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Take Cover



The image of Thailand as the Land Of Smiles is becoming increasingly untenable as the rage and violence that bubbles just below the surface of this supposedly tranquil nation increasing erupts into public view.

It is pretty common knowledge that anything that is suppressed eventually rises to the surface, sometimes with explosive force. Unfortunately, the very basis of Thai culture encourages that to happen. People feel unable to express their true feelings or views, for fear of confrontation. It just isn’t part of Thai culture to question and debate, for many reasons. You should always bend to your elders even if, for example, the boss of your company is a tired old duffer who is totally out of touch with the modern world and you can see him dragging the company to extinction. Your parents must always be obeyed, no matter how irrational or out-of-date some of their ideas might be. It is absolutely absurd that grown women, who are old enough to be married and have kids in school in any ‘normal’ society, are forbidden to go out on a date alone, or that they feel so insecure they are unable to date without the crutch of a friend there to support them.

True feelings are therefore suppressed, hidden, buried. But they are still there, and the frustrations build and build. How many times have we read of a simple problem exploding into violence when, quite simply, someone who feels they have been wronged just can’t take it anymore. Popeye said it. “That’s all I can takes, I can’t takes no more.” And there was that Michael Douglas movie, Falling Down, when one day he simply rebelled against all the crap that was being thrown at him and went on a violent spree.

Tourists have already been exposed to the unpublicised underbelly of Thai society. Not that Thais would admit to it being there of course. That means confronting it and having to deal with it. Far better to look the other way, put your head in the sand, pretend it isn’t there and the sun is shining when in fact a hurricane of unrest is blowing. A couple of years ago there were riots between pro and anti Thaksin factions, during which the police did what they do best unless there is money in it for them, which is nothing as peaceful protesters were beaten by those who forgot to pretend that Thais are a peaceful race.

Then last year of course we had the months of anti-government protests which were not dealt with (in typical Thai style, let’s ignore it and it will go away) and which therefore were allowed to build and build until the protests burst out of the confines of Government House (where the Government was not allowed to govern, and rather than solve the situation they simply looked the other way and set up base elsewhere, therefore not having to do anything to deal with the situation. Can you imagine that happening in any other country in the world?). Then there were violent clashes right in the centre of the city, at Central World. Then there were running battles on the main road out of the city to the north, with guns fired and people being attacked with machetes and motorcycles being set on fire. While the police did nothing, of course. And then we had the completely lawless takeover of the Bangkok airports (Phuket had already been taken over earlier, with no-one doing anything to stop it. Of course). Again, the police stood by and watched, and the entire world finally saw Thailand’s true colours.

Anyone who still decided to come to Thailand after that, gambling that they would be able to return home again when they wanted to rather than when a lawless mob decided they could, could then enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of students battling each other with guns, knives and other weapons, smashing windows and rioting right in the very heart of the city, outside MBK, beside the biggest Skytrain station in Bangkok, right in the middle of a major tourist shopping area. Now that possibility wasn’t on the tourist videos, was it. It never happens. It doesn’t exist. There has never been a problem before. Except there has. Often. It is pretty much a monthly occurrence, and there are countless stories in the local media of students boarding buses and gunning down students from a rival school or college, or of them having running battles on the street. This time was no different, except that perhaps there were more of them. And this follows violent clashes a week or two ago in which at least one student was murdered and others were attacked.

What is it that makes young people act this way? Is it perhaps the constant and unending exposure to violence in society in Thailand. Newspapers and TV never shy away from showing mutilated bodies. Not a single TV drama is without violence, often of the most appalling kind, and movies depicting dozens of people being gunned down or otherwise slaughtered are shown without censure. But God forbid that a cigarette or a glass of wine or – shock, horror, a naked body is shown. I watched a programme recently and about two seconds were cut, of someone getting out of bed. Hardly erotic, not likely to cause uncontrollable feelings of lust, but it was cut. The screen went black. What kind of screwed-up society allows kids to watch people having their heads cut off but not someone smoking a cigarette. Okay, some other countries have similar censorship, but Thailand takes it to extremes.

There is ‘harsh treatment’ threatened for dealing with these peace-loving Thais, these students who like to beat to a pulp a complete stranger because he is wearing the wrong uniform. Anyone carrying knifes will be suspended from their place of learning. If they carry a gun they will not only be suspended, they will be dismissed. Wow, that’ll do it. A knife or a gun is a deadly weapon, and it is carried for one purpose only, to harm or kill someone. How about throwing them in jail instead where they can think about the wisdom of trying to murder someone just because they attend a different school. This has been going on for a very long time and there is quite obviously no real motivation for ending it. Easier to talk and do nothing, and people will forget about until next month when a couple more innocent people are gunned down and young lives lost or changed for ever.

Stickman's thoughts:

I cannot find fault with anything you say.