The content in this page ("Standard Deviations" by Harrison George) is not produced by Prachatai staff. Prachatai merely provides a platform, and the opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of Prachatai.

Standard Deviations

So before we have to appear at this UPR thing at the UN, …

What’s UPR?

Ah yes, being police you wouldn’t know.  Universal Periodic Review.  Every member of UN comes up every 4 years or so and gets questioned on their human rights record.  We’re up soon so we want to be able to respond to the inevitable questions about crowd control.

None of their business.  Our internal affair.  As true Thais we will not be lectured on …

Yes, yes.  But it’s part of being in the UN.  We have to do it and embarrassing as it is, we have to be ready with some plausible answers.

Answers to what?

Well, you claim, and the PM claims, that your crowd control methods follow international standards and don’t violate anyone’s rights. 

That’s right.  That’s what we’ve been told to say.

But what international standards are you using?  Is it the UN standards?


What exactly do your standards say? 

Er, …

You must have something written down, some document or handbook or something.

Oh, they’ve probably got something at HQ.

Have you read it?

No, why should I?  They tell us what to do.  Reading stuff takes too long.

OK, so someone gives you a briefing on the standards you have to follow.

Well, not really.  See, first we get kitted out ahead of time and if they give us batons, or tear gas, say, then we know we have to use them and if the water cannon are then we know they’ll be used.

Yes, but how do you know how to use them?

How to use a baton?  Well you hit people with it.  I mean, like it’s obvious, isn’t it?

But where do you hit them?

Oh I see what you mean.  Well, not where there are any press or cameras around, so behind a wall or something.  Between parked cars is good.

No, I mean where on the body do you hit them? 

Ah, well now, there are different opinions on that.  Some of the lads say go for the head, but my experience is that they’ll put their arms up or some of them even have hard hats, so I go for cracking them on the back of the knees first.  Get them on the ground and then you can hit them where you like.  Others say go for the goolies, but it’s hard to get a really good swing for that.

I see.  Have you been told that you must not direct blows to sensitive parts of the body? 

You mean we can’t hit them in the goolies?

No, nor in the stomach, or on the head, or the kidneys, or …

What?  That’s ridiculous.  What’s the point if you can’t knock them out or at the very least knock them down and give them a hiding they won’t forget? 

OK, so let’s talk about warnings.  You do give warnings before you use any crowd control measures, right?

Erm, yeah, sometimes.  Actually, now I come to think about, we were told about that.  What was it?  It’s coming to me.  Ah yes, I remember.  See, they’re supposed to get a permit before they can protest and they never do, and even if they asked we’d never give them one, and they all know that, so like they already know they’re in trouble.  So that’s as good as a warning.

That’s not exactly what the Public Assembly Act says, but what I mean is, do you tell the protestors that you going to use batons, for example, or water cannon?

Well, they’re not stupid.  They can see we’ve got batons or if the water cannon come up.  Most of them are the same lot as before anyway.  They know what’s coming.  Why do they need a warning?

OK, let’s turn to rubber bullets.

We don’t use them.


Rubber bullets.  We don’t use them.  Unless we get caught on camera using them or somebody picks up a round somewhere and shows it on the internet.  Then we are allowed to say we use them.

So let me get this straight.  You don’t give any warning that you’re going to fire rubber bullets …

Definitely not

… and if you do use them, you deny it.

Yeah, that’s what we’ve been told to do.  But you should be asking about this at HQ.  They are the ones who keep changing their story from one day to the next.

OK, but under what circumstances do you use rubber bullets?  Is that set out in your international standards?

Well, maybe not in so many words.  See, we don’t all have the rifles for it, so it’s just special blokes and we are supposed to sort of crowd round them so they can’t be spotted.  Then when they want to fire, we open up and give them space.  The bigwigs of course tell us to be careful about getting snapped on somebody’s cell phone, but give me a break.  Everybody’s got one.

What I mean is what would cause you to use rubber bullets in the first place?

Er, well, first we’d have to have them issued to us and would you believe they’ve sometimes sent us out without any?  And, er, there has to be a protest, of course. 

This is not going to look good at the UN.  If you have never read anything about international standards, have you watched any training films, say?

Oh yeah.  We watch YouTube clips of riots and the police all the time.  Russia, South Africa.  You can pick up some good tips. 


Yeah.  That lot in Myanmar are really good at it.  We’re learning a lot from them.

OK, well, thank you for your time.  It’s been, er, enlightening.

No problem.  And best of luck with your URP thing.

We’ll need it.

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: [email protected], please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”