I haven’t smelled teargas since Paris in May 1968, and here it is wafting round Bangkok where I am currently staying as a tourist. The local media claim that the foreign press doesn’t understand Thai politics, and this I can quite believe. I think I’ve sorted out what the 2 sides want from my reading of the Bangkok Post and the Daily Nation, but I won’t spell it out here – I just want to briefly compare the techniques used by demonstrators in Thailand and Europe.
When I was occupying the Sorbonne in 1968, myself being a translator in the students’ Press Dept, the Riot Squad were extremely violent, their techniques included not just teargassing demonstrators and batoning them, but also picking them up bodily and chucking them off bridges into the Seine. (What do you mean it’s freezing cold and you can’t swim?). AND shoving their heads through plate glass windows and dragging them backwards so as to cut their throats on the glass!!!
I recently attended the anti-EDL “static demo” in Altab Ali park (He was a Bangladeshi killed by racists – I attended his funeral in the 1970s). A piggy backing group of anarchists decided not to be “static” but to go and hunt down the anti-Moslem EDL who were holed up a few streets away (we could hear them). The 3000 police there to keep the fascists out of Tower Hamlets were more than a match for the 300 black-hooded comrades. The brothers and sisters marched right into a totally predictable police ambush in Commercial road. They were kettled , then loaded into buses and taken out to remote London suburbs where they were all “processed”. This involved
- having their names and addresses taken
- being photographed
- having a DNA sample taken
- being told not to attend any more demos
- told to await their trial dates
- (probably) having their address books copied off their mobile phones, so networks of contacts could be constructed.
- Being released miles away from home
Didn’t they know there was a strong possibility this would happen? The cops must have opened the champagne that night! The biggest haul of militants in their history, I shouldn’t wonder. (I was right behind them and narrowly avoided getting caught myself.)
Now to Thailand. It’s a whole different ballgame, a different mindset at work. I’m not analysing, I’m just giving “case histories”, you can do the analysis, dear reader. Incidentally, Zingcreed had several Thai viewers yesterday; hi guys!
“Cool kids can’t die” was the optimistic slogan on the T shirt of a young man I spoke to in the street. Sadly, cool guys did die during Bangkok’s protests, though it was much less violent than last time.
Here are some of the things I understand the protestors did:-
- cut the power supply to the internet provider
- brought sandbags to put outside the wall of a government office they wanted to storm, so they could just climb up them and get over!
- take a bulldozer, cover it with netting to keep police projectiles off it, and charge the police’s concrete barriers and razor wire and sweep them out of the way
- set up big electric fans in the streets to blow back the tear gas to the police ranks
- gather piles of wet rice sacks to smother teargas canisters on the tarmac as soon as they landed
- get a faeces suction truck which collects sewage from latrines and cess pits, and blow the sewage out at the police (they didn’t use this)
- surround and intimidate all the TV stations in turn until they agreed to broadcast their leader’s speech.
The next day was even more bizarre to my “farang” eyes: it was kiss and make up time between the protestors and the police. Hugs, exchange of flowers, singing the national anthem together, arm in arm, taking photos of each other. No this is not the UK!
The packs of international journalists have all flown off to the Ukraine or South Africa now, and Bangkok is quiet — for the time being. This drama could run and run.
Related Zingcreed Posts:
“We are the Kop!”
The Sunday Nation, Bangkok , 1 Dec 2013
The Bangkok Post. 2-4 Dec 3013