Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
BANGKOK EYES' INTERVIEW CONTINUES FROM PREVIOUS ISSUE :
MH : Khun Somchai, last month you noted that it might be possible for a 'meeting of the minds' between the Thai Government and the Red Shirts, and that there could likely be an election before the end of the year. Since that discussion, things have changed rather dramatically. What are your thoughts on that at this juncture?
S : My thoughts are certainly not original, or should I say, unique. The Government bent over backwards to negotiate with the Red Shirts, even though the Red Shirts had far exceeded their right to protest, and had pursued civil insurrection, anarchy and terrorism. The Reds had the deal in their pocket - a November election. They got greedy, made ridiculous demands, and blew it.
MH : There is a lot of talk, back and forth, about the use of the terms 'anarchy' and 'terrorism' - as applied to the Red Shirts' activities. Isn't the use of these terms excessive?
S : Well, the use of the term 'terrorism' should only be used when the definition of terrorism is met. Words have meaning. And I say this, because we cannot mitigate meanings to please either side in the Red Shirt conflict. When the Red Shirts, in their forceful attempt to overthrow the current Government, pumped several M-79 rounds into their own unarmed Thai citizenry, killing and maiming, the definition of 'terrorism' was met. There is no debate here, unless you intend to entertain a 'Clintonian' muddling of definitions, like, 'Well, what do you mean by "blah, blah, blah"?' I would prefer not to change the definition of terrorism for any reason, to include well-meaning attempts to turn the heat down between the factions.
MH : And, 'anarchy'?
S : The same thing applies for anarchy - there is not that much difference between the words, in any event - the old cartoons of long-bearded anarchists throwing black spherical bombs with burning fuses comes to mind. The Reds were destroying public and private property well before the resignation of the Red leaders - everything from desecrating the Democracy Monument, to smash-and-grab lootings of 7-Elevens - but mainly denying segments of the population their right to move freely within the land. Those dangerous times must have had the local and farang closet anarchists (you know who you are) creaming their pants.
MH : Yes, well, moving right along. Isn't reconciliation, a conciliatory treatment, called for to, as you say, 'turn the heat down between the factions'? After all, the Yellow Shirts before them closed down two international airports and stormed government house. And the Government has all but looked the other way.
S : A valid point. Interestingly, the Yellow Shirts were the first to attempt a "Street Coup". And they almost succeeded. This, ironically, set a precedent when the Government didn't promptly prosecute those in violation of the law. The Reds could only have been encouraged by such a precedent. Up until the Yellow Shirt civil insurrection, all Coups D'etat were military. This was the first 'Street Coup' attempt, and as you know, it also eventually failed. To answer your question directly, reconciliation would definitely be in order, both for Red and Yellow shirts.
MH : How does one, then, reconcile such acts as 'terrorism' and 'anarchy'?
S : One does not. Terrorist and anarchic activities were perpetrated by the Red Shirt "hard core" - as the Press now refers to them. Most of the Red Shirts were supporters or otherwise sympathetic, and do not fit into the 'hard core' mold. The terrorists - the snipers, bombers and arsons - have committed the most serious crimes known. Rule Of Law must prevail. The basic tenet is that the law must apply equally to everyone. If Thailand wants to move forward, to regain international recognition and respect, there can no be special considerations, or amnesties, for the perpetrators of these crimes. In the big picture, going forward, for Rule Of Law to have meaning and to take hold in Thailand, it would be applied to both the current terrorist/anarchist crowd as well as the Thai elete - the "influential person". But then, again, 'dis Thailan, you know suh'.
MH : Not to stray too far afield, we heard reports from farang residents and tourists alike, saying that over the two month insurrection, the Red Shirt demeanor deteriorated - they were often loutish, or, as more than one person has said, 'Un-Thai'. They are interpreting this as signs that Thailand is changing - no longer the Land of Smiles. If so, this would be a big turn-off for Thai tourism, and would certainly impact upon the Nightlife Scene, would it not?
