Thailand: Blood symbolically spilled at protests

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Photographs by Newley Purnell of "red shirt" protestors in Thailand as they gather human blood and store it in large bottles, to pour on the ground in front of the prime minister's residence in a shocking gesture of condemnation. "I have never seen anything quite like this," tweets Purnell, who has been covering the events in person over the past week.

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  1. I wonder how this was pitched?
    “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s mix precious life giving blood that there’s always a shortage of with other blood that is surely infected with all kinds of diseases and dump it on public property creating a huge biohazard. As an added bonus we get to waste medical supplies!”

    1. So people had to clean it up – so what? So it was messy, disgusting, and a massive inconvenience to the Prime Minister and his staff.

      Isn’t that the point?

      There’s a discussion to be had about the increasing extremity of protest required to gain public attention for an issue (though this is not the most extreme protest I’ve seen – people setting themselves on fire probably wins that).

      But wasteful? Not if the protest has some impact. And not really more wasteful than many other demonstrations and protests. At least the “waste” here was an organic, biodegradable, easily produced substance.

      If you think that blood could have been put to better use, that’s debatable – again, depends what kind of impact this protest has.

      1. That’s all fair enough, I just felt like the original album gave the impression that the weekend was a happy day out. Two sides to the story and all that.

  2. A disturbing method of protest for a country that has at times suffered from shortages in their blood supply…

  3. From operation point of view, it is highly suspicious that such amount of blood could have been accumulated in such a short time. The leaders of the the red shirt demonstrators had admitted that salt water was added. In other quarter, there is doubt that most of the blood was collected from abatoirs around Bangkok. Spilling blood on the street serves only to disgust the mainstream these people want to attract, lower their credibility and pose a serious public health risk.

  4. For a nation with the world’s highest rate of HIV infection – especially in the Northeast where most of the “Red Shirts” come from, this seems particularly irresponsible. Even Thaksin, their blessed leader, was reported to have tried to talk them out of this.

  5. Wow. I admit that I’ve never been able to make up my mind about Thaksin Shinawatra, whose supporters are pictured above. But if his followers are this kooky, it reflects pretty poorly on him.

  6. What two sides to the story? People had to clean up the mess?

    I don’t see the problem with that.

    1. It’s just some more photos of the event, showing more than the rally. That is all.

      My only issue, which I touched on, was that, yes, I do think the blood could have been put to better use, but that is neither her or there.

    2. What a childish mindset. It’s like being mad at the owner of a restaurant and knocking your plate off the table. You’re not punishing the owner, you’re punishing his staff. People who have hard lives for low pay and have to clean up the messes of smug children because their bosses did something wrong.

      You don’t see the problem with causing grief indirectly and to the wrong person?

  7. I totally disagree.
    People all over the world are depending of blood donations. Those airheads are throwing it away. I wonder what went on in the medical personels heads who took the blood. “Normally this helps very sick people sustain massive surgery, but what the hell, just put it down the drain for a change”.
    And I thought flashmobs were the top of mass pseudo protest stupidity….

    why not just take cattle blood for gods sakes?

    lets hope the international public will have forgotten about this massive multiplayer brainfart the next time a tsunami hits your shores, folks…..

  8. I have looked at the photos, and as I said, it’s people cleaning up the mess. No big deal, really. After a big march or demonstration, street cleaners often have to clean up litter etc from the streets.

    There’s nothing to prevent the people who took part in the demo giving blood in the near future, presumably.

    1. That’s true, and hopefully they will give blood in the future.

      Just to be clear though, those aren’t street cleaners, they are the crew who will come and scrape you off the ground if you’re in a car/motorbike accident etc. hopefully to a hospital if you survive.

    2. No, those look like street cleaners who have been given protective gear to prevent transmission of bloodborne illness. They are probably poorer and worse off than the protesters and have no choice but to do this menial cleanup task (so simply characterizing them as “the prime minister’s staff” who are “incovenienced” is, in my view not an accurate representation). I would have had more respect for the protest organizers if they had instead convinced all these people to give blood where it is needed most, which is in hospitals.

      1. No, they are not street cleaners. The uniform with S.M.A.R.T on the back shows that they are workers with the “human” street clean up crew, i.e the ambulance service.

