Prayut Chan-O-Cha warns citizens who use three-finger symbol of resistance against army coup risk jeopardising their futures

Thailand’s military ruler has said he is unfazed by people using a three-fingered protest salute inspired by the blockbuster Hollywood franchise The Hunger Games to express opposition to the country’s junta.

But Prayut Chan-O-Cha warned that those who adopted the gesture in public risked jeopardising their futures.

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Thai military in Northern Chiang Mai Province arrested an activist on Thursday night after she took and shared a photo of her holding a sheet of paper reading “No Martial Law” and “No NCPO.” The military said free expression is allowed only when the second phase of the junta’s reform plan starts in September 2015.

 
The activist has been released with no charge although she declined to sign a military-drafted document stating that she would not engage in any political activity again. This is the second case where people arrested for showing opposition to the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) were coerced and threatened into signing the document, but refused to sign and faced no official consequences, yet. (Read about the first case here)
 
Siriporn Chayphet and a friend hold a sheet of paper reading “No Martial Law” and “No NCPO”. The sign below reads “Peak of Chiang Dao Mountain, 2,225 metres above sea level.” The spot is for tourists to take photos as souvenirs of their visit. 
 
 
At around 7 pm on Thursday, the military stopped the car of Siriporn Chayphet, an activist with the Thai Volunteer Service Foundation, at a checkpoint in Chiang Dao District. The military searched the car, confiscated her national identity card and brought her to Chiang Dao Police Station. 
 
At the police station, she was asked by the authorities whether she was the person in the picture or not. Siriporn confirmed her identity and told the authorities that she has every right to express her ideas and she only shared the photo among friends.   
 
“Do you know which situation we are in?  Showing things like this is illegal,” Siriporn quoted the military officers as saying.
 
According to Siriporn, the military told her that she has the right to express her opinions, but only after the second phase [of the junta’s reform plan], which starts after September 2015. The authorities later asked her to sign an agreement not to publicly criticize the junta again and told her that she might be charged and detained for seven days if she did not sign the paper.
 
Siriporn, however, was adamant and refused to sign any paper and was released without charge after several hours in detention.
 
“I have good intentions and I did nothing wrong. I have the right to express my ideas and beliefs,” Siriporn told Prachatai. 
 
As the military pleaded to her to sign the document, they told her that they had spent two whole days looking for the people in the photos as there was an order to find them. All people on Chiang Dao Mountain were inspected and all cars driving down from the mountain were searched. 
 
Siriporn said a military officer took pictures of her car on Thursday morning but she was not aware that it would lead to her arrest. 
 
Siriporn has organized activities with the Dao Din group and is one of the activists who on Thursday signed the petition, ‘Down with martial law…power belongs to all the people’, against the junta and the imposition of martial law together with more than 100 others. 

 

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The Thai diaspora and students in France gathered to wave three-fingered salutes as a symbol of defiance against the military regime at the ‘Hunger Games 3’ premiere and at the Institut d'études politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris. The event was joined by the controversial transgender anti-coup student activist Aum Neko. 
 
After the Wednesday arrest of five student activists in Khon Kaen who flashed three-fingered salutes in front of Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta, while he was giving a speech to civil servants and the subsequent arrests of students who followed suit in Bangkok, Thai people in France on Thursday gathered at the ‘Hunger Games 3’ premiere in Paris and raised the symbolic three-fingered salute in front of a cinema.
 
 
The activists flash the salute in front of a cinema in Paris. Aum Neko is on the right bottom corner
 
 
They also put up banners reading ‘District Thai’ and ‘No to Dictator Prayut’ while later at the student gathering at Sciences Po the students showed banners reading, “Down with martial law, release students” and “Thai students in Paris do not accept the coup”.
 
In the evening, the group and international students at Sciences Po, a well-known political science institute in Paris, also raised 3-fingered salutes in symbolic protest to condemn the junta’s use of martial law to arrest political dissidents and students.
 
“This movie reflects many dimensions of current Thai society, especially the main content of the movie which points out that a dictatorial regime will eventually meet its demise, and as long as people are still treated with injustice they will come out and fight against the oppressor,” said Saran Chuchai, aka Aum Neko, who is now in exile in Europe. 
 
Delattre, a French native who also came to join the campaign, added that the salute signified the French national motto, Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, which has had an important meaning in France for the last 200 years. Therefore, the arrest of people who only express these values is very regressive.    
 
