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  1. #1
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    As the dust settles, don't sweep it under a rug

    Interesting piece written by a former Thaksin government cabinet member....

    As the dust settles, don't sweep it under a rug

    Opinion » Opinion
    LET IT BE

    As the dust settles, don't sweep it under a rug
    Published: 28/05/2010 at 12:00 AM
    Newspaper section: News

    It is now over a week since the events of the red shirt protest-cum-rioting, and the dust has begun to settle.

    But beneath the apparent calm as Bangkok and 23 provinces remain under curfew and emergency law, lingering questions must be asked and answered.

    First, the details of the shootings on April 10 at Khok Wua intersection are still murky. The relatively peaceful "push and shove" between the red shirts and army personnel on that afternoon at Phan Fa and Makkhawan bridges turned violent at nightfall. Who gave the order to the army to continue the dispersal effort?

    Any military strategist would have realised that the risk of losing lives was greater in the dark in an urban area operation. And why were live bullets used?

    The government had declared that it would stick to a graduated soft-to-heavy approach. Rubber bullets, batons and shields were supposed to be the standard weapons with well-trained crowd control police in front of the military.

    The government blamed the violent fighting on the "men in black" armed militia. Still, after a loss of 26 lives and around 858 injuries, it was never officially established in which direction the bullets hit each person, what were their causes of death, and who actually shot them. And if there indeed were "men in black", the failure of military intelligence in evaluating the situation contributed greatly to the bungle in the operation.

    Even the circumstances of the most prominent death of Colonel Romklao Tuwatham, an army rising star, was not fully explained. It is only known so far that he was the victim of an M79 grenade explosion. Col Romklao was supposedly a key man in the operation. His death brought into question the competence of the Thai army as a whole in future urban warfare operations.

    The second set of questions concerns details of the so-called negotiations between the red shirts and the government. The breakdown in a series of talks that involved many mediators - the last one being a group of 60 senators - eventually led the government down the path of "tightening the protest area". The containment was met by the red shirt leaders' stubborn resistance. Eventually riots ensued.

    Could Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have reached out more to accommodate the details in the UDD's demands? Could Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban have travelled a little further down the road from reporting to the Department of Special Investigations (DSI), to include a trip to the Metropolitan Police - the only demand the red shirts had left so that they could claim equal treatment under the law?

    On the other side, could ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra have talked to the red shirt leaders and supporters asking them to go home peacefully, especially since they seemed to have at least secured an election date in November?

    How sincere were both sides in negotiating? Or were these just delaying tactics while preparing to confront each other?

    A more open account of what happened would be a valuable lesson for conflict resolution in the future.

    Thirdly, the more than 60 deaths and hundreds who had been injured during the week preceding the surrendering of the red shirt leaders on May 19 must be accounted for.

    The shooting of "Seh Daeng," Maj Gen Khattiya Sawasdipol, remains a mystery. For whatever laws and military regulations he broke, he had a right to a fair trial like everybody else. It's the government's responsibility to find the culprit(s) behind the sniper fire that murdered him in front of the international press and bring them to justice.

    There must be an explanation for every person who died whether at Bon Kai, Din Daeng or Sala Daeng, and other places surrounding the demonstration's centre. A complete roster with the causes of death and injuries must be made and each single case investigated. The government cannot lump them together and classify everyone as "terrorists".

    The government must order a full investigation into the controversy at Wat Pathumwanaram on the night of May 19, when at least six bodies were found in the morning that included emergency medical personnel. Since that night the army was in control of the area with pictures to prove it - they cannot deny responsibility for explaining what happened.

    Fourth is the question on the government's strategy after the red shirt leaders surrendered themselves to the police. Was the government really naive to the point of expecting the crowd to peacefully disperse in tears and jump on government-provided buses like last Songkran? Why was there not enough preparation for a "worst-case scenario" especially after the daily speeches on the red stage that they could feel "panic" and enter, even burn down the surrounding buildings, if provoked? What were the roles of the police and the fire brigade? Who coordinated the operation?

    Any loopholes in the tactical plan of action reflect a deficient decision-making process of the political leadership.

    Fifth, the government has stressed a need to return to normalcy. But normalcy will never be returned under emergency law. Although the curfew could be lifted tomorrow, many limitations on basic rights still exist. Freedom of speech remains limited in the mainstream television, radio and internet. The judicial process is not seen as transparent and witch-hunting is more likely to occur under the use of all-encompassing authority.

