In early January while most of our friends were dealing with the frigid northern winter, we found ourselves roaming the sweaty, tropical metropolis of Bangkok — a city that’s seen a great amount of change in the past decades through accelerated economic growth. On one of our daily walks we made our way to the massive J.J. Weekend Market — a street-style mass of over 15,000 shopping stalls where you can purchase designer clothing, Thai handicrafts and endangered animal species. While navigating our way through the narrow sois and relentless crowds, we stumbled upon a stall that encompassed a recent cultural mutation of the newly-industrialized Southeast-Asian nation— the Crocodile Punk Shop.
The tiny stall, covered wall to ceiling with U.K. Subs tees and DIY patches, was a welcome break from the dirt-cheap Levi’s and fake soccer jerseys that surrounded it. We browsed the goods and sparked up a conversation with Crocodile, the shop’s owner and singer of local punk group The All Dirty. Crocodile put on his band’s oi! punk-inspired album and, in a very broken english, informed us of a small network of Thai punk bands playing around Bangkok.
After showing us some of his own work, Crocodile played us Chaos of Society who, though recently inactive, are arguably the largest punk act in Bangkok. “Thailand Ugly Dirty,” the title and refrain to Chaos of Society’s standout track, is an apt, if not simplistic, summation of the many ails of this city and country: rapid modernization, urban overcrowding, sex-tourism, and the recent violence from the Red Shirts protests could make Bangkok at times a difficult place to visit, let alone live in.
Author/journalist Tom Vater points out that “there’s plenty of anger and disaffection amongst Thailand’s urban young. [As] Thousands of the fighters who faced off the Thai military in violent confrontations in May hardly had any political agenda.” The Bangkok punks may represent the angry reactions of Thai youth against a largely stagnant national culture so involved with recreating or following the American mainstream. However, in doing so, they also complete the portrait of a globalized nation that has nearly completed its transformation into a developed country, with a carbon-copied Western counterculture scene to boot.
Download: Chaos of Society, “Punk of Thailand“
Crocodile Punk Shop
Chatuchak (J.J.) Market
Section 6, Soi 1 #253