Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boom, Pow, Bang... KOK!

A few months ago I had a ticket to come to Bangkok to work on a documentary about non-profits, a new type of educational system, some micro-finance wizardry… a whole heap of positivity. Of course a couple months back while in Colombia (another socially stable country in the world’s eye) my coworkers and I were talking about our trip to Thailand. We knew some shit about “red shirts,” “bad government,” “dissolving parliament,” all that. Pretty much nothing. The closer my Thailand departure date approached, the more that was happening with these pesky protesters and their dirty red tshirts. They initially made some statement about fasting for change. You know, something like, “We’re not going to eat until parliament is no more, and we get a fair election… and what government would kill that many people from starvation…” that tactic lasted about 5 or 6 days, maybe, until they got really hungry. And man, what torture, because the street carts in Thailand make the best freaking food. They must have felt like Zombie’ing at that point. BRRAINS! Then I arrived in Thailand. And shit hit the fan. Sorry Thailand.
            I was given a couple crash courses in what was going on in the country by a few different sources. I learned right quick that international media, for the most part, was trying to sensationalize some Robin Hood tale, and paint the current Thai government as evil, and wrongly in power. There are so many facets to this story, it’s going to be hard to condense it. Thailand is ruled by a king. An aging king. One that has been in power for over 60 years, and who is loved completely by his people. He is fair, loving, and considered as godly as a human being can be by his loyal people. There was a prime minister not long ago, in a place not so far away, and his name is Thaksin—he was a greedy man, wrought with self-serving programs and cartoon-esque diabolics, like a cel phone company whom the government contracted while he was in office, and buying poor peoples’ loyalty (votes) with what would be about 18 US dollars per household. This man is worth billions.
Here is where it gets tricky: He was a populist, who was NOT related to the royal bloodline by any means (this is what I gather), which is VERY rare, seeing as how much of the royalty here has bred in their family (half sisters… pretty much like the old Austrian royalty breeding crisis). So he was only a breath of fresh air for those who didn’t have much say. Paying farmers 18 dollars and promising little improvements in their piss-poor lives comes off more like bribery than populism though, and this was widely acknowledged. His tactics are now being compared to the third Reich (minus the attempted destruction of a race of people) by many folks here. Maybe like what Cheney was doing with Haliburton? And maybe what the republicans are doing with the Tea Party? You know, lying!? Thailand’s ridiculously huge poor population thought Thaksin to be their savior since he paid for like a few forty ounces and potato chips per household, but the courts saw his illegal doo-doings (HUGE secondary income while in office, and forming massive vertically integrated companies), and sucked out millions of dollars of his earnings, and were to lock him up for a couple years. Psssh, that’s not much, who HASN’T served a couple? Thaksin was like, “Naaaah, FUNK dat!” and he made haste for the holiest of holes, the only place that properly instructs you with its name: DUBAI! Between there and the UK, where Thaksin has BILLIONS of dollars, he began orchestrating what would be Thailand’s bloodiest clash in over 80 years. He told his poor farmer and bumfighting friends that he would pay them 2000 Baht a day (some apparently were getting only 300, or about 9 dollars a day) in their bag lunches to go and protest... sweet deal! But protest what? Many of the people who ended up just being critical mass were poor farmers from the north. What were THEY protesting? More fair treatment and benefits for the poor. That is fair. When you’re given shit to eat all the time, sometimes you wouldn’t mind a break… and to them Thaksin was doling out Sundaes all day long. There were more strategic protesters, generals, senior officers, who wished to tear down the current parliament, because they felt it was built on friends, and favors and/or nepotism. They wanted to nullify the ruling and sentencing of Thaksin, so he could presumably come back in, and with the power of his numerically-strong financially-crippled friends, become ruling master of the universe. CAPS: MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE! That’s what THEY wanted.
            The classes are severely divided in Thailand though. There are some well to do folks who think Thaksin is the Hitler of Thailand’s history, whereas some of the poor peeps behind him are getting PAID by him, and paid much more than any other job would give them, so he is godly like a Gandhi. Actually, scratch that, more GODFATHERLY. So just as the classes are divided, so was this protest. Some people were there because they wanted the government to once and for all, acknowledge the serfs of the land. The king is apparently the wealthiest living monarch. But wealth of a king is only judged by the well-being of his people, no? These people LOVE their king, and just want a tiny break from their government.
Where it went wrong, errr, worse: Abhisit, the current Prime Minister, struck a deal to have elections in one year, opposed to two, and to make the entire process more transparent. He would allow these people to get buses home, and to pay them, along with a number of other bonuses, but the leaders of the red shirt party returned with ludicrous demands, so the government said, “you people are fucking idiots, and aren’t for real, so we are just gonna scrap this deal and crap on your face.” And from there…
Notes about the process of the violence: the government/military/police were infinitely patient with these people. Many of their family members were in the red shirt camp. The military could often be seen talking with members of the red shirt party. They were not using brute force AT ALL. It was never as sensational as they led on in international media until this Monday through Wednesday… then it got crazier than they could report due to bullets entering journalists. The red shirts insisted on using tires as their main source of nuisance. Tires, and faulty prius brake pads. And maybe nice price Versaces suits. They burned so much goddamned shit, it looked like the city was burning down. Tires? Really? The military used so many steps of precaution before actually cocking and banging with live ammo. The red shirts just got trapped in a corner, and then did what all animals who are trapped in a corner do: They lashed their teeth, and prepared to fight their way out or die. The only thing is, that the government wasn’t plowing into them senselessly, they actually were offering them bus rides home! The red shirts just wouldn’t leave, and wouldn’t accept any terms. Until that is, when the army said Fuck This, and plowed into their shitty makeshift tire mall palace and began hosing them down with firehoses. This is where the red shirts didn’t have to blow it so hard. They could have surrendered then, and forced everyone home. They didn’t. It got worse. To the red shirts’ slight credit, some of the leaders were openly condemning the violence, and pleaded with their followers to go home in order to stop the bloodshed… after the fact though. Too little, too late. The protesters responded with a gang mentality that the leaders had been intentionally nurturing for months. The hired protestors chucked old food and shit at the leaders, and called them traitors. Sweet. Anyways, the problem with the military’s singular approach is the same problem you get when destroying a beehive. Unless you just blow it the fuck up, then strays will wander off for a bit, then return with a burn, and zip zap your face when you least expect it—their queen is killed, so they gots no reason for being rational. Red shirts, gave up, yellow shirts, happy. Black shirts, now have live ammo and are destroying EVERYTHING. Yellow shirts, unhappy. The army surged Wednesday morning, displacing the black shirts, and sending the red shirts packing. On went the black shirts (Rogue, violent red shirts), to burn down one of the biggest malls in the world, they torched bus stops, Channel 3, hotels, shot shit up. It was bad. Now it’s worse. It will get better, but right now, Bangkok ain’t the fluffiest place in fluffville. The black shirts are the bees that don’t have shit to fight for except the desire to fight. They aren’t making anything better for anyone, anywhere. They have now spread up North to a few more provinces, burning town halls and causing a ruckus. Rioting. Everywhere. It's going to be hard to navigate right now. Things are looking hairy all over, and there is a curfew in place. What a bunch of angry teens. They done fucked up and got us all grounded. Thanks a lot angry black shirted teens. I've never been grounded until now. 
The Thai stock exchange has plummeted about 50 points over the past week. Thailand is now being avoided at all costs from travelers all over the world. Embassies closed. But really, it could have been way worse. They had all these kids and women and old senile people in there who just thought they were at an Elvis concert. All these people were spared, no thanks to the coordinators.
The last few weeks have given me a crash course in the instability of a beautiful and economically polar country with so much to offer, but not much to offer its own lower class. People support those who support them. Here, it was the poor people offering their mass to Thaksin, who was paying them a measly sum to act as fodder. But you know, it was more than anyone else was doing for them, so are they really wrong? Some people were/are wrong. Some people are dead. Lots aren’t feeling so great right now. The current prime minister is a good guy, and will prove to be fine if given a chance to actually run this country outside of such a tumultuous riotous wartime upheaval. Thaksin’s populism sounds fine on paper, but everything else he has on paper points to Shitville. There were acts of violence that were totally unjustified. Just like any war, one would like the deceased to not have died in vain. At least the government knows how far a little bit of help to the poor goes. At least the poor know how much stronger their military is than they are. At least there aren’t that many black shirts left. At least this place is beautiful and filled with endlessly lovely and happy people. Well alright. See you in Afghanistan. XO
(WHOO! That was a mouthful! Coming tomorrow: THAILAND IS AMAZING J !)
(PS, not claiming total accuracy, but whatever, it's just the internets)