        Also, just as an observastion, there are no women in these pictures, there are many female street cleaners in Bangkok.

        1. although I still agree with you that they could have been doing more worthy things with their time considering the horrific number of road accidents Bangkok has.

  9. Conflicted.

    On one hand I think it makes for a really good protest.

    On the other hand it is certainly wasteful of human blood that might have been put to better use, say in a hospital.

    Bottom line, its their blood, and they have a right to do what they want with it I guess. Certainly getting world media attention, which is likely the whole point, so mission accomplished.

    1. Bottom line, its their blood, and they have a right to do what they want with it I guess.

      By that reasoning, I guess you wouldn’t mind if I spit in your eye, since it is my spit and I can do with it what I want, right? Or, if not spit, any other liquid biological fluids that I feel like sharing?

  10. After seeing the blood in the bottles on the left, the first thing that crossed my mind – I could have had a V-8!

  11. Kind of scary for the cleanup crew – with blood from so many people mixed together, it’s kind of frightening to think about how many blood-borne pathogens (especially given the high prevalence of HIV and HBV in Thailand…) that they got exposed to…

  12. mmbb: That ridic they put blood on the ground not in peoples eyes. One is a mess that may have bylaws against it but the other is technically assault and battery. they are not = comparisons.

  13. To all the people complaining about the waste of blood, please consider that the medical use of blood requires typing, testing, and certain minimum quantities for actual use. The blood they spilled was a small amount from each person (no more than a few CCs) and was mixed into bottles with other blood. Just based on the quantity taken from each individual, it would have been useless in a medical situation. And I agree, I hope this spurns further giving.

  14. Saying the blood could have been put to better use sort of begs the question by presuming that the object of their protest is less important than donating blood would be.

    Also: How many of those people would have given blood in the next 8 weeks but for their participation in the blood protest? How many people complaining about the waste here have given blood in the last eight weeks?

  15. Thaksin was an ass.

    He didn’t deserve to get the boot via a coup, but he did. Life with it, Thaksin. You don’t feel like somebody that actually cares about Thailand, Thaksin, as long as you encourage this silliness from your red shirts.

    And that’s not to say that the yellow shirts aren’t a misguided bunch, either.

  16. Eh, neither side represents much in the way of shining beacons of liberal democracy. Every time I see a country roll through a couple of quick coups, sketchy elections, followed by a few rounds of wholesale constitution changes, and then some populist left or right riots to get fill-in-sketchy-ass-cult-of-personality-here back in or out, I kind of am thankful that as shitty as my country’s leaders might occasionally be, when the boot meets the ass, they leave.

    It kind of makes me wonder where the bloody fuck the political scientist are though. Have we really not be able to ponder up a political system where power is dispersed, institutions have checks and balances, and you can go a few years without a cult of personality nut lapping up the love of the people and the power in the government? Is this just what happens when you tell humans to figure out a legal system to employ force for the greater good?

    You would think that after the ten thousandth or so glorious leader that has popped up around the world (and I include democratic leaders too) we would start to learn that one politician isn’t going to make the world any better, but if you give one enough power they sure as shit can make a lot worse.

    I find the tendency for ALL government types to slowly concentrate power into the hands of fewer and fewer leaders deeply disturbing. Even governments that you would think would be immune end up doing it in the end. If you sat down and read the US constitution and the bill of rights not knowing anything about how it ends, there is no-fucking-way you would predict that the end result is a president that can declare war and a federal government that can and does override all state laws and collect taxes from the populace directly.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Democracy sure as shit isn’t the answer, nor is a Republic. The theocratic, communal, hereditary, and plain old authoritarian government manage to dump power in the hands of a few ever quicker.

    What is left? Maybe government by draft lottery? Maybe you can have a system where if the big wheel picks your name, you serve whatever post the big wheel picks for you for a set period of time. Once your time is up, your ass goes back to whatever you were doing before getting drafted. All government positions, without exception, are by lottery only. All citizens are dumped into the lottery, and all positions end after a set period of time. If you are picked, you are slave to a headless state. Don’t know how to do the job you were selected for? Tough. Talk to the other dumb bastards who got drafted with you and figure it out. Leave lots of overlap time and have the lottery constantly rolling so that n00bs and vets about to leave are always overlapping. Punishment for attempting to stay in a position beyond your time, or attempting to create a government position outside of the completely random lottery system is exile.

