Conflict & Justice

Thai food psy-ops


A Thai cook flips pork cutlets below a whole roasted pig while talking on a mobile phone at a Bangkok beer garden.



The border showdown between Thai and Cambodian troops has eased in recent weeks. Soldiers on both sides of the disputed terrain remain locked in a staring contest. Only occasionally do shoot-outs and shelling punctuate the bouts of dull downtime.

But, according to the Bangkok Post's senior military reporter, Thai troops have found a non-violent means of pecking away at the Cambodian rivals' morale. They're feeding them.

Noting the Cambodians' meager food rations -- typically just sardines and sticky rice -- Thai officers occasionally welcome across the divide to a Thai-style lunch: grilled chicken, cola and laab mu, a chili-sprinkled minced pork dish.

"Our soldiers share their food such as canned fish and snacks, particularly doughnuts," reporter Wassana Nanuam quotes a colonel as saying. "Some Cambodian soldiers have never eaten doughnuts before."

I suppose it's harder to shoot a man who's offered you doughnuts.

But we should remember that this account of culinary psy-ops only offers the Thai-side view. The Cambodian troops, many hardened from the brutal Khmer Rogue era, could just as easily accuse the Thais of confusing a military stand-off with a picnic.

Still, if I was deployed to a grinding border showdown with no end in sight, I'd rather be on the side with the minced pork than the one handing out dried fish.