Monday, October 13, 2008

Thai Police, Punctured Protesters, and Exploding Tear Gas from China

Things aren't simple, and the War on Terror is no exception. While the American news media diligently reports another milestone of carnage in Iraq, something odd is happening in the east end of Asia.

Riot police in Thailand blew craters in the street and shredded quite a few people with: tear gas?!

I haven't dealt with it personally, but I'm pretty familiar with how anti-personnel tear gas works. The sort used for crowd control, at least. The canisters make a loudish 'pop!' when they detonate. Mostly, they release tear gas. If you're risk-tolerant, you can even pick up the canister and throw it back at whoever fired it at you.

Unless the tear gas was made in China.

Then, you're likely to either wake up in a hospital, with a few pieces missing: or not wake up in a morgue.

There was an interesting sequence of articles on the CNN news site last week:
  • October 6, 2008
    "Police fire tear gas at Bangkok protesters"
    • "... Reporters at the scene heard sounds of gunfire, but police Maj. Gen. Viboon Bangthamai said that only tear gas was being used against the crowd in Bangkok.
    • "Sixty-five people were injured, including two seriously, said Petpong Kumtonkitjakarn of the Erawan Medical Center.
    • " 'One of them lost his leg, another was hit with shrapnel in the chest,' he said....
  • October 7, 2008
    "Deaths as Thai police, protesters clash"
    • "...One person died after a car bomb exploded near the protest area, officials said, and Ramathibhodi Hospital officials confirmed that a woman died from severe chest injuries suffered in the clash with police...."
  • October 8, 2008
    "Calm returns to Bangkok after bloody rioting"
    • "...Demonstrators accused police of using grenades; authorities denied it and say they only used tear gas on the crowd....
Looks like the Thai police were telling the truth, sort of: they very well may have been using only tear gas.

Problem is, the tear gas they used was cheap stuff from China, with a bit of explosive mixed in.

Specifically, RDX was on some of the protester's clothes, and on the barrels of the tear-gas launchers that the riot police used.


That would explain those little craters in the street, and the medium-to-big holes in the protesters.

And, it's the latest example of how products from China don't always work quite the way they're supposed to.

I still think it's likely that China's new export industry is infested with criminally incompetent nitwits, who have no clue about why you make sure that
  • Consumer electronics don't have factory-loaded malware
  • Cough syrup doesn't kill the customer, as well as the cough
  • Children's toys aren't coated with lead
  • Baby food isn't poisonous
On the other hand, as these over-the-top examples of not-as-advertised products pile up - along with dead bodies - it isn't all that crazy to wonder if the Chinese government is trying to sabotage other countries.

And doing a bad job of it.

Particularly since hackers who attacked American military networks, and got into the World Bank Group's computers, often just happen to have Chinese IP addresses.

Which brings up another point: don't these people realize that activity on the Internet can be tracked?

Exploding Tear Gas?! You Gotta be Kidding!

My father gave me quite a bit of excellent advice, including, "never attribute to malice, what can be explained by stupidity." I think that may apply here.

If the Chinese government was really trying to destabilize other countries, you'd think that they'd be able to do better than sell the Thai police the crowd control equivalent of exploding cigars.

The same goes for their poisoned baby food, toxic dumplings, and lethal cough syrup. The factory-infected consumer electronics looks like a case of incompetent quality control: but it just might have been an effort to get spyware into foreign computers.

It Was Just a Small Crater: Keeping Things in Perspective

It wouldn't be too hard for me whip up a post that focused on China's perfidious proclivities, the yellow peril, and the threat that Those Foreigners pose to Real Americans. I wouldn't believe a word of it, but I could write it.

On the other hand, I don't think that China is either unimportant, or that the Chinese government is particularly trustworthy. I'm no more happy about China's announcement, a little while ago, that Tibet was a Chinese province, than I would be if America declared that Baja California was the 51st American state.

So, when China leaves digital fingerprints on major hack attacks, and seems to be going out of its way to establish a reputation as an exporter of cheaply lethal products, I'm concerned. That secret submarine base takes some explaining, too.

"Secret submarine base?!" It sounds melodramatic: but China does seem to have one.

Back to the strange case of the exploding tear gas:

The Associated press reported: "...Tests at a military field over the weekend found that a Chinese-made tear gas canister fired from a shotgun left a crater 8 centimeters wide and 3 centimeters deep (3 inches wide and 1 inch deep), she said, noting that it also 'left a hole in a metal pipe.'..." That's not a very large crater: about as wide as my palm, and as deep as my hand.

Still, that's a lot of bang for a tear gas canister.

What RDX was doing in the Chinese tear gas hasn't come out. Maybe there's a criminally innocent explanation, like how melamine wound up in Chinese baby food.

Between hack attacks, poisoned cough syrup, and - now - explosive tear gas, China and China's government is getting more interesting by the month.

Previous posts about China's troubles: In the news: Background about People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD):

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.