    How long does the government expect the emergency situation to last? A detailed "road map" on the matter should be part of restoring trust as well as law and order under democratic principles. Measures under the emergency law must not be abused to get rid of the government's political enemies.

    Suppressing the red shirt supporters' brewing animosity is not healthy. A sacrifice on the part of the government is required to answer the questions truthfully and open up the debate democratically. Only through such a process can Thailand be returned to peace and stability.

    The attempt by the government to sweep the dust under a rug in a state of denial will not resolve the conflict as the government would be facing an ungovernable mass and an underground force that would continue to destabilise the entire nation.


    Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst.
    "Slavery is the daughter of darkness; an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil knowledge. They mistake pure illusion for reality, license for freedom, treason for patriotism, vengeance for justice."-Simón Bolívar

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst.
    And by chance he is also Abhisit's cousin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warwick View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst.
    And by chance he is also Abhisit's cousin.
    Strange bed fellows and familial ties. Perhaps it is all one and the same....we just can't see it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warwick View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst.
    And by chance he is also Abhisit's cousin.
    He is. He said a while back during the crisis that Abhisit should be more accommodating, to the point of dissolving the government and calling an election, but also noted that Abhisit doesn't take his calls. He has a blog and a Twitter page Suranand Vejjajiva (suranand) on Twitter
    “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Dorothy Parker

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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    But beneath the apparent calm
    I had been out drinking with Pickel last night and was standing alone on the corner of Soi 33 and Sukhumvit at 1.15am and there was not a soul to be seen.

    No cars, no people just this pissed up silly farang standing where normally there are crowds of people.

    To say I felt calm was not so as I was shit scared and you could almost cut the atmosphere with a knife.

    Finally out of the calm I spied these 2 lone headlights and to my utter joy it was a taxi who agreed to run the gauntlet to Soi Onnut and my safety. To my complete amazement we never passed one check point, nor saw one policeman in fact there is always police and cheak points when there isn't a curfew particularly along my normal route home.

    All these curfews are doing is hurting a lot of people financially and do nothing to allow the people of Bangkok to forget the events of the last 2 months.

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    This guy actually makes a world of sense, exactly what my questions and focus areas would be and what I'd like to know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loy Toy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    But beneath the apparent calm
    I had been out drinking with Pickel last night and was standing alone on the corner of Soi 33 and Sukhumvit at 1.15am and there was not a soul to be seen.

    No cars, no people just this pissed up silly farang standing where normally there are crowds of people.

    To say I felt calm was not so as I was shit scared and you could almost cut the atmosphere with a knife.

    Finally out of the calm I spied these 2 lone headlights and to my utter joy it was a taxi who agreed to run the gauntlet to Soi Onnut and my safety. To my complete amazement we never passed one check point, nor saw one policeman in fact there is always police and cheak points when there isn't a curfew particularly along my normal route home.

    All these curfews are doing is hurting a lot of people financially and do nothing to allow the people of Bangkok to forget the events of the last 2 months.
    I've caught rides in a couple of taxis that at least claim to have special permission from the Thonglor cops to operate in that precinct.

    I agree completely with what you say about the curfew, and frankly I suspect there is an element of vindictiveness about it. It is hurting taxi drivers and others, not to mention bars (of all stripes) and by extension I would assume it is going to cut into the monthly baksheesh the cops take from the bars (a nominal payment in many cases, but still).
    “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” Dorothy Parker

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    Good piece SD, this guy sounds so "normal" that you almost cant believe he is Thai, he is asking all the right questions that needs to be addressed and investigated, in a calm and sensible fashion.

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    Indeed, i think he covers most of the questions I'd like to ask, well, of the government anyway. He doesn't ask too many of the red shirts, but then his allegiances are pretty clear.

    Yet again the Bangkok Post produces some quality.

    I hope the government does what he asks of them. I really do. They really need to.

    If they believe reconciliation is possible without addressing this guys areas of concern, I'd suggest they would be being disingenuous or even callous and not much will be resolved. Time to fess up.
    "Slavery is the daughter of darkness; an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil knowledge. They mistake pure illusion for reality, license for freedom, treason for patriotism, vengeance for justice."-Simón Bolívar

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    The government says it wishes to proceed with national reconciliation, along a 'five point' roadmap (or something like that), culminating in democratic elections. Sounds good.

