Can you imagine a scooter being called “Smash”? This is the Suzuki brand here on the streets of Thailand. Yamaha have gone for Fino (sounds like sherry) and Mate (sounds like a condom). Honda have gone for Dream (don’t get it wet!), Wave, Scoopy (for girls) and Click. I chose a scooter to rent which is decorated in the livery of Liverpool FC, complete with the slogan “We are the Kop”. I could have had a Chelsea or Arsenal or Man. U model except they weren’t available that day.
A week after my first Post from Thailand , Cool kids can’t die! , here a few more observations of an outsider on the remarkable protests that have been taking place here.
- The signature trade mark of the current set of protestors is the whistle. They all have one and blow it after almost every sentence of the speeches their leaders make. Now one of them designed an app in one day that the whistlers can save their spit with. The mobile phone emits a shrill whistle on demand with controllable volume.
- Another app that took a week to design simulates a hand clapping sound. The more you shake your phone the louder it gets! How lazy can you get?!
- An acquaintance told me he was attracted to street demos because they always provided free food and drink for their participants!
- The BBC team of reporters on the street were stunned to see the demonstrators were using their own drones – seven of them! Quadricopters controlled by an i-pod have been around for a while. These were sexacopters controlled from a portable device with a webcam on board. (They’re available for 400 pounds on the internet in kit form or ready assembled). They enabled the protestors to monitor the millions on their demos and to see what the police were up to. The BBC was so impressed by the picture quality they downloaded several minutes of it for the first item on their World News channel. This will spread and escalate at the same time. I mean the police will use them next, then the media (will RT’s drone be as manoeuvrable as Al Jazeera’s? Will demonstrators of the future shoot down drones they don’t like with catapults?)
- Thousands of balloons were issued for release under police helicopters! (I don’t think they were used.)
- To counteract the teargas (which “met current American standards”), demonstrators used swimming goggles, plastic macs and towels. Bottled water was available to irrigate the eyes and to wash chemicals off bare skin.
- To deal with hot gas canisters that rained down on their heads, protestors used thick gloves and buckets of water. When police intercepted a delivery of wet rice sacks intended for smothering gas canisters, protestors surrounded the police station and intimidated the police into returning their sacks!
- The protestors had a Thai national flag made which they wrapped round the railings of Government House. It was one mile long!! What press photographer can refuse a shot like that!
- When a police detachment came to arrest the leader of the demonstrators, supporters were rallied through social media and came and blocked the police in with their cars.
I’ve avoided analysis thus far. I should probably now point out that these demonstrators were rich – just look at all their gear. The press describes them as elitist and middle class too. The police at the latest demo I saw (in a provincial capital) were absent because, a bystander told me, they were so ashamed of their corruption that they wouldn’t be able to save face at the taunts of the demonstrators if they dared to show up. The demonstrators I saw were restrained and didn’t need any policing.
The government which has just stepped down is supported by a majority of the population so they will probably win the forthcoming election (again). Accused of being a family clan, populist, dictators, majoritarian, corrupt, and “socialist” (oh no!) they are nevertheless supported by the majority of low income people in the towns and in the countryside. Their activists wear red shirts. Their party leaders kept them off the streets while the middle class protestors were there.
The red shirts’ repeated landslide victories at the polls reminds me of Egypt – you get the chance to have your first free and fair election and the Moslem Brotherhood goes and wins it! People often want what their ‘educated’ elders and betters think is not good for them. In Thailand the protestors want an (unelected) People’s Council to run things, with appointed members representing different sectors of society. This is how Mussolini kick-started fascism in Italy in 1928.
But I’m on holiday, what business is it of mine what the Thais do? I’m here for the seafood and the fruit. Langan or pineapple, mangosteen or strawberry, rambutan or custard apple, pomerac or banana, pawpaw or coconut, durian or green mango? I’m off to the market – I’ll make my mind up there!
Bye for now.