‘Hunger Games 3’ or ‘Mockingjay’ is the last in the Hunger Games movie trilogy, based on the novel of the same title by Suzanne Collins. The movie is about a fictional country called Panem, which is ruled by a suppressive dictatorial regime based on a city called the Capitol while other cities are divided into numbered districts to serve without question the rich Capitol. A 3-fingered salute is used in the story by rebels as a sign of resistance against the Capitol.
 
 
 
The activists held placards in French and English reading "End Martial Law. Free Student activists in Thailand."
 

 

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John Sifton (Human Rights Watch)
Life in Thailand is growing more absurd by the day. Earlier this week Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the leader of the junta that seized power in May and later anointed himself prime minister, was beginning a speech in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen when five local university students stood up and stripped down to t-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t Want a Coup” in Thai. They then raised their hands to give the iconic three-fingered salute of Jennifer Lawrence’s heroine in “The Hunger Games” franchise, a symbol of resistance in Thailand since the coup.
 
“I want to express my opinion and I’m from here,” one said, as security forces surrounded him and the other students. Security forces seized the students and led them away.
 
The entire episode was captured on video.  A short while after the students were taken off, General Prayuth dropped a chilling challenge with a smile: “Anyone else want to protest?”
 
It was hardly a laughing matter for the students. Security personal took them to a nearby military base in Khon Kaen to be interrogated by an intelligence unit. There, officers told local rights advocates that the five would be charged with violating martial law and have to sign an agreement not to engage in further political activity. The intelligence officers threatened the students with expulsion from the university and worse.  But the students refused to back down—even at one point singing a Thai version of the “Les Miserables” anthem “Do You Hear the People Sing?” which led one intelligence officer to order soldiers to strip off their anti-coup t-shirts.
 
The military is expected to charge the five with violating martial law and order school officials to expel them from Khon Kaen University.  
 
“The Hunger Games” movies take place in a dystopian totalitarian society in the future, divided into districts outside a wealthy capital.  The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, comes from District 12. Last week, outside the latest film’s premier in London, a group of anti-coup protesters held up a sign reading “District Thai.”
 
When news of the arrests reached Bangkok on Wednesday, several student activists gathered at the city’s Democracy Monument to support the students and were briefly detained. Others assembled at cinemas showing “The Hunger Games” and flashed the three-fingered salute. At least one cinema group with two theaters in Bangkok then announced that it had decided not to show the film “for fear of political implications.” On Thursday, the authorities arrested at least three students outside a cinema where the movie was set to be shown.                                                                    
 
Such is life in Thailand under martial law. Bangkok’s hustle and bustle remains—tourists, shops, commuters—but protests and political gatherings are illegal. Unauthorized meetings with more than five people are banned, and violators risk trial in military courts where decisions are final and there is no appeal.
 
Since the coup, which the junta contends was necessary to restore order after months of political protests, dissidents have sought novel ways to protest military rule, including the three-finger salute, eating sandwiches together in “democracy picnics,” or publicly reading George Orwell’s “1984.”
 
In the wake of the coup, media outlets in Thailand remain tightly restricted. One Thai military official recently told editors: “We don’t limit media freedom but freedom must be within limits.”
 
It is time for the international community to see Thailand’s leadership for what it is: a military dictatorship set on long-term rule. Of course, Thailand has suffered a number of coups over its modern history.  Some of the coups, during the Cold War, led to authoritarian governments that ruled for years. But more recent military coups in 1991 and 2006 were short-lived “resets,” with elections scheduled relatively soon after. The current military rule, however, appears more of the old school. All evidence suggests the military’s so-called roadmap to democracy, sketched out in mid-2014, is really a roadmap to nowhere—the junta no longer even bothers to pretend that elections will be held next year.
 
Thailand’s friends and allies need to adopt a tougher line with the junta, and insist on a speedier timeline to democratic civilian rule. In the interim, they should press the junta to lift its restrictions on free speech and assembly.
 
And someone needs to inform General Prayuth that if his system of government is threatened by young people emulating a Hollywood movie, it is pretty sure sign that things needs to change.
 
John Sifton is Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. 
 
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BANGKOK, 21 November 2014: International tourist arrivals to Thailand posted a decline of 8.72% during January to October this year according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ data. Released Tuesday, the ministry data reported 19,739,600 visits to the country during the first 10 months, down from 21,626,233 over the same period last year. Tourism and […] Read more...
More than 100 academics, activists, and others on Thursday announced in a joint statement, “Down with martial law… power belongs to all the people.” 
 
