on this day

Conor David Purcell: “Nobody in this country has authority over me”

He can also bend spoons with his mind.

“He can also bend spoons with his mind.” — The Bangkok Post, while not especially fond of holding senior military figures to account, never resiles from the chance to make western expats look like fuckwits

On this day in 2010, Irish-born Australian national Conor David Purcell, then 29, took to a makeshift stage in downtown Bangkok, and gave his account of the April 10 assault on anti-government protesters which left 25 dead and 800 injured.

Some men are born to tilt at windmills, others have their windmills thrust upon them. A resident of Thailand for less than five months, and claiming to be a member of Australia’s Special Air Service of seven years’ standing (in truth a former part-time army reservist), Purcell was working as an English teacher and living off the kindness of strangers when the redshirt movement, aligned with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, began protests the previous month calling for the resignation of the Democrat Party government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva. In the article above, he told the Bangkok Post that he has lost an emergency passport issued by the Australian embassy along with his last 1,400 baht (~AU$50) in the April 10 fracas, during which he was shot with rubber bullets by the Thai military.

“You need to take what he says with a big dose of salt. He’s a big noter who gilds the lily big time,” was the unofficial response of the embassy, apparently already rather well-acquainted with Purcell—sometime before his onstage debut, he had emailed dozens of media organisations and MPs back home demanding an official Australian response to the actions of the Abhisit government.

One would think that advertising your lack of legal documentation in Thailand’s newspaper of record would make one a little circumspect about seeking publicity, let alone attaching oneself to an opposition protest movement during a State of Emergency. Sure enough, Purcell was arrested on May 24 on suspicion of violating emergency decree laws that forbade participation in the protests, carrying a maximum two-year custodial sentence. While his continued detention was considered in court, he berated the judge and insisted he was being unlawfully held, disregarding an embassy representative who repeatedly asked him to be quiet. “Nobody in this country has authority over me,” he said at one point, demonstrating once again the timeless maxim that white privilege is the last refuge of the Australian abroad.

Lawrence of Siam arrives back in Sydney

“Ask me about my PTSD” — Lawrence of Siam arrives back in Sydney to rouse the masses, while a handsome young graduate at DFAT’s offices 300 kilometres to the south sets a Microsoft Outlook reminder to cancel Purcell’s passport ~15 minutes after he expects the press pack to head back to Holt Street

Away from the media he evidently calmed down and accepted the embassy’s counsel, serving six weeks of an eventual three month sentence once he admitted to addressing the redshirt rallies on two occasions. With no-one either back in Australia or at the embassy to spring for the $460 plane fare home, he spent a further two weeks in immigration detention before his flight was paid by Dr Pongsak Phusitsakul, a Thai surgeon who met Purcell during the crackdown and encouraged him to speak to the crowd on April 18. Upon his arrival in Sydney, Purcell told reporters he was beaten by prisoners on the order of guards, and said he would soon travel back to Thailand and continue to “fight for democracy”. I have found nothing to indicate his return, and his Facebook page suggests he is now living in Brisbane.


Malevolent Dictatorship

"Woke up this morning! You got a blue moon in your eyes!" —A keen scholar of SLORC-era Burma, Prayuth knows that karma debts arising from secret military courts can be repaid by making merit at the nearest pagoda.

“Woke up this morning! You got a blue moon in your eyes!” — A keen scholar of SLORC-era Burma, Prayuth Chan-ocha knows that karma debts arising from secret military courts can be repaid by making merit at the nearest pagoda.

It’s not martial law if you return to constitutional rule, even if the military drafted the constitution. Just ask Myanmar!

Yep, this checks out.

One of the reasons behind the April 1 decision to end martial law was its impact on international tourism (around 7-10% of GDP, depending on your measure), a curious rationale given that Thailand’s had more coups in the last 50 years than you and I’ve had hot dinners. All the same, if international arrivals are down, one should never underestimate the power of a thin coat of PR. Everyone’s freaking out about Article 44 of the interim constitution and why investing Gaddafi-tier powers in someone with a history of public temper tantrums might be a little ill-considered—but on the bright side, if the New Junta™ rebrand doesn’t work, you can shave another hundred of the list price of those Jetstar flights to Phuket by the end of the year.