The Pecking Order

August 13, 2001

Thais like titles. Medals, awards, certificates, and business titles are displayed with pride. The Thai military and police are extremely proud of what they do and are even prouder to be wearing a uniform (and holding the rank) that goes with it.

If a bus full of recruits cruising through Bangkok passes a ranking officer along the way, everyone is expected to stand up and salute. I’m amazed that the recruits manage to recognize the situation and react so quickly, but I have seen it happen. Amazing.

Being a notch higher up on the chain of command in any situation (both inside and outside of the military) is something to be proud of and something not to be messed with. The pecking order got out of hand recently at a rooster-fighting venue, leaving everyone there confused and leaving me with a great story. br>The crowds at the rooster fights near my house have gotten bigger as of late. (See back issues: May 21, 2001) On Sunday there were over 30 people in attendance130801k1.jpg and the roosters were in full swing. Some people had brought along roosters from home for a ‘test run’ to see if they were good fighters.

While the novices established a pecking order, the champs kicked the stuffing out of each other. Bets were placed. Spirits were high. Just a normal Sunday.

Technically speaking, rooster fighting is not legal in Thailand but it happens all of the time. One lone policeman showed up and wanted to fine everyone in the group 500 baht. A man attending the rooster fight said to the group that the policeman was a friend of his. Everyone told the policeman that he would get no money (in a friendly way.) They thought it would end at that. Wrong. The policeman got miffed. He left and called a bunch of his fellow police buddies to come help him.

Over 20 officers arrived on the scene. Most of the people tried to run away. One jumped into a nearby swamp, another took off down the road at a highly impressive speed. He was chased by a130801k2.jpg policeman on motorcycle, caught, hit a little bit for good measure, and brought back. Everyone who tried to split was captured.

The reason for running you ask? They wanted to avoid getting caught and having to cough up some dough. The police were angry and gave a big speech about how everyone was going down to the station. Everyone was going to pay the 500-700 baht (11-15 US Dollars) rooster-fighting fine, period.

And then the absolutely unexpected happened. “But we are from the military!” most of the group exclaimed. They even produced identification to prove it. The police had a tricky situation of their hands indeed.

What was the pecking order in this situation? Some of the handcuffed men had some (but not much) rank. What to do? What to do? The military and the police don’t mess with each other out of sheer principle straight from the start.

Just for kicks, I would like my readers to sit for a minute a think of the possible solution to this problem130801k3.jpg before reading further. It will be worth it.

After some talking and mumbling and private conferencing, it was decided that everyone would be set free. But the police had to fulfill their duty. They had to do something or they would lose face. Solution?

They arrested a rooster.

The rooster belonged to the host of the rooster fight. Off they went with his champion bird. If he wants to get his rooster back, he must go down to the police station and pay a 700-baht rooster-fighting fine.

Now I seriously have to wonder. Is there a rooster sitting in prison now? And how did they book him? Will the rooster simply fight for a new master? End up as dinner? Did they issue him prison clothing? Take his picture?

I think the rooster now has a better story than I do. If he ever makes it out of his present predicament, BOY is he going to have a few good yarns to spin. He’ll head back to his flock and say, “Hey guys, guess what happened to me today!” and all the birds will fall down laughing. I personally would love to interview him.

I think that his owner will pay his fine or that the rooster will simply be returned under the cover of darkness. This story makes great material for a whole new version of ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ by Arlo Guthrie if you ask me. For those of you who know this song, give it a try. And in case you are wondering, the fight is back on for next Sunday.

P.S. I was not at this amazing event but this story was told to me by someone who was.

Back to the table of contents...