Feb 4, 2007

Playing With Fire

To tell you the truth, I am deeply Singaporean. I can be very kiasu. I can even be very kiasi. Especially when there is a genuine risk of danger to life and limb. Then I would say, "Oh, we must definitely take all necessary action to prevent a disaster."

Race & religion have long been taboo subjects in Singapore. Why? You already know - it's in our
history. Singapore places such a premium on public order and security that it will suppress free speech and other civil rights in order to ensure that we never ever have problems like racial riots again.

In principle, it's a justifiable trade-off. I would agree with it. It's just a matter of balance. In actual practice today (as opposed to, say, the 1960s or 70s), I think that the suppression of free speech is often carried out to an unnecessary degree.

In my opinion, Singaporeans today have become a highly docile, peaceful lot. We're like poodles or goldfish. Or chickens. Violence has already been removed from our genes. We're so apathetic that the only thing that could get us on a rampage is the Great Robinsons Sale .

What about inappropriate racial/religious remarks being posted online? Certainly such remarks will annoy, shock or strongly offend many Singaporeans. And from past experience, we know that the authorities will
take a serious view. But I really doubt that nowadays those kinds of remarks would lead to any actual physical violence. The risk seems largely imaginary.

A likely profile of the perpetrator would be a pimply-faced, nerdy, techie-geek of a
teenager. Yes, he may run loose for some time secretly posting racist remarks on the Internet. Don't worry too much. When exam time comes, his mama will take out her cane, turn off his computer and make him sit down to do his 10-year series.

This is not to say that Singaporeans will never be at risk of mass violence. It could still happen. In fact, the threat is very real. I am quite worried that it may happen tonight. I'm referring to the Thailand-Singapore soccer match in Bangkok.
Reports like this disturb me:
    ST Feb 3, 2007
    Tight security for Asean football grudge match against S'pore

    BANGKOK - Police will be on high alert on Sunday at Thailand's Asean football final with Singapore, fearing recently fanned sporting and political rivalries between the two countries could erupt into violence.

    The possibility that tensions could boil over at the deciding Asean Football Championship final was underlined on Saturday when disgruntled Thai fans raucously protested a shortage of tickets after lining up for hours.

    Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised fans attending the match to stick together in groups and to keep alert and calm at all times.

    The Bangkok game turned into a grudge match after Singapore scored a 2-1 home victory against Thailand in the first leg of the final thanks to a disputed penalty.

    In an unusual action, widely criticised outside Thailand as bad sportsmanship, the Thai team stormed off the pitch for 15 minutes to protest the referee's controversial decision to award the 83rd minute penalty to Singapore.

    Underlying the tension is anti-Singapore sentiment fanned in recent weeks by the Thai media and military, which have accused the island-nation of seeking to spy on Thailand's military communications.

    The accusations came soon after a strain in diplomatic relations caused when Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister received Mr Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as Thailand's prime minister in a coup last September. The Thai government was offended that a figure they regard as in disgrace was accorded such an official audience. Singapore has maintained that the meeting was completely unofficial and between two 'old friends'.
My fear is that Singaporean supporters travelling to Bangkok for the match are going to get bashed by the Thai soccer fans. The Thai authorities have said that they will step up security. But I am not reassured. Recent events in Thailand like military coups and bomb blasts do not give me any confidence that this is a country that has public safety and security under control.

If I were the Singapore government, or the FAS President (ahhh,
one and the same), I would have asked for this soccer match to be postponed. For a week or so. To give the Thais some time for simmering emotions to cool. That would greatly reduce the risks of soccer violence.

I hope things turn out okay tonight. It doesn't matter to me whether our national team wins or loses. In fact, if winning would endanger their safety, then I hope they lose. Perhaps I am too kiasi. But then I am Singaporean. And I think I see clear and imminent danger. I don't like violence.

And this time, I don't think the risk is imaginary.


Anonymous said...

Singapore bans protests and demonstrations because they may degenerate into violence.

For the same reason, the government should ban all spectator sport such as football.

Likewise, outdoor parties such as ZoukOut where alcohol is served freely, thereby increasing the risk of unruly behaviour, should be banned too.

Why leave such things to chance? Let's be kiasi and kiasu all the way.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No need to ban these events in Singapore, since we quite frankly have more than enough resources (police etc) for proper crowd control, if necessary.

Alas, in Thailand, it's another story. Singapore is not actually able to take any action to manage the risks there.

Ordinarily, a soccer match between any two ASEAN nations would not raise any major security concerns. The timing just happens to be unfortunate this time, due to the Thaksin incident.

Anonymous said...

I think that there is a real security concern this time. See this:

Proceed with caution

Safety of S'pore fans can't be guaranteed: Thai Minister

Friday • February 2, 2007

Ng Hun Wei

THAILAND cannot guarantee the safety of Singapore football fans travelling to Bangkok this Sunday for the second leg of the Asean Football Championship Final, said its tourism and sports minister, Dr Suvit Yodmani, yesterday.

He said that while officials will try their best to ensure that the match goes smoothly, fans should take the necessary precautions.