Some of the signatories of the statement are renowned academics, such as Prajak Kongkirati, a well-known political scientist from Thammasat University, Prapas Pintobtang, Puangthong Pawakapan, and Pratubjit Neelapaijit.  
 
According to the statement, the group condemns the arrest of five students in Khon Kaen who flashed 3-fingered salutes and wore ‘No coup’ t-shirts to welcome the junta’s leader to the province and calls for the end of martial law in order to return power to all the people.
 
Down with martial law … Power belongs to all the people
(Translated by Prachatai)
 
The coup d’état on 22 May 2014 staged by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has severely affected the basic human rights and freedoms of the people, especially when people are arrested and detained for expressing political discontent against the coup d’état. The suspension of the rights and freedoms of people, who the NCPO allege belong to the opposite end of the political spectrum, has resulted in about 600 people being ordered to report to the NCPO and 200 arrested. Within these numbers are academics, members of the press, activists, and ordinary people. Moreover, 33 activities and seminars have been obstructed by the military, resulting in an environment of fear and suppression, where people are restrained from expressing ideas freely.
 
Furthermore, martial law [imposed since the coup d’état] has been used to evict poor people from farmlands (while investors were allowed to settle in protected areas), such as the eviction of villagers in Ban Noen Din Daeng of Buriram Province, Khon San villagers in Chaiyaphum, Klong Sai Pattana villagers in Surat Thani and many other communities throughout the country. Moreover, activists campaigning for national energy reform have been arrested. People from 12 northeastern organizations who signed a statement against the reform agenda of the coup-makers were detained. Villagers and academics campaigning against the NCPO’s forestry policy were arrested. In addition, the media has been intimidated and threatened to prevent information against the NCPO being made public. A cultural activity with a talk show on the land issue was banned. The freedom of expression of students from Kasetsart University who rallied against the construction of Mae Wong Dam was suspended. All these problems, which concern people’s livelihoods, cannot be solved without the participation of the people who will be affected by the outcomes.
 
Recently, five student activists from Khon Kaen University were arrested in Khon Kaen on 19 November 2014 for expressing an anti-coup message in front of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his ministers who assumed power after the coup d’état, although the group has been working to assist villagers in Thailand’s Northeast for many years.
 
In summary, as academics, writers, activists, and representatives from different organizations who have signed this open letter, we would like to request the following:
  1. The martial law should be lifted as soon as possible to guarantee the people’s freedoms and rights in solving social-political problems.
  2. Power belongs to all the people and we do not accept power from those who have stolen it from the people.
  3. We stand with student activists from Khon Kaen University and people who have been affected by the NCPO’s policies. We do not accept the use of martial law to press charges against students and others.

 

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Three-fingered salute has been adopted by pro-democracy campaigners in Thailand, but screenings of Mockingjay – Part 1 pulled after becoming focus for protests

• The girl on hold … China delays screenings of Hunger Games
• Full coverage of the film

A cinema chain in Bangkok has cancelled screenings of the new Hunger Games film after protestors adopted the movie’s defiant three-fingered salute against totalitarian rule.

Activists say police ordered the move after hundreds of students planned to protest at an opening day screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 on Thursday. Thailand has been under military rule since May, and authorities have banned the salute as part of an ongoing crackdown on pro-democratic dissent.

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The military on Thursday afternoon forced a seminar on land and tax reform to be canceled, saying that they should only speak to the junta’s National Reform Council (NRC).  
 
Jakchai Chomthongdee, the organizer of “Land, disparity, tax: the step we have to choose,” told PRachatai that he received a phone call from a military officer, who said the military told him that the event cannot be held.
 
The event was scheduled Thursday 6pm at the Reading Room, art library, on Silom Road, downtown Bangkok. It features Korn Chatikavanich, Anusorn Thamjai and Duangmanee Laowakul. 
 
Although Jakchai tried to explain to the military that this event is rather academic and the talk on disparity will benefit every side, the military insisted that the event cannot be held and that if there is any thought on the reform, they should submit a letter to the NRC only. 
 
“Space for thoughts, and exchange of opinion are not allowed. This is the most surprising,” he said. 
 
Meanwhile, five military officers went to the Reading Room and told the library owner she needs to ask for permission for any future event. 
 
