Bankok Burns

There’s so much I’m troubled by… so much I don’t understand. I don’t understand the physics that allow my laptop to carry a charge of 90+ volts, or that allows my USB hub to carry 110 volts… and yet everything functions properly. Except when I touch it, there’s definitely a shock there. My multimeter shows that the voltage is there… there are no grounds in this country. Everything is two-prong outlets. And it needs some grounding. Small wonder my laptop is starting to indicate hardware failure, when it’s a collection of electrostatic sensitive components being exposed to a constant load of at least 90 volts of direct current without anyway to ground out.

I’m confused by the fact that, despite people protesting in the streets, Thailand’s biggest entertainment magnate– GMM Grammy– just bought controlling interest in one of Bangkok’s two leading newspapers, the Bangkok Post. The board of directors is opposed to Grammy control. The people are opposed to control– and why not, when Grammy CEO Paiboon Damrongchaitham is a close confident of Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin, who comes from Thailand’s richest family and owns one of Thailand’s several television stations, iTV. But what can they do? Ultimately, The Bangkok Post is a public corporation, and if someone can come up with the 1.4 billion baht necessary to buy 23.6% of a publicly traded company, then who’s to stop them? Is it for political purposes? It’s hard to say. But the fact that “GMM Media paid nearly seven baht per share more than the book value for its stake in Post Publishing” which will lead to, at best, only about a four percent return on 1.4 billion baht would suggest that it wasn’t a financially sound idea to buy out controlling interest in Post Publishing. But, as an article in Thai Day notes, “The price may be worth it if GMM can eventually use the content from the newspapers for a television station it might buy when the National Broadcasting Commission is operation.” Ah. A national monopoly on media– a la AOL-Time Warner, except GMM is closely tied to the notoriously corrupt Thai government. And yet everyone stands by and says “gee, what a shame.”

I don’t understand the one sided investigation in the recent beating and killing of two Thai marines in southern Thailand. The story (which has made national headlines– on the BCC, at least, I don’t know about shitty american media) goes like this: A van drives by a tea shop, shooting and killing two Thais. The village explodes in response, and chases after the van. They find two marines in a broken-down vehicle, who they abduct and tie up at a local school. The villages were holding the Marines hostage while waiting for the Malaysian media to show up– the Malaysian media because the villages didn’t trust Thai media. The marines were beaten (“tortured,” according to all the Thai media), and then stabbed to death when word gets out that the Thai military is moving in. But what makes no sense is the government’s response. A hundred soldiers have been stationed in the village to ensure that no one is able to leave, and the military police are going door-to-door seeking out suspects. So far, eleven suspects have been arrested. A Thai general was quoted saying “I’m so mad that I want to napalm the whole village. But I can’t do that. We have to use the law to seek our revenge instead.” And so it goes. While a full-on investigation has been launched into the murder of the two marines, there has been no mention made of the two Thais whose original murder precipitated the whole mess. The Thai government (military?) doesn’t give a flying fuck about two random Thais who were murdered. Hell, why should they? They probably don’t have the personal to investigate half the murders taking place in the war-torn, terrorism riddled south right now. Another eight people were killed yesterday. Two remotely detonated bombs. A drive-by shooting. So it goes. But two soldiers– that will be investigated and persecuted to the full extent of the law. Where’s the justice in this? How is this right? Why are the villages so agitated that they’re willing to risk their lives by bonding together, capturing two military personnel, barricading the roads, and making a desperate plea to attract foreign media? Why isn’t THAT story being told?

And why isn’t the story of the American soldiers still being killed in Iraq told? Why isn’t the public up in arms about the fact that the Bush administration has prohibited the publication of photos of the 1,907 coffins that have been sent home from Iraq? Isn’t that a violation of a basic constitutional right? Click here for the updated death toll. As American journalist Robert Cohen noted,

Taken together with the 234 dead in Afghanistan and in other countries affected by Operation Enduring Freedom, the global U.S. response fo the 9/11 attacks, the number of military personnel killed since September 2001 is fast approaching the 2,796 people slaughtered when the World Trade Center in New York Came down. Indeed, it seems reasonable to assume that by the fifth anniversary next year of the attack on the United States, the number of American dead in response to it will be greater than those killed that clear September day by the planes-turned-missiles.

And yet the turnout in last week’s anti-war protests was lower than in previous years. Where were you? Where was I? What was I thinking? Was I in Washington D.C., assembled with 100,000 other Americans brought together to protest this on-going all-American fuck-up? How many lives per gallon, Bush? Were the endangered and senselessly dying American troops on my mind at all? On September 16th, David Ford, age 20 from Ironton, Ohio, was killed alongside Alan Gifford, 39, of Tallahassee, Florida (Cohen). Number 1,905 and 1,906, respectively. Their coffins were not photographed.

As a result of “China’s breakneck economic development, industrial accidents claimed more than 136,000 lives last year.” In terms of GDP, this equates to one death per $12 million USD. So then every Ficher-Price children’s toy represents what fraction of a life of a Chinese woman or man’s life?

And yet I sit here, in my comfortable Bangkok studio apartment, reading and wondering and feeling angry and betrayed and helpless. And helpless. Helpless. How do I stop the war? How do I stop the killing in the south? How do I stop the slow electrocution of my laptop? How do I make sure that the stories from the south are told? How do I make sure that someone listens? South-east Asia is a region so torn… torn by the revenges of capitalism, the scarring of imperialism, the scourge of war, hate and discrimination. Destroyed by terrorism, fear, poverty. Devoid of dignity. And I’m torn, too. Because I don’t know how world around me whole. Then how can I be whole?

About Mark Egge

Two truths and a lie: Mark Egge is an outdoor enthusiast, opera singer, and a transportation data scientist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
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One Response to Bankok Burns

  1. jaderobbins says:

    Turns out that blood is expensive, gas is like 3.25 a gallon!