I haven’t actually had any run-in’s with the law here (except one when a police man told me not to ride my bike the wrong way down a one way street), but I did have two funny experiences Sunday night.
As I was on my way to meet a friend, I biked past the Lao Bank for Exterior Commerce. There was a police man standing outside, who said “Sabadee!” as I approached. I responded “Sabadee!”, and then he called out “Boom boom ? ” as I went by. “Boom boom” is the universal South-East Asian term for “Wanna do it?”.
I said “Bow kop chai” and kept on going.
A few hours later, as I was on my way home, around 9 pm, I approached a 3-way intersection where the light had just turned red. There were two police officers sitting on motorcycles on one corner of the intersection. A large SUV approached, slowed down a little, and then just drove straight through the red light. The police officers did not even bother to get up, move, or look at the SUV.
Maybe I don’t understand the traffic rules and regulations of Vientiane, but that seemed strange to me.
I was reading an article in the New Yorker today about police departments in the US using “non-lethal weapons” to try to avoid crisis. The article was interesting because I realized that subconsciously, as I read the article, I started to believe that the police were the good guys, and who ever they were using these weapons against were obviously the bad guys. I wanted the police to win in any of these encounters with criminals as I read this article.
Somehow, perhaps due to the intensive training in critical thinking I have subjected my brain to over the years, I had a realization whilst reading this article. The author documented several different types of non-lethal weapons that are all extremely painful in most cases, but probably won’t kill you. The idea that the author was suggesting that these weapons were perfectly safe in the hands of policemen all over the country was a subtle one that I only perceived when I realized how frightening some of these weapons sounded. As a rule, I don’t trust cops, and I certainly wouldn’t trust my safely at their hands with any of the devices mentioned in the article. It brought to my mind the incident in Vancouver, where a Polish man was tased to death at the airport when he became disorientated and agitated.
Anyway, enough disturbing thoughts about law enforcement and that “thin blue line” we like to imagine separates us from total chaos and anarchy. I should write more about sandwiches and wats.