Safety first?

Depending on who you ask, Bangkok is an amazing/horrible, peaceful/chaotic, idyllic/nightmarish place to live. Just like every other developing city, we have our share of problems. And just like every other developing city, we try to improve our surroundings and protect people from harm.

However, no matter what your perception is of this City of (Fallen) Angels, there's one thing we can agree on: Bangkok never fails to entertain with some of the ridiculous ways it promotes safety.

Here are some examples of safety measures that probably started out with good intentions, but passed through a malfunctioning cerebral cortex, got caught up with some misfiring synapses, and came out a mess of mushy mistakes.

Deterring the dreaded "dek waen"

This banner, spotted on Rama IV Road earlier this week, bears this message: "At this intersection, dek waen have DIED!" Note that the red, blood-dripping word in huge Thai letters is "DIED!" How's that for drama (and morbidity)?

If you live under a rose-coloured rock, here's some background: Dek waen refers to rebellious Thai youth gangs who have a penchant for thrill-seeking behaviour such as dangerously racing motorcycles (to impress girls), ignoring laws (to impress girls), and generally wreaking havoc (to impress girls). One unfortunate consequence of this kind of fast and furious behaviour results in some of them, well, getting killed.

Police have tried to implement harsher measures to quash dek waen behaviour. But perhaps this had little effect, because this peachy sign has now been crafted. Do police think that dek waen are even going to see what this banner says as they're whizzing by on their motorcycles? If anything, it's us regular non-delinquent folk who have to look at the gloomy reminder of death while stuck in traffic. Thanks for the pleasant experience!

Seizing the snatch

Another common problem in some parts of Bangkok is the scourge of the bag-snatchers. It usually happens when two people on a motorcycle drive by, and quickly grab a purse from an unsuspecting woman walking by. In some cases, this has resulted in extreme injuries - even death - for women who have tried to hold on to their purses. So it makes sense that women (and men carrying man-purses) should be careful.

Unfortunately, for English-speaking people who are overgrown, immature adults (like myself), the sign that's been put up to caution people of bag-snatchers is, erm, well, hahaha... These warnings evoke a whole different depraved meaning, because it doesn't include the all-important reference to bags or purses. Rather, it just advises people to beware of "snatch theft". If you don't know the dirty slang being connoted here, I won't explain because some of us should still be able to retain our innocence.

A dummy's guide to being a dummy

While some of us may think "dummy police" is a redundant phrase, it actually refers to fake statues of cops that have been put up around the city since early 2008 to prevent motorists from doing things like speeding or running red lights. Since then, the human police force has really invested in their dummy counterparts. Recently, the dummies were equipped with CCTVs and high-speed cameras to assist cops, and inadvertently bring us closer to the robot apocalypse.

As ridiculous as the whole premise of using fake cops is, there's one particular dummy cop situated on Khao San Road that has been given a "Superman makeover". To help tourists feel safer, the sign reads: "Superman sleeps. The Super Police hasn't yet. Never did and never will." Sure, it's cute in its gimmick, but if the police actually wanted to stay with the Superman theme, perhaps they should have written something like: "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yeah, it's probably one of those things because it's definitely not the Super Police doing anything to make the city safer!"G

About the author

columnist
Writer: Sumati Sivasiamphai
Position: Guru Editor