Five military officers visits to the Reading Room and tell the library owner she needs to ask for permission for any future event. 
 
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Earlier this month Thailand’s Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said that about 25 million foreign visitors are expected to visit the country this year, down from 26.7 million in 2013. This seems optimistic, considering that Thailand has suffered a tumultuous year marred by months of violent political protests and a military coup on May 22. Read more...
The military demanded that an Isan environmental activist shut down his personal Facebook page and a Facebook page on the controversial Pak Moon Dam and ordered him to report in. The activist said he would defy the order, however.  
 
Kritsakorn Silarak, an activist from People’ Movement for Just Society (P-Move) revealed that he had received two phone calls from a military officer on Monday night and the following day, who tried to intimidate him into closing a community Facebook page called “Together, let’s open the gates of the Pak Moon Dam forever”, citing that the page brings discomfort to the authorities. 
 
The military also ordered him to close down his personal Facebook profile ‘Paijit Silarak’. 
 
The military also summoned him to Sappasit Prasong Military Camp in northeastern Ubon Ratchathani Province on Thursday. However, he told Prachatai that he would not report in.
 
The Pak Moon Dam is located on the Moon River in Ubon Ratchathani Province near the confluence with the Mekhong and was completed in 1994. The dam displaced approximately 3,000 families and affected tens of thousands more upstream since it caused a massive reduction of fish stocks in the river.    
 
Kritsakorn reported that the military also ordered him to come to the military camp and close down his personal Facebook page ‘Paijit Silarak’, citing its inappropriate content.
 
The activist, however, did not close down the page and told the authorities that the Pak Moon Dam community page is harmless to the junta and that he forgot the password and address of his personal email, which he stopped using a while ago.
 
He further stated publicly that the authorities’ measures to cover up the facts and people’s perspectives are not compatible with the present day world.
 
The intimidation started only a day before students at Kasetsart University in Bangkok organized a rally, which was forcibly cancelled by the police, against the construction of the Mae Wong Dam.
 
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The military demanded an Isan environmental activist to shut down his personal Facebook and a campaigning Facebook on the controversial Pak Moon Dam and order him to report in. The activists defied, however.  

 
Kritsakorn Silarak, an activist from People’ Movement for Just Society (P-Move) revealed that he received phone calls from a military officer twice on Monday night and the following day, who intimidated him to close a community Facebook profile called “Together, lets open the gates of Pak Moon Dam forever”, citing that the page brings discomfort to the authority. 
 
The military also ordered him to close down his personal Facebook profile ‘Paijit Silarak’. 
 
The military also summon him to Sappasit Prasong Military Camp in Ubon Ratchathani Province on Thursday. However, he told Prachatai that he would not report in.
 
Pak Moon Dam is a dam located on the confluence of Moon River in Ubon Ratchathani Province of Thailand’s Northeast, which was completed in 1994. The dam displaced approximately 3,000 families and affected ten of thousands more along the stream since it caused the massive reduction of fish stocks in the river.    
 
Kritsakorn added that the military also ordered him to come to the military camp and close down his personal Facebook page named ‘Paijit Silarak’ cited that has inappropriate content as well.
 
The activist, however, did not close down the page and told the authority that the Pak Moon Dam community page is harmless to the junta because and that he forgot the password and email of this personal email, which he stopped activating it a while ago.
 
He further stated publicly that the authority’s measures to cover up the facts and people’s perspectives are not compatible with the present day of the world
 
The intimidation started only a day before students in Kasetsart University in Bangkok organized rally against the construction of Mae Wong Dam, which was forced, cancelled by the police.
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After five student activists from Khon Kaen University were arrested on Wednesday morning for flashing a three-fingered salute, a group of 11 student activists from Bangkok’s Thammasat University organized a supper at the Democracy Monument to show support for their fellow student activists, which led to their arrest late on Wednesday night. 
 
After they were detained for about four hours, the police released them before midnight without charge.
 
 
LLTD members at Democracy Monument eat supper and flash three-fingered salutes
 
On the same day, students from Burapha University in Chonburi condemned the junta after the arrest of the Khon Kaen activists and demanded their immediate release and the end of martial law.   
 
The police on Wednesday night arrested 11 students from the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD) for organizing a symbolic supper called “Tasting and Grumbling” (chim pai bon pai) at the Democracy Monument in central Bangkok to show their support for student activists from the Dao Din group, who were arrested for raising 3-fingered salutes during Prayut’s visit.
 