the turquoise shirts are taking over waterfalls

These guys were gonna protest, but they were too chicken

what you lookin at mufuggah?

head biter

There will always be fruit

Hey baby, wanna get hiiiiiiiigh?

Too many babies are smoking...

get the fuck out!

black market tires burn best.

local, Taking care of business... and workin' over time!

it's best to mop before being dumb.

Mean Streets, to Clean Streets

Yup, ready to make blockade with women and children. Great job!

....but then there's this. :)

Friday, May 14, 2010

So a Blog, eh? Why? Like, blinkin blogs n stuff?

hate mass emails, and I hate having years of amazing images and such under my belt that I feel people should see (love, loathe, vomit, boner, moisten, cringe, fume over...). Every other nincompoopface has a blog, so why shouldn't I?

Here is what my blog will do:
1. It will update on my current location, and how absurd and/or awesome wherever it is may be.
2. It will act as a look into my often inappropriate past through videos and photos I don't want to put directly on my "website". (A blog is not a website, it's a blog. There is no professional credibility on these things). Videos yet to come: Tour of ranch with dead fox, drive through orders for hours on end, changing signs, tipping things over, throwing poop at stuff... whatever.
3. It will house some old writings.
4. If I like something, and I think people who read this would too (videos of tickled slow loris', or that one video of that dog humping that goose... man that's rich) then I will put that up here also.
5. If I see a movie, like Ong Bak 3, in Bangkok the day it's released, then I might write a review. Or if I see a concert, like Weird Alapalooza, or something, then I will probably talk about it, or BLOG about it here.

for now, here is a totally appropriate video I made about 5 years ago. It's great:

And this is usually the state of my life. photo: Espen Lystad