    As always in Thai politics- where mendacity and and insincerity are the norm, the problems are that of trust, perception and of course intention. It's one thing to say it, another thing to do it. And another thing again to get the understandably suspicious Thai populace to see and believe that it is being done, openly and fairly. So, assuming the Abhisit government is sincere in it's words, it still has quite a communication job on it's hands.

    I suppose those most ready to express 'opinion' are those with the strongest opinions. On these pages and other avenues, there are two main strong and polarising opinions being put forward. One is a Yellow leaning 'Bangkokcentric' opinion. This being that the government should use the protests, crackdown and subsequent breakdown of law and order as a pretext Not to hold elections in the foreseeable future, certainly not before the expiration of the current governments term- but in many cases considerably longer, indefinitely even. Imo, it comes more from a 'grudge factor' about the UDD protests than rational thinking. At it's extreme, it is frankly highly dangerous to the stability of this country, going forward- and thus, shortsighted.

    At the other extreme, you have the 'Red' leaning opinion that the Roadmap and reconciliation process is just going to be another Thai government and military whitewash- ultimately, just a Witchhunt and PR excercise. Also that the Abhisit government and supporters are lying about the process leading to elections- they just want to put elections off for as long as possible, under any pretext. A certain amount of scepticism is warranted (TIT), and is also being fed by recent statements obfuscating when elections are actually going to be held (if they are going to be held at all). But I see this as an unnecessarily negative viewpoint too- and feeding the divisions and current resentment, on both sides, in this country. They should at least be given the chance to demonstrate their sincerity- whilst of course being held accountable against the Roadmap they have already announced. By just writing it off from the beginning, you are just feeding the hardliners on the other side- which includes some prominent Politicians. "They're not going to believe us, or vote for us anyway, so whats the point signing our own political death warrant". Perhaps I'm being harsh, but negative thinking like this- at least from an electoral POV- seems to pervade the Democrat party. Hardly the way to win future elections- yet their main opposition, PT, is pretty divided right now. As is the UDD.

    There has been no Me Culpa from either side, typically. PT has not expressed regret, beyond a mere sop, about the actions of some of their supporters in burning swathes of Bangkok. The government has not expressed any regret about the substantial loss of life, not even as far as I'm aware about the 'Temple' incident- which seems pretty awful. Nothing new there I suppose- neither did they express and regret over the highly damaging actions of the PAD, and precious little about the military coup'.

    It seem the negative thinkers on both sides are doing most of the arguing right now. I say at least give the government a chance.
    Last edited by sabang; 29-05-2010 at 06:23 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    One is a Yellow leaning 'Bangkokcentric' opinion. This being that the government should use the protests, crackdown and subsequent breakdown of law and order as a pretext Not to hold elections in the foreseeable future, certainly not before the expiration of the current governments term- but in many cases considerably longer, indefinitely even. Imo, it comes more from a 'grudge factor' about the UDD protests than rational thinking. At it's extreme, it is frankly highly dangerous to the stability of this country, going forward- and thus, shortsighted.
    you are characterizing a bit here, aren't you ?

    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    The government has not expressed any regret about the substantial loss of life,
    I think they did, ample time. But they are not going to give a free ride to the reds. Jesus, speaking of supporting double standard, you seem to imply that the reds should be all forgiven and the government pushing for the reds to be included in the reconciliation process. You must have missed the part when they didn't agree to it and burn a few buildings to prove it

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    The Abhisit government has given the negative thinkers every reason to doubt their sincerity about reconciliation. The ball is in the governments court now but they are showing no signs of offering the olive branch, but rather moves further towards a fascist state every day.

    When Abhisit says reconciliation he really means pacification by force.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rural Surin View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Warwick View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst.
    And by chance he is also Abhisit's cousin.
    Strange bed fellows and familial ties. Perhaps it is all one and the same....we just can't see it.
    And yet another member of that Vejjajiva family is a senior Executive of the Bangkok Post. I forget the exact title - it's in the publisher's info published every day with contact details..
    My mind is not for rent to any God or Government, There's no hope for your discontent - the changes are permanent!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly
    you seem to imply that the reds should be all forgiven and the government pushing for the reds to be included in the reconciliation process.
    Where on earth did you dream that up? Anyone red or otherwise caught burning down buildings or looting should be tried and convicted as criminals. As far as the reconciliation process goes, it is mainly a government initiative- although of course they are appointing outsiders to the Investigative panel. Not sure it is for the protest movements to be directly involved- red & yellow- but no harm in having the PT and other political parties involved in the reconciliation process.