During the supper at around 8 pm the students took pictures of themselves with the three-fingered salutes as a symbolic protest against the junta before the police arrested them and took them to a nearby police station.
 
LLTD members at Democracy Monument eat supper and flash three-fingered salutes
 
 
Prior to the arrest, the police asked for the students’ backgrounds and asked journalists to delete pictures taken at the scene. 
 
According to a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), the police did not press charges against the group, but collected their names and personal information for the police’s daily report before releasing them at around 11 pm. Before their release, the police told them that high-ranking military officers wanted to talk to the group, but no one came.
 
Earlier at around 5 pm, four students from the ‘Villagers’ Children’s Group’ (Luk Chaoban), a student activist group based at Burapha University in eastern Chonburi Province, put up banners condemning the junta for the arrest of the same Khon Kaen activists, accusing the junta of suppressing the basic rights of civilians without any legitimacy.
 
 ‘Villagers’ Children Group’ (Luk Chaoban) hold placards supporting the Khon Kaen student activists
 
 
The four students put up banners to state the group’s stance. One of the banners reads “Release our brothers and sisters, stop intimidating students.” 
 
The group also made a public statement in an open letter on Facebook: “Villagers’ Children’s Group is against the detention of student activists and condemns the government and officials who have abused their power to suppress civilians with no legitimacy. This is an abuse of human rights and freedoms, against democratic governance, and against basic human rights. We call for the immediate release of the five students arrested and for martial law to be lifted unconditionally.”      
 
 
 
Police at Democracy Monument on Wednesday night
 
The LLTD students are taken to a nearby police station for interrogation
 
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Update: At around 1:30pm, the police arrested Natchacha Kongudom, a Bangkok University student at Siam Paragon's cinema, after she raised three fingered salute in front of the Hunger Game 3 poster when she received a free ticket from the LLTD. She told the press that she came to screen the movie alone because its content is related to the current Thai politics. 
 
At 3pm, while Rattapon and Champ who were arrested earlier were still detained at the police station, the military has taken Natcha to the military base at Chong Nonsi. 
 
Earlier Natcha told Prachatai that she came alone, knew that she might be arrested but she was not afraid. 
 
At 3.50pm, Rattapon and Champ were released without charge. The police merely wrote a record on the police's daily report.
 
At around 7.30pm, Natchacha was released from the military base with no charge. The military asked her to stop all political activites. 
 
 
Rattapon Supsopon, a core member of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD), was arrested at the Scala cinema on Thursday at 12.10 pm after the student activist insisted that the group will hold a screening of Hunger Games 3, while "Champ", an anti-coup activist who had been arrested for eating a sandwich and reading George Orwell's novel ‘1984’, was arrested after he brought a Hunger Games ticket to get a refund from the cinema.  
 
Earlier the Scala and Lido cinemas, under the same company, were reportedly forced to cancel all screenings of Hunger Games 3: Mockingjay Part 1, as the LLTD planned to use one of the cinemas to screen the movie and hold an activity, allegedly related to anti-coup activities. On Wednesday morning another group of student activists called "Dao Din" in the Northeast had used the three-fingered salute, adopted from the movie, to protest against the coup. 
 
After the announcement by the cinema chain on Wednesday evening, the LLTD insisted they will still hold the activity at noon on Thursday. 
 
Rattapon Supsopon, a core member of the LLTD, told reporters that their activity is not related to the Dao Din group as they planned and announced the screening before Wednesday. They also said that the group is also interested in issues other than politics, including movies and music. 
 
Pol Col Kittikorn Boonsom told reporters at the cinema that these students should do something else, such as planting and camping. Anyone who wants to have a say in the reform process should express their opinions at the forums provided. He also insisted that this is not an arrest, but a talk for "attitude adjustment." 
 
Meanwhile, as the group insisted that they will continue their activities, the rest of the LLTD gave 20 free movie tickets for the 12.40 pm screening of the Hunger Games at Siam Paragon.   
 
