’t know if the same rules apply now, but until recently you could bring your hand-luggage into the departure area un-examined, and if you wanted to go into a duty-free shop they insisted you left your bag outside. Unchecked. They actually insisted you left an unchecked, unexamined bag there, and walk away from it. I hope that they are now, finally, at least x-raying left luggage.
There has been some talk in other places about how vulnerable Nana Entertainment Plaza is to terrorism, with its narrow entrance, ground floor packed with bars and motor bikes all but blocking one of the stair exits. But to me there is a far more dangerous target. Patpong.
Forget the firetrap of Patpong 1, with the street market blocking the way of any fire trucks that might need to get through to any fire or explosion. Mai Pen Rai again. My concern is Patpong 2, and the gay Soi 3 come to that. There is a large car park in Patpong 2, situated above Foodland. The street is in a world-famous part of Bangkok, filled with tourists as well as hundreds of Thai workers, a perfect target for anyone wanting to cause maximum damage, death and publicity. Think Bali. And what security is there to prevent an atrocity? Zero. Anyone can drive a vehicle into the place, with darkened windows even, packed with whatever, unchecked, and just walk away. An explosion would destroy sois on both sides of the car park, with massive loss of life and maximum publicity. And yet nothing, NOTHING, is done to prevent it.
Why? I’ve long regarded many Thais as childish with little or no awareness of the outside world, and their attitude to security underlines that. We have been fortunate that so far only tiny (childish) bombs have been set off in Bangkok that usually struggle to even destroy a phone booth. Just imagine what might happen if Al-Qaeda decide to join forces with the people in the south. The city would be wide open to them.
What this country needs to do is wake up, and a massive public education campaign needs to be launched. Instead of government officials getting all hot and bothered with teenage sex and girls wearing skimpy tops, dictating what time someone can buy a beer or dance in a night-club, all of which is none of their business anyway, wouldn’t it be a great idea if they actually addressed the real issues. Then, though, they’d actually have to do something instead of sitting around a table doing nothing except make up rules.
Many Western residents, at least a number of the guys I know and talk with, remain surprised that there has not been a bigger terrorism act in Bangkok to date, especially with what is happening down south. With Bangkok being so densely populated, and with so many people congregating in certain areas, the thought of a big bomb is bloody scary.