Emotions are at a high, he noted, since the Thais lost 2-1 to Singapore in Wednesday's match at the National Stadium, following a controversial late penalty awarded to the Lions. The second leg will be played at Bangkok's Supachalasai Stadium.

Speaking to reporters at the five-day Asean Tourism Forum here, he said: "You never know when something could be started. So, let us lean more on the cautious side than on the complacent side.

"We will do our best to ensure safety ... but I cannot say please come cheer for your side because I really don't know what's going to happen."

{{And quite a number of foreign newspapers also talked about the possibility of something happening}}

Jimmy Mun said...

Many lament the death of the Kallang Roar since Singapore pulled out of the Malaysian Semi-Pro League all those years ago; few remember that just prior to the pull-out, physical violence was already starting in the form of stone throwing, although nobody got hurt.

Anyway, even the best teams in the world wilt under pressure in a hostile foreign stadium and Singapore will be no exception. Expect Singapore to be thrashed 4-0, and the Thai people will go home happy. So relax. Breathe easy.

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death...I can assure them it is much more serious than that."
- Bill Shankley

Anonymous said...

puritan singaporean,

Let's not grow up and remain kids forever.

Darth Solarion said...

For the Thais, if this goes out of control, it is a combination of a loss of face to the Thai Govt, and also, the Thai Govt would not want things to get worse than they are, including another diplomatic incident this time started by the Thais. For starters, there will be impact on tourism especially when Singaporeans are frequent visitors to the place.

le radical galoisien said...

Isn't Thailand still sort of involved in an internal conflict? It's not so much as Thais vs Singaporeans as Thai pro-coup supporters versus Singaporeans.

And mrwang, I think you could have written your post better. It's not a justifiable trade-off. Racism in Singapore still exists. Prejudice still exists. The government just covers it up and pretends it isn't there.

It's not race riots they are worried about. It's about the war of words, and what they could lose from it. What's the worst a racial dispute could come to? Someone calling the other some derogatory terms; brawls would be rare, unless you're talking about a racially divided jail, but I trust most of us aren't in one.

Unnecessary degree? Save for force of menace (e.g. I will kill your family tonight unless you stop speaking dialects), suppression of speech by the government should never be invoked.

The government can deliver a condemnation, that's good. It can also accept a lawsuit for a defamation - that's as far as it gets. The best way to deal with bigotry made by some random ass online? Public reaction. Look at what it did to Wee Shu Min.

That, is the force of democracy. No censorship needed.

Anonymous said...

I am the Mr Wang Decoder. My purpose is to reveal the Secret, Hidden Messages of Mr Wang's posts.

Here Mr Wang is attempting to argue for greater freedom of speech without appearing to argue for greater freedom of speech.

He is suggesting to you that if the government considers it ok for thousands of Singaporeans to risk their physical safety in Bangkok, then surely the government should consider it ok for a few offensive postings to exist here and there on the Internet.

Anonymous said...

The MIW are mishandling this fiasco like they did the Contemplacion hanging. Then Ramos had to send over a stack of the Filipino newspapers to Goh CHok Tong to show how ugly the local scene was. This time the illustration will be the blood of Singapore fans and players. Hmm, wonder what our Foreign Ministers have been doing all this time to imporve foreign relations?in

Anonymous said...

the mr wang decoder,

Wah, so clever!

Anonymous said...

I too have a feeling that something might happen...

The Thais are unhappy with Singapore for a number of things: the Shin Corp deal, the Thaksin visit, the alleged phone bugging, and this first leg win by the Singapore team from a controversial penalty...

The conditions are there for things to really go wrong. All you need is a trigger...

Anonymous said...

...and enough trigger-happy people. heh.

Anonymous said...

Sport and politics are mixed here because there is no firm stance from our government on who is responsible for those sticky issues. Every wolf pack has a leader. Everybody keep quite and hoping that it will go away. Well, it will not go away until someone stands out to answers some serious questions.

They are willing to risk other Singaporeans. If anything happens, they will say that they go on their free will. Mr Wang, I know about kiasi Singaporeans, I now know who are the most kiasi persons in Singapore. And, I also know who are the bravest Singaporeans in the football match. I heard that they are not commando trained too.

By the way, any ministers going to the match this round? I heard that even the President was there in the first leg.

Anonymous said...

I have no TV but heard a loud roar at about 0950pm. Seems Singapore scored a goal. Somebody please post the result after the game can?

Anonymous said...

Singapore 1 - Thailand 1.

Singapore's FT-ridden team wins on aggregate. Yay.

The Thai girls are lovely.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous February 4, 2007 11:17 PM


Congratulations Singapore! FT or no FT, the team deserves to be recognized for the impressive performance under extreme pressure and little support on foreign soil.

Anonymous said...

mr wang, ni hao yandao kia, got your photo leh! some girl called charissa put up your photo at her blog detailing your seminar.. the photo is here:


Anonymous said...

What gives? Just when the man in white says anonymity is good ('The identity is not important. It is the message that is important,' according to Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng), someone posts picture of Mr Wang on the Net. Does this mean he is no longer credible?

Anonymous said...

Not credible? You mean Baey Yam Keng (PAP) huh?