Archived Articles by Jao Moragoat | | Historical Mobs and Mobsters; Political Mobs of Thailand, May 2006






Thailand Political Chaos : Mopping up the Mobs


"I'm going out uncle. I'll be back in a little while." Said Kwan

"You'd better stay in tonight. The mops are out and it's dangerous." Kwan's uncle warned.

What kind of mop could possibly be so dangerous? Kwan thought. "Which mops are you talking about uncle?" Kwan was confused.

"Those poor ones from the Northeast and North of Thailand. They've come to clean the system." Replied his uncle.

"Oh, you mean all the janitors and maids?" Kwan laughed.

While mops are essential tools for those employed in the custodial arts, Kwan's uncle was actually meaning to say 'mobs', not 'mops'. Mobs are another fraction of society that also have a purpose for public sanitation. However, it's not the toilets and sinks these mobs are looking to clean.

Contemporarily, the word mob has been used to describe the groups of protesters, which have rallied in large groups for political activism. Political unrest has been the main factor for the forming of recent mobs in Thailand , Philippines , Indonesia , Nepal , Venezuela , and France .

Historically, 'mob' has had different implications altogether. For hundreds of years, mob referred to groups of people who took justice into their own hand, often via violent and immoral measures. (i.e. lynch mobs) The word mob was first used on a massive wide scale to refer to 'mobsters' or gangsters. Mobsters are the predecessors to the mafia.

Though mobs seeking justice or political change have been forming all across the globe for centuries, mobsters were formed in effect to the outlawing of alcohol in the United states eight and a half decades ago. From 1920 till 1933, the United States government banned the selling and production of alcoholic beverages. This period is also known as prohibition.

During prohibition, organized crime revolving around the underground alcohol business boomed. Different mobs formed in great numbers to control the supply and meet the high demand for alcohol in defiance to the government. The epicenters for the most powerful mobs were in Chicago and New York City . Perhaps the most famous mobster of all is Al Capone.

Al Capone was the leader of Chicago 's most powerful mob, which thrived off of the underground alcohol business. Eventually, Elliot Ness, a diligent FBI agent was able to bust Al Capone with tax evasion, even though he was guilty of far worse crimes such as the mass murder of several federal agents.

By the time Al Capone was imprisoned in 1934, prohibition had already ended, diminishing the power and abundance of mobsters. Since then, mob came to be used to refer to any large organized group of people in opposition or protest to the government.

In Thailand , two different mobs have recently formed. The first mob is mostly urban elite, wealthy intellectuals and democrats who demanded that the prime minister give up his position. In direct response, a new mob formed with a pro government stance. These were mostly made up of lower income country folk from the North and Northeast.

The anti-Thaksin mob had been based in Sanam Luang for several months, and had their biggest protest at Siam Paragon days before the April 2 nd elections. The pro-Thaksin mob, which took base at Jatujak Park , made headlines all over with their protests at Nation Headquarters.

Fortunately, the latest mob rallies have been mostly peaceful with no casualties as in the mobs of 1992, 1976, and 1973. "These protests were peaceful because it wasn't an outright opposition to the entire system and government, focusing on only sour segments within the government and media." said Tanan, a political observer.

Since the word 'mob' has had negative implications in the past (i.e. organized crime), it's no surprise why mobs would prefer to call themselves 'political activists' instead. "It's quite humorous how 'mob' is always used as an offensive term to refer to the opposite side, when in reality, they're both mobs." Said Bobby, Nation Junior sub-editor.

While most mobs will justify their attempts as necessary political activism, others disagree with organizing large mobs for protest. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, president of the International Movement for a Just World stated that mobs are an obstacle for effective democracy. "If you allow dissidents, however big or important, to remove an elected leader, what message are you sending?" he rhetorically asked.

In other words, if the government always gives into mob's demands, what's gonna stop the next mob from making even bigger demands?



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