Political Killings in Thailand

Khun Angkhana Neelaphaijit, wife of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit who disappeared a few years ago, has wondered whether one of the police officers identified by witnesses may have faked his own death. The officer concerned, Pol Maj Ngern Thongsuk, was reported to have been washed away on September 19th during the construction of a reservoir. The body of his relative, Khun Naruechai Chinwannarat, was apparently recovered but that of the Pol Maj has not been. He had been identified by witnesses as being involved in forcing Khun Somchai into a car on Ramkhamhaeng Road on the night he disappeared. Many people assume that he was killed (since his body has not been recovered, this is just an assumption by people) in connection with his defence activities of people in the deep south. Few court cases are brought about in the region despite the many thousands of deaths caused by the insurgency and a wide range of other alleged crimes.

Political killings have been quite common in Thailand of course. Notorious criminals such as Field Marshall Sarit would run up and shoot (according to my informant in this area) various Chinese workers accused, however lightly, of gangsterism and shooting them. These killings, like many others, tended to go unreported in the press – a few weeks ago, a letter to the Bangkok Post pointed out a shooting death almost at the gates of Chulalongkorn University which has subsequently gone unreported. Benedict Anderson, in an article in the New Left Review entitled ‘Murder and Progress in Modern Society’ some years ago distinguished between two principal categories of murder: ‘national’ killings which were performed by agents of the state and were anti-middle class in intention so as to reinforce the political status quo and the ‘local’ killings, which were performed by private mercenaries and were pro-middle class and intended to intimidate members of the subaltern classes and their self-appointed tribunes – that is, union leaders, community leaders and others standing in the way of progress.

There are too many guns available. The killings almost certainly continue, one way or another.

Shocking Pink Millipede Is One of Top 10 New Species in the Whole Wide World

Good news on the poisonous pink millipede front as the Shocking Pink millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea) has been named as one of the Top 10 New Species of the Year, by no less than the International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE), which is based in prestigious Arizona State University.

According to the Bangkok Post, “It rated third on the list, after the ”sleeper ray with a name that sucks, Electrolux addisoni”, and a ”75-million-year-old giant duck-billed dinosaur”.

There is not, on the whole, a great deal of wildlife to be seen in Bangkok and a shocking pink millipede adds to the spice of life – although I doubt they will last for long as apparently there is already a US$30 bounty on the head of each one (US$0.03 per pair of feet, presumably). There are the endless soi dogs, of course, and these days the rise of Bangkok’s middle class has given rise to a series of pet shops with cute names (Dee Dog, for example and Dog Idol), from which may be seen emerging sad middle-aged women with extravagant hairdos and tiny dogs wrapped in blankets or clothes or some such stuff as replacements for the children who have left home. There are the squirrels who can be seen travelling from one side of the road to the other by the power lines or telephone lines. There are a few hardy fish in the klongs (people still fish for them though, usually using small wooden fishing rods shaped like the stock of a rifle) and more rats than we really need. One thing it is very difficult to see is the Siamese cat – there is one cat down the road which looks a bit like a Siamese cat but not the kind which are so familiar in the west. Perhaps they are hiding somewhere.

It may be a sign of rapidly enveloping middle age that I have become at least vaguely interested in what kinds of birds are roosting in the balcony outside my bedroom. Not interested enough to open the curtains and look, mind, but interested enough to wonder about them.