Has Thailand Become Too Dangerous, and Why?
There has recently been a massive amount of publicity concerning vicious attacks on foreigners in Thailand, in particular a family holidaying during Songkran. People are attacked all over the world, but the sheer ferocity of the attacks inflicted upon others in Thailand, often for very little reason, marks the country as a very, very dangerous place to visit. Although the authorities tried to ignore the fact that an elderly couple, pensioners and well into their 60s, and their son were attacked and hospitalised in Hua Hin, social media broadcast a video of the sickening attack. Out for the evening in a crowded street, the son accidentally brushed against a local who decided that warranted a thumping. When the parents remonstrated with the attacker, as any parent would, they were knocked to the ground as others moved in like rabid dogs and left all three on the ground unconscious. When the woman tried to sit up she was kicked in the face.
After the incident was broadcast those who attempted murder – which is what kicking someone in the head is – they said sorry but they were drunk. That’s okay then. Another foreigner though who speaks Thai was reported to have overheard them earlier in the evening saying they were going to attack some foreigners, indicating they were simply looking for any excuse to attack anyone who wasn’t Thai that happened to cross their path. What was also sickening is that the main concern afterwards wasn’t for the victims, but for the possible damage to the tourism industry. It is always thus. Always.
That wasn’t the only incident reported in the past few days. A Lao girl was attacked in the same manner – by a pack of rabid animals, knocked to the ground, kicked in the head – after a woman ordered them to do so as the victim was messing around with her husband. Worth possibly killing for? The attackers didn’t care what the consequences of their attack was. Thais, for whatever reason, are on a very short fuse and just about anything can set them off. And they have absolutely no concept of cause and effect, that kicking someone in the head can kill them and presumably see then locked up for many, many years. For what? Remember the Bangkok taxi driver who killed an American because of a dispute over $3? Lives ruined over nothing.
But what is the reason, and are these incidents escalating? To answer the second point first, we don’t know. What we do know is that they are now reported more because of social media. Everyone now carries a video camera with them and everyone is happy to post what they witness for the world to see. And then there is CCTV coverage too, which was used to show the attack on the Lao girl.
Why does it happen? Every Thai lives their entire life fearing every minute that they could lose face. Now, in the west kids suffer from the same problem, until they begin to grow up. Long before they reach their teens most have enough self-confidence to deal with any little social setbacks. It’s part of maturing. Thais do not do that. Losing face can and sometimes does lead to extreme action, even murder. It is arguably the most serious thing in any Thai’s life. Imagine the pressure they face every day, every hour, keeping up appearances.
Then add the sociopolitical situation, where no-one, no-one, can express their views or feelings about certain subjects. There is a country in the region, North Korea, where the supreme leader is above any criticism, where huge portraits adorn every public building and his photo is in every home and where people are brainwashed from birth to worship him, where TV every night shows programmes of his wonderful deeds for the people, where newspapers are not free to publish what they wish. Any resemblance to any other country in the region is purely coincidental. Add any public criticism of the present government and the threat of ‘attitude adjustment’ if you don’t agree with its policies, and is it any wonder that people get frustrated. Add the hopelessness many feel in having to deal with corrupt and / or self-important public officials, and it is hardly surprising that anger builds and builds like a pressure cooker.
There is also the problem of everything in Thailand being seen in black and white. There is no room or even interest in discussion or compromise. Look at what happened in the riots of a few years ago, when mobs burned down buildings. Or what led to the latest coup, as people were prevented from even registering to stand as candidates for the election if they belonged to the ‘wrong’ party. My way or the highway, and I’ll attack and kill you if you disagree. So no, the latest reports of extreme violence is nothing new. It’s just part of normal Thai society. Did you know that, per capita, Thailand has far, far more gun murders than the USA? I think double, but I’m open to correction (unlike a Thai, who will never admit to being wrong about anything).
Another part of the reason for uncontrolled violence is that those who commit the crimes have never been controlled themselves. They are almost always males, who Thai culture dictates must be treated as little princes free to do as they wish. If they are never taught right from wrong they often have no knowledge and certainly no interest in the boundaries to be observed. All their life, what they want they get. Just a week or two ago one nice lad threatened to burn down his mother’s house (no father in sight, another hugely damaging aspect of Thai culture) if she didn’t return from her job as a motorcycle taxi driver and give him money immediately. She was busy, didn’t do as he demanded, and he did indeed burn down the house. That is the mentality that leads to a 65-year old woman being kicked in the head.
But the biggest problem of all is that there is no possible way that things will improve. Thai males in particular have no-one to look up to either at home or in politics, and every day Thai TV dramas feed them the message that it is okay to be violent, especially against women and poorer people but also against rivals in love or business. Those who don’t watch TV often spend their nights in computer shops killing as many people as they can in video games. Lines are blurred. Personal debt is increasing as many try to gain face by buying things they don’t need and cannot afford in order to impress others who can see through them anyway, and adds to the pressure.
And as more and more restrictions are placed upon them, and the rest of society, by an unelected government so the anger and frustration will continue to grow. And even if political parties were allowed free reign again, you can be sure that once again they would be at each others throats. Which is largely why the coup occurred in the first place. There is really no way forward whichever way you look at it, and it seems that Thailand is doomed to increasing become a land of lawlessness ruled by fear with frustrated and angry thugs picking on anyone they want to in order to vent their anger.
Sadly, it's hard to disagree with anything you say.
I don't know whether there has been an increase in violence in Thailand or whether the country is more dangerous, but it certainly doesn't seem like things have improved at all. And like you say, for things to improve there has to be a seismic shift in the Thai way of thinking and that I just can't see happening.