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    Thailand Closely Follows US Counterinsurgency Manual

    Quote Originally Posted by Panda View Post
    The Abhisit government has given the negative thinkers every reason to doubt their sincerity about reconciliation. The ball is in the governments court now but they are showing no signs of offering the olive branch, but rather moves further towards a fascist state every day.

    When Abhisit says reconciliation he really means pacification by force.
    There's logic to his reactions so far.

    Look at the steps the military-backed Government have taken so far and it would appear they are closely following procedures laid out in the US counterinsurgency manual Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004).

    This is a 219 page manual that was leaked a couple of years ago and published in wikileaks and a couple of other places. I've cut and pasted a page or so below. First here are the links to the summary document (Web) http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article20125.htm

    and then the full manual: http://wikileaks.org/wiki/US_Special_Forces_counter-insurgency_manual_FM_31-20-3

    Here is the section that mirrors in many ways what we've seen so far in Thailand (also must wonder if they are being 'advised' on implementation too?):

    DISTRIBUTION RESTRICTION: Distribution authorized to U.S. Government agencies and their contractors only to protect technical or operational information from automatic dissemination under the International Exchange Program or by other means. This determination was made on 5 December 2003. Other requests for this document must be referred to Commander, United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, ATTN: AOJK-DTD-SFD, Fort Bragg, North Carolina 28310-5000. Destruction Notice: Destroy by any method that must prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.

    (...)

    Counterintelligence
    [...]
    Most of the counterintelligence measures used will be overt in nature and aimed at protecting installations, units, and information and detecting espionage, sabotage, and subversion.

    Examples of counterintelligence measures to use are
    • Background investigations and records checks of persons in sensitive positions and persons whose loyalty may be questionable.
    • Maintenance of files on organizations, locations, and individuals of counterintelligence interest.
    • Internal security inspections of installations and units.
    • Control of civilian movement within government-controlled areas.
    • Identification systems to minimize the chance of insurgents gaining access to installations or moving freely.
    • Unannounced searches and raids on suspected meeting places.
    • Censorship.
    [...]
    PSYOP [Psychological Operations] are essential to the success of PRC [Population & Resources Control].

    For maximum effectiveness, a strong psychological operations effort is directed toward the families of the insurgents and their popular support base. The PSYOP aspect of the PRC program tries to make the imposition of control more palatable to the people by relating the necessity of controls to their safety and well-being. PSYOP efforts also try to create a favorable national or local government image and counter the effects of the insurgent propaganda effort.

    Control Measures

    SF [US Special Forces] can advise and assist HN [Host Nation] forces in developing and implementing control measures. Among these measures are the following:
    • Security Forces. Police and other security forces use PRC [Population & Resources Control] measures to deprive the insurgent of support and to identify and locate members of his infrastructure. Appropriate PSYOP [Psychological Operations] help make these measures more acceptable to the population by explaining their need. The government informs the population that the PRC measures may cause an inconvenience but are necessary due to the actions of the insurgents.
    • Restrictions. Rights on the legality of detention or imprisonment of personnel (for example, habeas corpus) may be temporarily suspended. This measure must be taken as a last resort, since it may provide the insurgents with an effective propaganda theme. PRC [Population & Resources Control] measures can also include curfews or blackouts, travel restrictions, and restricted residential areas such as protected villages or resettlement areas. Registration and pass systems and control of sensitive items (resources control) and critical supplies such as weapons, food, and fuel are other PRC measures. Checkpoints, searches, roadblocks; surveillance, censorship, and press control; and restriction of activity that applies to selected groups (labor unions, political groups and the like) are further PRC measures.

    Legal Considerations.

    All restrictions, controls, and DA measures must be governed by the legality of these methods and their impact on the populace. In countries where government authorities do not have wide latitude in controlling the population, special or emergency legislation must be enacted. This emergency legislation may include a form of martial law permitting government forces to search without warrant, to detain without bringing formal charges, and to execute other similar actions.
    [...]

