May 20, 2010
After living in foreign lands for over 30 years - 10 years in Thailand - and a good part of it in the employment of USG Inc. in the law enforcement and intel areas I follow the Thailand events with academic interest and dismay . A normally peaceful country with people who do not like direct confrontation at the personal level has changed in a small part of the population to a nation of anarchists and looters in a space of 24 hours. The academic side of me looks at how little it took to change people from protesters to arsonists and looters. Last night was a night of many fires being set by the protesters and so much property damage with the burning of banks, shopping centers and all - the full total is impossible to comprehend. The dismay side of me is knowing what this group has done to the Thai economy and tourism industry - tens of thousands have lost jobs in the shops, stores, hotels, businesses and even street vendors who depend on the international trade and tourists. What has been interesting has been the people fighting the army with not only a few firearms and M-79's but fireworks, home made spears, burning tires in the streets and other simple but somewhat lethal devices - even sling shots. This shows that a determined people can use about anything to fight with. The real people hurt in all of this are the low wage daily workers - the ones of the poor the Red Shirts are saying they are fighting for!! The key word is determined - let your imagination look at other groups of people and would they have the will to do this.
Lessons learned - 1, have a stock of emergency supplies as food and water and electric power were out /off in the protest areas and curfew the past couple nights. 2. ATM machines were out of service. 3. Fires displaced a lot of people 4. People could NOT get into or out of some of the protest areas if their homes were there. 5. The Thai Army is not the best in the world and were forced back a couple times - while trying to use restraint they did look weak for a while as they faced some stronger resistance than anticipated (lessons here to learn??) 6. Never forget how FAST a group can become a MOB! 7. There were agent provocateurs in the "MOB" I have learned from some personal sources and were able to "Motivate" the crowd AFTER their leaders turned them selves into the police and keep things going and this is when the looting and arson started.
The situation and pictures scare me and I was working for a major NGO (and USG Inc) in Somalia pre, at the time of marine arrival and post marine time and departed Vietnam 2 days before the country fell in air evac - so I have seen cultures blow apart and how people act in such situations when all hope seems to be lost. How easy it is for "some" to manipulate these groups at this time. I do not wish to identify myself or draw direct parallels to other countries as I know my former place of work has a lot of ability to identify people but wanted to pass on the photo link I sent you before and a few of the above observations - you fill in the details