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Democracy has no price

News item:

National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Wallop Raksanoh has “pledged to go after those who are financially supporting pro-election activists”.  General Wallop pledged to “hunt down those who are the backers of the group,” saying that the “activists would not pose such a major problem if people were not egging them on.”

The scene:  A meeting room at the National Security Council, where the Egging On Investigation Team is reporting its findings.

So, have you interrogated all the suspects?

Yes, sir.  59 of them.

59?  But there seemed to be more than that at the demo.

Yes sir, but we don’t know who the rest are.

But didn’t you use that software thing, you know, face detection or whatever it is?

Facial recognition, yes, sir.  But it still has a few glitches.  What they call false positives.

How do you mean?

Well, it falsely identified a noodle-seller in Nan, 3 dead people, someone who was already behind bars, a cabinet minister and the lead singer in a K-pop boy band.

And they all have alibis?

Yes.  Well, not the cabinet minister exactly, but, er, …

Yes, quite.  But anyway, those who were there, who was paying them?

No one.

What?  No one?

Well, except for 13 of them.

Ah-hah.  So who was paying them?

Well, 2 of them were paid by their newspapers.  They went to report on the protest.

Oh no.

No, really, sir, we checked them out.  They had press cards and everything.

No, I mean, reporters arrested again.  Oh dear oh dear.  We can’t get this kind of case through the courts any more.  See that case in Ratchaburi that they threw out.  Oh never mind, I’ll try to have a word.  Bangkok South Criminal is it?

Er, yes sir.  First hearing on Wednesday.

Alright, I’ll have a word with whatisname, see if he can’t swing the right judge for us.  But really, we have to lay off the press for a bit, OK?

Yes, sir.

But you said there were 13.  Two were reporters.  So who was paying for the rest?

Er, we were, sir.

We were?  What the hell does that mean?

They were our people, sir.  Undercover surveillance.

Oh for heaven’s sake, you haven’t arrested our own NSC people again, have you?

Oh no, sir.  We recognized them and let them go.  But we didn’t know about the ones from Special Branch, ISOC, First Army, DSI, …

Liaison, liaison.  How many times have I told them?

So, leaving out the reporters and our lot, who was paying for the rest?

Well, they say no one.

I find that hard to believe.  These things cost a lot of money you know.

Yes, sir.  We added the total expenses and it comes to 757,613 baht and 25 satang.

Oh, well that’s a pretty penny.  They couldn’t stump that up themselves.

No, sir, that’s the grand total, including the 11 from security.  Should we discount them?

Yes of course.

Ah, so that leaves, er, 7 minus 9 is 7 carry 2, er, 623 baht.

What, each?

No, sir, for all 46.

Are you having me on?  So where did seven hundred thousand come from?

Well our guys have per diems and travel and clothing allowances and video equipment rentals and stuff.  It all adds up.

But 600 for all of them?  When we organize a rally, it costs us more than that per head.

Well, sir, if we outsource again to that Mr Suthep’s group, they quote just 500 per person per day, includes food, t-shirt, banners, all found bar travel.  They’re very reasonable as mobs go.

I’m not talking about our mobs.  It’s this mob I can’t fathom.  How do they do it so cheap?

Well sir, we questioned them very closely and from what we can find out the biggest cost was bus fares.

Bus fares?

Yes, sir.  But I think they might have been pulling the wool over our eyes a bit.  Most of them said they came by ordinary bus but I suspect some may have used air-con instead.

No, you’re missing the whole point.  What’s in it for them?  Why do they go all that way and get their names on our black list and court arrest if no one’s paying them?

Oh they all have the same answer to that, sir.

Which is?

They want democracy.

And that’s all?  What has the country come to?


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).