Littering for Peace!

Dictionary.com defines “harebrained” as “foolish or flighty”, previously spelled “hairbrained” under the implication that one has a “hair-sized brain”.

The past year has seen an extensive amount of violence in Thailand’s largely Muslim-populated southern provinces, which has included the mutilations and assassinations of students, monks, civil servants, policemen, and the average citizen-on-the-street, and culminated in not one, but two Army-driven crackdowns on protestors that have contributed to about half of the over 400 casualties recorded year-to-date. An area previously known for calm is now simmering beneath the surface with anxiety, tension, and rage; doctors refuse to practice in the south, students are afraid to go to school, and the King and Queen have both made outspoken speeches on the matter (a rarity for a royal family that prefers not to intervene in the affairs of the country’s elected government).

Under calls from academics, religious leaders, the media, the citizenry, the international community, and now the royal family to take decisive action, our government has come up with its most brilliant masterstroke to date: blanket the south with garbage. In a gesture of goodwill and understanding, Thailand’s Dear Leader has asked the country to fold over 60 million paper cranes, which are to be airlifted by military planes and dropped over the provinces. Any brave soul willing to lay odds that most of the paper is biodegradable?

Let’s do a little math here. Let’s say a super-fast paper crane folding individual is able to fold 1 crane every 30 seconds. That would result in 30,000,000 person-minutes, or 500,000 person-hours, or 20,833 person-days, or 57 person-years. Now if the average civil servant makes Baht 8,000 a month in salary (or US$200, a very low-end estimate), we’re talking about a minimum of US$136,800 in lost wages spent by people folding paper cranes. Add to that the personnel, fuel, and military hardware costs of loading a cargo craft with these cranes and doing an airdrop; I don’t have a cost estimate, but can we say that it would be reasonable to assume that this would be a minimum 5-hour operation, at $10,000 per hour? That brings our total tally to an ultra-conservative $186,800 bar tab (not including the cost of the paper, and the time and cost of cleaning up the mess afterwards). I’m not even going to elaborate on the bureaucratic brainiac who suggested taping 1-baht coins onto each of the cranes as a donation, because nothing says “we care about you” as much as dropping 135 metric tons of loose change on one’s head.

Now, raise your hand if you don’t think that almost 200 grand could be spent more constructively to express goodwill and understanding between Buddhists and Muslims. After all, that’s almost 10x the amount our government has pledged to support the families of the victims in the last crackdown. Raise your hand if you think an individual who one of Thailand’s English-language dailies labels as an “uber socialite” is most useful spending her time and fortune coaxing her employees and customers to fold paper cranes so that she can get a soundbyte on the evening news and her photo in the monthly Tatler.

My suggestion to anyone who has the time to fold paper cranes and the heart & willingness to make things better in the south: read the Koran. That’s right, read it. And talk to a local imam, ask him questions. The best way to show goodwill and understanding to the embattled and beseiged Muslims in the south is to actually take the time to understand who they are, and what they believe in. No need to convert; after all, Buddhism is a fine religion. But read a book, people! Islam isn’t such a bad religion either, if you get past the bomb-wielding crazies that make up a fraction of a fraction of the Muslim population. That way, perhaps we can avoid the paper-folding crazies who think that there is a direct correlation between a ticker-tape parade and religious harmony.

3 Comments so far

  1. him (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2004 @ 12:38 pm

    As funny as this is (funny meaning both “sad” and “shakes head in amazement”), it rivals a quote form yesterday’s paper.

    “Supreme Commander Chaisit Shinawatra said militants from neighbouring countries had a hand in fomenting unrest in the south but declined to say where they were based”.

    Ok, he won’t say where they are from, but it’s a neighbouring country that’s muslim-friendly and is to the south.

    Considering there’s only *one* neighbouring country, it doesn’t leave a lot of choice does it?

    Sometimes I think Thailand is not only crazy, but oblivious to the facts of reality. I mean, seriously, origami cranes. Sheesh. Maybe if they made each out of 100B notes?


  2. Ben Harris (unregistered) on November 24th, 2004 @ 7:36 am

    Next you will hear the government being sued because a paper crane poked someones eye out.


  3. honeybuzz (unregistered) on November 26th, 2004 @ 12:34 pm

    This is the most stupid idea of all the other stupid and wasteful ideas this government has come up with (so far)!

    Please, Khun Thaksin, stop amazing us with your short-sighted and delusional solutions!



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