From a bamboo coup to bamboo bikes
This is exactly what happened yesterday to Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. While listening to our president fulminate against the Iranians and Syrians, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, with a key endorsement from King Bhumibol Adulyadej, declared marshal law. It is the first bamboo coup in fifteen years in a country where they used to be commonplace with 17 of them between 1932 and 1991.
Like all good coup leaders around the world, General Boonyaratglin has urged calm. He's invited Thaksin's cabinet to stay at the army's headquarters for their own safety but warned that Thaksin, if he returns, may face trial on corruption charges. He also promised that the coup was temporary; its purpose to appoint a special national assembly to revise the constitution. Currently, the general is busily vetting candidates for a new prime minister.
Thais, in general support the coup. In fact, Thaksin is so unpoular that the country's bikers still plan to celebrate International Car-Free Day on Friday. They will pass by the King Rama V statue, before rolling to the head office of the metropolitan police. There, bikers plan to thank the officers who have provided road safety to bicyclists. Unfortunately, their friendly celebration could turn into a New York-style Critical Mass. General Boonyaratglin, a muslim, has banned all public gatherings of more than five people.
The ban would not only be a blow to a fragile democracy. Bike culture has deep roots in Thailand as well. Bikes are still the preferred mode of transport for the country's 64 million population. Each year tens of thousands of tourists roll through dense jungles and past ancient monuments. In 2003, Raleigh, once the largest bike company in the world, shifted much of its manufacturing to Thailand after closing the factory doors in Nottingham.
And Thailand leads the world in the development of bamboo bikes. Although this early 20th Century model is American, both the materials and inspiration were Thai. Bamboo is a strong, lightweight, enviromentally friendly and relatively cheap. As a result, it's the material of choice among many alternative transportation advocates and bike designers alike.
For these reasons, bamboo is also an excellent material for cargo trailers. Designs for this model are freely available from Carry Freedom, a UK business. They will email them if you
- tell them what you are using the bicycle trailer for
- send them photos of the bicycle trailer you build
- tell them about your improvements and modifications
Perhaps too it will add a little bit of support to those troubled by the Bamboo Coup in Thailand.