    Your laws would have to be pretty simple. Any asshole might end up being a judge or jury. In fact, you probably only want laws you really care about, because clueless lottery “winners” are going to have to enforce them. Do you want a random idiot pulled off the street to be trying to decipher some 300 page long law on bubble gum regulation? You better have some limits and oversight on police power, because anyone from a psycho killer to a pacifist could be drafted for police duty. You don’t want any position to be too powerful, because you never know who is going to put in that position. You sure as hell don’t want a single guy to act as el presidante because that single guy could be an idiot or a psycho.

    Okay. I’m off topic, but I like the idea.

    1. not unrelated: William F. Buckley said:

      I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.

  17. Powerful symbol, yes. Good idea, not really.

    I hope we don’t start seeing that in the US. If you think protests are bad for traffic, try biohazard spills.

    Also, it is a helluva waste. How about a symbolic donation to the local blood bank.

    These pics are gonna put me off my Hawaiian Punch.

  18. All protest is symbolic (that’s where it differs from direct action, or from revolution). Powerful symbol = powerful protest.

    I’m ever so glad there aren’t any brownshirts, mind.

  19. While I can completely understand wanting to make a statement to the people in power, this seems incredibly wasteful. They should have donated the blood and used an equivalent amount of red ink instead.

  20. Okay… lots of stuff to cover.

    1) Am I the only one who doesn’t think all those bottles are blood? First few bottles look more like tomato juice.

    2) Is it wasteful to pour perfectly good blood on the street? If I give money to the Secular Coalition of America to help them politicize my viewpoint… is that not money I could have given to the needy? It’s a fallacious argument. Just because something fungible could be used for another cause doesn’t make it’s use wasteful.

    3) I do feel for the people who have to clean it up, although it’s hard for me to form a solid opinion on it without knowing:

    – Is this their standard job? Are they in a profession where they clean human remains?

    – Are they in agreement with the protest? For all we know, everyone on that crew gave blood to be spilled.

    Either one of those would greatly affect my thoughts on the clean up effort.

  21. I think many folks who don’t know Thailand (and I’m no expert, just somebody with friends and family there, who has visited a couple of times) are perhaps not understanding the backgrounds of the two parties. The Reds and the Yellows (whatever the name of the parties may be at the moment) are not populist uprisings against an evil oppressor. This document does a good job of explaining things.

    TLDR version is that they represent different sides of a mostly regional and old vs. new elites struggle for political power.

    Yes, the Northeast, the poorest most undeveloped portion of Thailand was part of Thaksin’s powerbase (and now that he is out, the Red party du jour as they get banned and reform repeatedly), but they are hardly the only lower class people in Thailand, and Thaksin’s political promises in other regions of Thailand were not about the same things as he pitched in Isan.

    I.e., it is complicated, messy, and neither side is what we would consider good guys, but to be fair, neither is completely awful either (frankly I wouldn’t consider our parties to be good guys particularly either).

  22. Hepatitis C kills.

    HIV kills.

    Look at your hands. Do you have a paper cut? a scratch from playing with your dog, or a scrape from a weekend project? That’s all it takes for one of these viruses to enter your bloodstream. Every single one of those protestors, and all of the bystanders, were put at risk needlessly.

    1. N, Ssn lvr, hystr klls. It is very hard for Hep C & HIV virus to penetrate the skin or cuts. The longer these virus are exposed to air & sunlight, the faster they die. NONE of the protesters or bystanders were at risk from pools of blood poured on the ground. Gt yr hd t f yr pstrr & dn’t tlk BS.

  23. So much clucking about their methods of protest, and no one’s even curious about what the PM has been doing to earn such contempt?

    I read a little bit on wikipedia, and it’s pretty bad: I can see how they might want to get dramatic there.

    Good object lesson on how to neutralize any opposition movement: Focus on how impolite they’re being, and give no notice to what they’re protesting.

  24. The concerns voiced about wastefulness assume that this blood was A) available and B) safe for other uses. It is reasonable to suggest that many (if not most) of the people who were the source of this blood either A) would not have donated blood for other purposes or B) do not have safe blood.

