I haven’t read a newspaper since I stepped off the airplane last October, simply because I think it’s an obsolete format for news. As it turns out, not many people I meet around here read the newspaper, either. News around these parts travels by word of mouth, quicker than you might imagine.
The other day I was shocked to hear that a policeman in a nearby town had been beaten to death by a local gang. The cop, who was in his fifties and off duty at the time, had asked a group of around 20 youths to keep it down at a restaurant. They responded by rushing his table and stomping his head, which may or may not have killed him outright. The thing is, they didn’t stop at that. They threw the man into the back of a pickup and sped off down the road. There were witnesses who called the police, but no one could identify the youths or the victim, and the police pursued the issue no further at the time.
One full day later, the family of the victim contacts the police to file a missing person report, and the police put two and two together. They suddenly realize one of their own has been assaulted and is missing, and a search effort is started… The desecrated and bullet-ridden body of the victim is soon discovered dumped over a nearby bridge. It is presumed that the perpetrators, having gone through the victim’s pockets, suddenly realized he was a cop and panicked, dumping the body in an obvious place.
In any other country I’ve been in, this story would have ended in pretty much the same way. The perpetrators would have been hunted down in a massive police effort to avenge one of their brethren. But there’s a Thai twist to all of this. The police are singularly unsuccesful at apprehending even a single suspect out of the 20 or so reported, so the family decides to take things into their own hands, in the only way they know how. They bring the body of the fallen officer to a kind of spirit medium, a ghost talker mystic who not only claims to be able to speak with the fallen, but to be able to influence events in the real world. The seance is performed and the fallen officer is successfully contacted.
The next day, two of the attackers suddenly turn themselves in. The rest are being rounded up by the police, now that they have some place to start.
My mother in law told us this story two days ago. Yesterday, she attended the funeral for the policeman, who turned out to be an old family friend.
This is all very new to me, but none of the Thais who heard this story thought there was anything strange about it.