S : I think it would be dangerous to make that extrapolation - to apply what we observed at the mob scenes to the Thai way of life. Two things were going on within the Red Shirt occupied areas - first, there was the 'mob mentality' - adequately studied and explained in any Psychology 101 text book. Mobs tend to think less rationally, and are prone to being easily led by 'charismatic' figures. Secondly, when things turned bloody, there was a surfeit of adrenaline surging - people acting the hero, people brandishing weapons, pushing and shoving as they were showing they were in control. A bad combination under any circumstances. And certainly anticipated by any who have been in similar situations. Many of those farang found themselves at the center of mob violence -(several of whom were self-professed 'danger junkies' to begin with)- and found for the first time in their lives what it meant to be in anarchy, to be in a situation where there were no rules, and there was a very real possibility of getting themselves hurt. But this was not "Thailand" - this was a universal mob scenario. I seriously doubt that this aberration will permanently affect the Bangkok Nightlife scene.
MH : Nevertheless, there were the growing swarms of Red Shirts on motorcycles, the vanguard of the Red Shirt expansions from Rachdamri into Rachadamnern and Din Daeng, up as far as Victory Monument, as well as into the roadways around Lumpini Park. There were also, it seemed, a growing number of those decked out in Red paraphernalia, acting the part of traffic cops controlling 'their' areas of the city, and otherwise being gratingly assertive. These things were off-putting to a number of people, foreigners included.
S : To be sure, as time went on, the Red Shirt 'hard core' grew - the ongoing and extended state of anarchy bred, and attracted, an increasing number of sociopathic types. The packs of motorcycles you mentioned became the Red Shirt 'light cavalry' - and as the bloodshed inevitably increased, many of these in the Red camp, to include many of the motorcycle 'light cavalry' would think nothing of popping a cap into a soldier, or firing an M-79 into a crowd, or burning down a shophouse. Many Thais were afraid to enter intersections where large groups of Red motorcycles had congregated. Those wanting to be associated with the Red movement would adopt dress which, as time passed, came to represent, more and more, their 'uniforms' - the red 'Foreign Legion' hats with bandanas, and all the foolishness draped off the bandanas - as though all this constituted some form of combat ribbons, or medals. They wore armbands - again, with ribbons, or whatever, hanging off - things were getting downright 'tribal' at the last.
MH : And speaking of the last days, the Government is being criticized in some quarters for being entirely too harsh, turning an excessively heavy-handed military on the civilian population. This reportedly further turned the foreign community against Thailand, and what was left of the Thai Smile, leaving Thai tourism in even further tatters.
S : It was regrettable that physical force was used - that guns came into play - but, at the point where the Reds reneged on the agreed-upon November poll, and refused to negotiate, there were only three possible options. The first would have been for the Government to capitulate, thereby creating the very real possibility of total anarchy in Thailand, as well as cementing the precedent for utilizing the "Street Coup D'etat" as a means of changing governments. Or, secondly, removing the Red Shirt insurrectionists by whatever means necessary. The third option of continuing the then-existing, ever more violent, stalemate would have been a non-solution; the worst possible scenario, and therefore untenable. The choice, the path to take, may not have been easy for the government, but it was clear.
MH : Nevertheless, it was the Government that set the tone for the shutting down of what turned out in the end to be a very bloody Red Shirt insurrection.
S : The Government gave the Red Shirt leaders ample notice that they, the Reds, were acting illegally, and should return home, or else they would be removed. And ample opportunity to exit without a fight, so it was the Red Shirt leadership, and later, the hard-core that determined the level of force the Government would have to employ to return Thailand to functional civil rule. Again, remember, that at that late juncture, it was not at all about which political party you supported, nor was it about which side of a trumped-up 'Class War' you found yourself, it was about maintaining social order and some semblance of Rule of Law. Had the Red Shirts not brought guns to the party, had they not escalated their insurrection to that deadly level, it most likely would have ended much more peacefully, and with much less bloodshed. Remember the huge and ubiquitous Red Shirt signs in English about them wanting Rule of Law, wanting Democracy, not wanting violence? And then being caught in the lie - busily stockpiling military weapons in Lumpini Park? I was almost amused. But to your statement that the Government actions alienated the foreign community further, I believe that many foreigners will have been swayed by an often biased foreign Press, particularly the once-respected BBC and the totally biased CNN. However, a relatively clear picture has evolved in the ensuing days, and the Red Shirts' snipers and arsons, as well as their other sociopathic behavior are now seen in appropriate light.