    Psychological Operations

    PSYOP can support the mission by discrediting the insurgent forces to neutral groups, creating dissension among the insurgents themselves, and supporting defector programs. Divisive programs create dissension, disorganization, low morale, subversion, and defection within the insurgent forces. Also important are national programs to win insurgents over to the government side with offers of amnesty and rewards. Motives for surrendering can range from personal rivalries and bitterness to disillusionment and discouragement. Pressure from the security forces has persuasive power.
    [...]

    Intelligence personnel must consider the parameters within which a revolutionary movement operates. Frequently, they establish a centralized intelligence processing center to collect and coordinate the amount of information required to make long-range intelligence estimates. Long-range intelligence focuses on the stable factors existing in an insurgency. For example, various demographic factors (ethnic, racial, social, economic, religious, and political characteristics of the area in which the underground movement takes places) are useful in identifying the members of the underground. Information about the underground organization at national, district, and local level is basic in FID [Foreign Internal Defense] and/or IDAD operations. Collection of specific short-range intelligence about the rapidly changing variables of a local situation is critical. Intelligence personnel must gather information on members of the underground, their movements, and their methods. Biographies and photos of suspected underground members, detailed information on their homes, families, education, work history, and associates are important features of short-range intelligence.

    Destroying its tactical units is not enough to defeat the enemy. The insurgent's underground cells or infrastructure must be neutralized first because the infrastructure is his main source of tactical intelligence and political control. Eliminating the infrastructure within an area achieves two goals: it ensures the government's control of the area, and it cuts off the enemy's main source of intelligence. An intelligence and operations command center (IOCC) is needed at district or province level. This organization becomes the nerve center for operations against the insurgent infrastructure. Information on insurgent infrastructure targets should come from such sources as the national police and other established intelligence nets and agents and individuals (informants).

    ... AND THERE'S MUCH MORE - it's well worth a look - even just out of general interest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    Where on earth did you dream that up? Anyone red or otherwise caught burning down buildings or looting should be tried and convicted as criminals.
    then there can't be any reconciliation since they are precisely the ones that have widen the spread and without condemnation officially by the different red factions, there can't be the beginning of a reconciliation process.

    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    but no harm in having the PT and other political parties involved in the reconciliation process.
    except they are not interested into one, that would expose their flaws.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loy Toy
    All these curfews are doing is hurting a lot of people financially and do nothing to allow the people of Bangkok to forget the events of the last 2 months.
    In my opinion, the extended curfew is just designed to cause inconvenience to people living in Bangkok, and thus fostering more resentment towards the protesters, it has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with conditioning of people.


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    Quote Originally Posted by English Noodles
    In my opinion, the extended curfew is just designed to cause inconvenience to people living in Bangkok, and thus fostering more resentment towards the protesters, it has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with conditioning of people.
    bullshit, a few night ago they smashed and burn a few phone booth again near my home, it's not because nothing was happening in your red dominated area that the rest of Bangkok was safe,

    it was definitely necessary,

    Thank god, you are not the head of CRES

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    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly
    it's not because nothing was happening in your red dominated area
    Yup, Sathorn is a red dominated area. That comment pretty much sums-up your understanding of things.


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    Quote Originally Posted by English Noodles
    Yup, Sathorn is a red dominated area.
    it was last week, you must have missed the news

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    Quote Originally Posted by English Noodles
    That comment pretty much sums-up your understanding of things
    and so does yours, so it was "safe" in the hiso Sathorn, so it must be safe everywhere else ?

    newsflash: it wasn't safe everywhere else, maybe it was in Hiso Sathorn though

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    Of course it was safe, so you are telling me that it was safe up until 11pm but then became dangerous up until 4am, then safe again?


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    from the OP ............

    Suppressing the red shirt supporters' brewing animosity is not healthy. A sacrifice on the part of the government is required to answer the questions truthfully and open up the debate democratically. Only through such a process can Thailand be returned to peace and stability.

    The attempt by the government to sweep the dust under a rug in a state of denial will not resolve the conflict as the government would be facing an ungovernable mass and an underground force that would continue to destabilise the entire nation.
    sadly there appears scant acknowledgment of this basic truth .

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    Quote Originally Posted by English Noodles View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly
    it's not because nothing was happening in your red dominated area
    Yup, Sathorn is a red dominated area. That comment pretty much sums-up your understanding of things.
    I think he meant the "red dominated area" in your head

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