 
Rattapon is takn into police's car, heading to Pathumwan Police Staion
 
Champ at Pathumwan Police Station on Thursday
 
Champ at Siam Paragon Department Store on 22 June when he was arrested for eating sandwitch and reading George Orwell' 1984
 
Read related News: 
 
 

5 anti-coup activists arrested for 3-fingured salute during junta leader's visit to Khon Kaen

Thai protest against junta at 'Hunger Games' Premiere in London

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It has been a full six months since the coup and roughly a year since the misnamed People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and their followers first took to the streets. Sadly, the same PDRC-endorsed narrative is still being propagated on a daily basis by members of the conservative camp who are trying desperately to justify junta leader General Prayuth Chan Ocha’s seizure of power. Read more...
Harrison George

This government is beginning to get up my nose.

Why can’t they stick to what they do best?  Like barging into TV stations and telling them what they can and cannot show.  And then saying they don’t do censorship. 

Or resurrecting a xenophobic rewrite of the Foreign Business Act that will stop these filthy foreigners from controlling their own investments.  And then buggering off to international meetings and telling foreigners that we just love your filthy money so please keep investing here. 

Or asking for the public’s opinions on reform.  And then arresting anyone who says that they want what the authoritarians in charge don’t want you to want. 

Reactionary narrow-minded ignorance leavened with breath-taking hypocrisy.  That’s their core competence.  That’s where they should be focussing what passes for their brainpower.

But no.  Daddy-knows-best Prime Minister Prayut now has to come out and say ‘cycling is good for you.’

I know that.  I bought my bike months ago.  Before the coup, even.  Now every time I risk life and limb against the homicidal traffic of Bangkok, I have an extra worry.  People might jump to the mistaken assumption that I’m doing this in support of the General.

I never had this trouble that last time I took to two wheels.  My knowledgeable regular readers will already have the date of 2 August 1990 indelibly imprinted on their memories.

But let me remind those who have perhaps only just started reading this column (and that includes you there scratching your crew-cut in the military censor’s office) that this was the day that Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait.  So I bought a bicycle. 

And promptly got run off the road and into a tree on the pedal back from the shop.  Clearly, if I was to survive both the inevitable oil shock and the ‘up yours’ driving habits of Bangkok motorists, I needed to learn fast.  I then realized I had never seen any of those Yakult ladies spread-eagled on the tarmac with their life’s blood and liquid yoghurt draining away from under a mangled bicycle. 

So I followed one or two of them around for a while, noting that sometimes they cycled down the wrong side of the street (safer to see the threat coming at you than have it demolish you from behind), sometimes they pedalled on the pavements, and sometimes they got off and became temporary pedestrians.  An invaluable lesson.

But it doesn’t work now.  For a start, the Yakult ladies are now on motorbikes and so have become part of the opposition.  And motorcycles are quite definitely the opposition.  Decades ago, there was a kind of camaraderie of the gutter.  We took turns sidling down the inside of blocked traffic.  Motorbikes, for whom acceleration means nothing more than a twist of the wrist, even gave way to push bikes, in recognition of the fact that any loss of momentum had to be made up by straining muscles.

But no more.  The BMA in its misguided wisdom has painted a bicycle lane down the wrong side of Sukhumwit (the narrower side, with more sois to cross and far more pedestrians and roadside clutter).  The fading logo painted on the floor seems quite clear to me – handlebars, 2 wheels and no motor. 

But this lane is used far more by motorbikes than bicycles.  They are forever forcing you (and pedestrians) out of their way.  When you get to a crowded section where they can’t get past you, they even start peeping their horns at you, cheeky sods.  So I normally drop a gear and dawdle.

And get ready to stop on a sixpence.  Years back, following the Yakult ladies down the footpath, you had to ring a minor rhapsody on your bell to ensure anyone walking didn’t accidentally step into your line of flight.  No point now.  The most of them have something stuck in their ears and wouldn’t hear the crack of doom.

One thing that has not changed is the idea stolen by J K Rowling.  Bangkok cyclists achieved invisibility long before Harry Potter disappeared under his magic cloak.  You’re pedalling down a leafy, deserted back soi, when a condo guard steps out with his Darth Vader light sabre, carefully looks this way and that, and nonchalantly waves out the chauffeur driven limo right in front of you.  It is only the stream of verbal invective that makes him aware of your presence.

Cycling is, you see, a very noisy game.  No point screaming at car drivers whose Blaupunkt is deafening the when they not on their phones.  But you’re shouting thankyous to pedestrians who get out of your way, words of encouragement to other cyclists, plaintive pleas for a smidgen more space from bus drivers, and the best curses you can muster at motorbikes.

Now all I have to add is a repeated explanation to all and sundry that I’m not pedalling for the General.


About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).

 

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