MH : After the surrender of the Red Shirt leaders, and the routing of the hard-core fire-starters and snipers, the Government imposed an obviously necessary curfew. But needed or not, it was probably longer than necessary, and, needed or not, still hurt the Night Entertainment Industry. We have noted in our surveys of the Night Scene, that there was a higher than usual incidence of bars and other Nightspots closing down.
S : Whether the Government-imposed curfew was longer than needed could only be determined if something disastrous happened after the curfew was lifted. What is known for certain is there was an extensive amount of gunfire late at night for the first 3 or 4 days of it's implementation. The curfew was lifted and nothing happened, so we will never know if it was too long, we only know it wasn't too short. But let's keep it in perspective. This is not Thailand's first curfew. In the military coup of '76, there was a curfew. In Black May in '92 there was a curfew, and in each case, the Night Entertainment Industry bounced back as healthy as ever. I've lost count of the number of coups since the one in 1973, and Thailand has sustained itself as the Night Entertainment Capitol of the planet the entire time. I don't see any special cause for concern this time around.
MH : Thank you again, Khun Somchai. We hope for Thailand's sake, we will not have to continue this particular interview.
'The Deevil' himself appears to be lamenting the Lucifer Disko's slowness in reopening. We expect all that to change by month's end.
After closing last month, the Pussy Collection have popped back out of their crypt, and look good to go. Same machine, different day.
Queen's Castle II just can't seem to manage to keep that darned front door open. We've lost count (and are too lazy to check our database) of the number of times they have closed over the last decade, or so. Look for them to reopen one of these days........
The Rainbow Massage & Spa are officially MIA this month. As with many massage parlors, they may have closed because most of the masseuses just stopped coming to work during the Red Shirt civil insurrection and terrorist attack on Silom Road.
Last month, we featured the opening of Spanky's 3, however since our first visit, they have augmented their neon considerably. Let the good times roll.
The Swing Club, up on The Ramp have rolled down the steel roller-shutter and padlocked it to the deck, however there is no sign of them packing up lock, stock and chrome barstool. We'll keep our ear to the ground and advise all of any further developments.
It looks like the Side Line Agogo has tanked. As Patpong II's only 'Pay For Show' bar (read, "rip-off") there won't be many expats lamenting it's passing. Opening it's doors in December 2002, we are surprised it has lasted this long - if for any ungodly reason it should come back to life, we shall duly report back.
The Pinocchio's Club - Lady & Ladyboy have gone into lock-down yet again. Either this is the final check-bin, or they take more time off than a US Senator. We'll check back, and get back atcha.
Bobby's was closed the other night when we passed by - we hope this was only a temporary condition. We'll keep an eyeball peeled, and duly update all next issue.
Plaza Massage & Turkish Bath have failed to answer the bell for the next round. However, they are maintaining security guards, which is an indication they plan a reopening. We will keep all apprised.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Soulmate Club (We're Soulmate), having opened last October, have stuffed the last chit in the cup, and rolled up the red carpet. We note that this is not necessarily bad news - they have been telling us these last two months that a move to another nearby soi is in the cards. Once it becomes fait accompli, we shall provide the full report forthwith.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Demonia (nee The Cave), Soi Dead Artist's only S&M-simulation bar, have locked out all their pseudo-masochistic custom - and then they turned off (almost all) the lights. Ain't that just a bummer....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Gaugin Club have succumbed to Darwin's long-knived cull. Next time, should there be one, may Fate show them the other side of it's face....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
Locked down tighter than a penny-balloon, the Vincent Van Gogh, one of Soi Dead Artists' two original 1987 pioneers, has gone the way of the Osteodontornis. Although we have not seen any "For Sale" signs posted, street-blabbering indicates they are looking for about 2.5 million baht....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA - SOI 22
SOI EDEN SUKHUMVIT SOI 7/1
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