Saturday, October 15, 2005

Who needs a New James Bond when you have these guys?

Separatists in southern Thailand—a region that up until Thailand's annexation in 1902 was semi-autonomous, Malay, and Muslim—have increased violence against the Thai Buddhist majority in recent years, targeting more and more Buddhist monks and teachers. A recent terror tactic, writes the Observer Research Foundation, is "for two terrorists to travel in a two-wheeler and for the one in the rear to take out a weapon and kill the target. This helps in rapid get-away after the killing without being captured by the bystanders or the police." As a result, new products are being developed to protect Buddhist monks, from bulletproof vests in the traditional safron hue to motorcycle sidecars—dubbed "monkmobiles"— encased in protective glass and outfitted with a small window for receiving alms.

Many of the products are devised by "Thailand's Q" (a reference to James Bond's gadget guy), Major Songphon Eiamboonyarith, a defense contractor who has also invented bulletproof tuk-tuks (motorcycle taxis), "umbrellas that shoot rubber bullets, bullet-proof baseball caps and a hand-held device to fire a man-sized net 30 feet (10 m) to stop a villain in his tracks."