CityNews Article Archive:
I Feel Better Having Screamed. Don’t You?

August 3, 2012 - James Austin Farrell

After reading the recent stories about the arrests of some of the criminals involved with the Kalasin extrajudicial torture and killings of youths during the incredibly absurd War on Drugs, I have to say I felt kind of relieved that something justifiable had happened within the justice system. Nonetheless, I’m against the death penalty and feel execution is just more blood on the streets. The damage has been done; punishment is perhaps a deterrent, though it hardly feels like a progressive measure. REM sing in their political track Ignoreland: “Someone’s got to take the blame.” We might ask if the cops, goons, flunkies, call them what you want, hanged by the throats for these Amnesty-hot human rights abuse cases are really the ones to blame…or are they more an horrific conclusion to a bigger problem?

Bad news concerning official malpractice in Thailand, especially where the police are involved, is so regular that stories of justice, fairness, compassion and humanity are kind of like finding a golden egg amongst the stink and clutter of a massive landfill. It’s not a secret to anyone here, especially the journalists and the police, that much of the criminal activity within the justice system goes on with impunity far from ever becoming a story in the media. It’s not always the journos fault, they value their ‘freedom’ as much as their readers do.

The DSI (Department of Special Investigations) as well as the NACC (National Anti-Corruption Committee) have been in the press a lot recently having been arresting corrupt officials left, right and centre. In the midst of this centuries long crisis of corruption some people are, I think, working for the greater good and not just themselves.

I was told a while ago by a man, – off the record – a Thai official in a high position, that if Thailand doesn’t shape up in terms of what law enforcement does then it will be extremely hard to enact any great social changes. The police are the biggest problem in society in Thailand, he said.

Corruption, like a retrovirus, replicates, from one generation to the next it infects all stratums of society. The disease, in this case parasitical, has already been detected, though it seems it is also incurable due to being so ‘far gone’. The entire body of Thai society is infected with corruption.

Is it such a bad thing if petty fines are paid for not wearing a crash helmet? Some cynics say the fines are just small enough to prevent anyone from wearing a helmet. As you well know by now traffic accidents are one of the biggest causes of premature death in Chiang Mai and Thailand, but in most cases the absence of a helmet was not the cause of the crash, and it’s arguable if a construction hat would have saved the brain that day. The fines might seem petty, but what are the consequences of not implementing proper traffic rules, in lieu of merely ‘collecting’?

This didn’t come from me, but did you know that people; boys, girls, men and women, sell their bodies in order to gratify a huge portion of the population, as well as hordes of randy tourists every year? They do it, even though its illegal…would you believe it! Anyway, if you ask the managers, workers, owners, of these establishments (5% of the female workforce some reports say) that not only are monthly stipends paid to certain civil servants, but also those who work in this service might be seen enjoying, on any given day, the efforts of those girls’ labour, for free. Talk to club, pub, disco owners and they might also fill you in on the details of how things are mafia-style run. But this could all be mere rumour… I’m from England, I know nothing. Although if those rumours are true, would it mean that laws are nominal, and in fact sometimes in place only to be abused?

Liz Hilton who works for Empower once said in an interview for an article on prostitution that “The [sex]industry supports the police force, every sex worker in Thailand pays the police, whether directly or indirectly….We need laws against rape, or child abuse, or violence, but often laws against prostitution just create another opportunity for extortion by the police.”

And if you refuse to chip in, if you ‘resist’, look at what might happen. My friend Benny Moafi spent close to 10 years in jail for resisting. Although he has hundreds of cases now against the people who set him up and exploited him. Benny has told me that he’s made friends in the police force, honest men, while he extols some of the work that the NACC and DSI are doing. Nevertheless karaoke workers in Mae Sai might not be a high priority for the NACC. While they might be doing a commendable job on discovering ‘policy corruption’, arguably they are hardly containing the spread of the disease.  

If murderers don’t have to go to jail, or developers can buy permits to build where environmental laws say will destroy the natural habitat; if you can be jailed for life with no evidence other than a signed confession written under ‘duress’; if your meager earnings are unofficially taxed when you can hardly support yourself; if cover-ups are more the modus operandi than successful investigations; if you pay for your position for the kick-backs you’ll receive;

Then you’ll be (_____) man, my son…

Sounds kind of harsh. I do hope there are more humanitarian policemen and women out there in Thailand, people in the service to serve and protect the public and not in it for holiday bonuses alone.

If you scratch a little bit under the surface you can find, you can hear, horror stories that will make your skin crawl, and perhaps seem conflicting with that statue of the copper holding a needy citizen in his arms; that hopeful, and moving monument you can see outside police stations throughout the country.

I don’t blame them particularly, but I blame the traditions, culture, environment, that has been forged and are propagated and held up by those who gain from it. That culture is everywhere, and everywhere it leaves a bloody trail of cruelty behind it. I’m suddenly reminded of that slug crawling along on a razor blade dream of Kurtz’s. Oh, the horror. What’s your initial (Pavlovian) response when you see that number 191, or you catch a glimpse of that tight brown uniform? A warm feeling of security, or something more akin to anxiety, a slug on a razor blade?

It’s worth mentioning that there are lots of articles in the Thai press about the high frequency of policemen killing themselves because of stress; killing themselves, and others. We might want to deconstruct why this happens, too. Is it such a pleasant environment to be caught up in? What kind of pressure do policemen feel, especially those in the low income bracket?

Perversely, it’s hard to condemn those that cause the damage, after all, they’re just doing their job.

 “I’m just profoundly frustrated by all this. So, fuck you, man (fuck ’em).
Yeah, yeah, yeah, ignoreland. Yeah, yeah, yeah, ignoreland
If they weren’t there we would have created them. Maybe, it’s true
But I’m resentful all the same. Someone’s got to take the blame
I know that this is vitriol. No solution, spleen-venting
But I feel better having screamed. Don’t you?”

REM, Ignoreland


James Austin Farrell