A Castrated Pig

“The local Hmong king was a toothless, nuggety old man who claimed to be 106 years old. His name was Nau Her Tor in Hmong, but he was better known as Phia Luang. In the 1920s, King Sisavangvong had gifted him the area, but he had no time for the old king, saying that all the king did was lie around ‘like a castrated pig.’”

This is from Christopher Kremmer’s Bamboo Palace: Discovering the Lost Dynasty of Laos (p.171), which is really a travel book with the added theme of trying to discover what happened to the last king of Laos and his close associates (disposed of by the Pathet Lao after the 1975 revolution). Kremmer tries to present this as a terrible tragedy and crime but his protestations are somewhat undermined by the fact that apart from other members of the royal family, he cannot find anyone in Laos who has anything good to say about the whole pack of them.

Dreaded Falling-to-Death-from-Tall-Building Disease Strikes Again

A 41-year old Korean man has become the latest victim to succumb to the dreaded falling-to-death-from-a-high-storey disease. Victims tend to share similar characteristics: they have a younger Thai girlfriend who was also in the room when the disease struck; the man voluntarily leaps out of the window in an apparent suicide bid which came completely out of the blue, according to the girlfriend; there was also evidence of fighting and bloodstains in the room. I make no comment in this particular case – who knows what goes on in Pattaya hotel rooms? However, this appears to be, based on the newspaper story, a classic case.

Note to foreign men: choose the ground floor for your assignations. I remember advice given by MI5 to PM Jim Hacker: if thrown out of a window, aim to land on your head – it is over quicker that way.

I was this weekend reading some papers on Thai political history (oh the crazy rock’n’roll lifestyle of the minor academic!) and came across this description of the 1969 election by Daniel Lee in the New Left Review:

“At the February 1969 elections, the ‘government party’ as it was known, the so-called ‘United Thai People’s Party’ (UTPP), failed to obtain a majority of seats and in the vast constituency of Bangkok won not a single seat, despite greatly superior organizational and financial resources, and some illegal tactics. A precarious plurality was obtained by buying most of the ‘independent’ candidates (for sums around $20,000).” Meanwhile, the Hmong (or Meo) rebellion was still smouldering in the north of the country, when the Thai military used napalm attacks against their villages and enlisted the remnants of the Kuomintang’s 93rd Division – which had crossed into Thailand after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War – to fight them in return for citizenship. The Hmong nevertheless resisted for two years and inflicted many casualties and destruction. The first attack by Thai resistance on American air bases in Thailand occurred at Nakhon Phanom in 1971.

Now that is a political crisis. Our times are interesting but people have faced worse. 

Yala Murders; Hmong Repatriations; Lottery Arguments

Three people have been shot dead and five more wounded when terrorists opened fire on a tea-house in Yala. M-16 and AK-47 rifles were apparently used in the shooting, undertaken by two men on the back of a pick-up truck. More than 3,000 people have now been killed in the insurgency since weapons were stolen from an army base in 2004. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has blamed the army for blocking an enquiry into the death of Imam Yapa Koseng. So many people have been killed, according to the Rights group, that there should be some strong evidence in some cases at least and this would be an opportunity for the army leadership to show its good faith. It has, consequently, failed to do so. The army launched a military coup in 2006 and many people have been killed and disappeared over the years without prosecutions being brought.

215 Hmong people will be repatriated to Laos on a more or less voluntary basis. UN observers seem to have found the treatment provided by Thai authorities acceptable, although the Hmong did burn down their own shelters the other day in a protest against their treatment. Many of the Hmong fear (with some justification) persecution by the Pathet Lao government for having fought on the side of the US in the Second Indochinese War (as we are going to call the Vietnam War here).

More controversy about the lottery: hundreds of ticket vendors have been protesting in front of the Finance Ministry concerning new arrangements and Minister Surapong Suebwonglee has promised to look into it all again. The vendors make their money as intermediaries in the sale of tickets, wandering from place to place with the wooden folders of tickets around their necks. People buy two tickets for 100 baht, when their actual cost is 80 baht but pay the extra because the vendors come to them and because they can choose the numbers they like. It was a previous attempt to regulate the lottery properly that has been used as one of the nuisance charges brought by the junta-appointed Asset Scrutiny Committee to try to persecute democratically-re-elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.