  25. Without the Yellow Shirts, Thaksin’s nominees (Samak and Taksin’s own brother-in-law Somchai) would have taken turned being Prime Ministers to their heart’s delight–waiting for their master to return–and his various crimes would stay undiscovered. Now, the counter-corruption agency and finally the supreme court have come out and proved correct what we have been saying for nearly ten years about his massive network of corruption and comprehensive, treasonous plan. Abhisit would have remained the leader of a political party with no real power or voice.

  26. Is it wrong that the first thing that I noticed was that the blood is being stored in Nestle “Pure Life” bottles??

  27. I’m not sure what to be surprised about more, the HIV phobia or telling people what to do with their blood.

    If we own anything in this world, it’s our own blood.

  28. im Thai people and i can say they are insane and stupid
    Many red shirt people leave home for money
    1night get 500 or 1000 BATH about 15-35 US Dollar for 1 night
    Everyone in Thailand know about it but journalist not report the true things
    Mr.Tuksin Shinnawat he want his money back into his pocket
    His trick people out to create disturbances They want the government to dissolve the parliament Because he have a case of being judged more and they know himselves to be sentenced to imprisonment.
    They want to change the new government. When elections come up again after collapse House. Party will use the money to buy his people to choose their party back into government again. Thaksin buy everyting with his money.
    Thaksin was buying the judgments of prosecutors, but caught his wife’s attorney has claimed that his bag of candy to switch bags. This only occasionally.
    In time as Prime Minister Thaksin. Thaksin to loan to the Burmese military more than 15 million dollars to invest in mobile network.
    The Burmese military government contracts to employ a subsidiary of Thaksin’s family, it is corruption policy. it is conflict of interest
    Thaksin government loan money is tax money of Thais. Back to the Thaksin’s bag.
    Thaksin to do all the power again. Thaksin want a shadow government. That he is control. Shadow government to dismiss all cases of fraud some marxism in thailand support Thaksin strategic marxism dislike capitalist in fact but they hate the king.
    marxism in Thailand want to overthrow the king. Collaboration with Thaksin. Thaksin’s money in movement

    this is like a bookstory but it real in thailand some poor people love Thaksin they think Thaksin is god because money he use money to much in policy use tax money from mid-class people give it to POOR PEOPLE HE GIVE A FISH BUT NEVER TEACH HOW TO GET A FISH FROM THE RIVER POOR PEOPLE LIKE THAT WAY LAZY LAZY
    wait some money from rich people it suck THAKSIN KNOW BETTER ABOUT IT AND USE F***king policy

  29. The local reaction to this has ranged from horror to disgust. As someone who lives here I can tell you that the red-shirts suffer from a serious lack of direction and cohesion and their latest stunt has only worsened their situation as the number of protesters continues to drop.

    Other than being spurred by Thaksin’s recent loss in court, which I see as a win since he didn’t lose everything, there is no reason whatsoever for this sudden uprising. The latest reason they are protesting, which changes nearly daily, is because of the age-old poor vs rich story but this is something that has existed for a long,long time and there is nothing that has suddenly made it more of a problem than it has always been.

    They have some valid points and the PM continues to offer to meet with them to discuss them, though he’s made it abundantly clear that he’s not resigning. Unfortunately something, or someone, seems to be holding back the possibility of talks.

    Most Thais are incredibly frustrated at the continued lack of peace, something that hasn’t occurred here in over four years.

  30. Interesting that BoingBoing should see this as worthy of notice yet has completely ignored the situation of Thai Bloggers who have received up to 10 years imprisonment for commenting on the political situation here. I guess photos of buckets of blood are of more interest to some people than the situation of those who have been harshly punished for attempting to exercise freedom of expression on the net.

    I’d also like to point out that the situation here is a great deal more complex than some commenters have made out, there is right and wrong on both sides of the fence and the majority of people here are capable of seeing that. Nor are the majority of people here particularly horrified at this “blood demo”, it’s understood as making sense within the context of Thai tradition and culture. This current political situation is a deeply polarising issue for some in Thailand, especially for some foreigners with little knowledge or understanding of the real issues at play here. For those with a genuine interest in what’s going on here in Thailand I heartily recommend a recent (banned in Thailand) article in The Economist, http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15718981

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