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Pirated DVDs are as common in Thailand as mango and sticky rice.
I know because a close friend of mine — let's call him "me" — buys them all the time. Me, who is an otherwise great guy, loves that six-DVDs-for-500 baht ($14.30) special offered by Bangkok's finest hawkers of bootleg cinema.
Me simply cannot resist their siren song. (He's also too cheap to subscribe to cable.) The hawkers are everywhere — outside the pub, in the wet market, beside the noodle stand — so there's no place to hide.
Now, it seems, the bootleggers are under attack, and I don't mean that figuratively. In the Patpong district — ground zero for Bangkok red-light sleaze and a great place to buy knock-offs — vendors rioted after police raided their stalls last night.
Details are still fuzzy, but English-language bloggers and the Thai media have reported that shots were fired. This all went down on a typically jam-packed stretch of Silom Road. Some apparently fled to a nearby luxury hotel to wait out the ruckus.
The raids are arranged by the government, under renewed pressure from the U.S. to crack down on piracy. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and his Commerce Ministry, have said the raids will continue every two days.
Mahboonkrong mall, a heavily touristed paradise of cheap electronics and bootlegs, is another likely target. I — I mean, Me — can only hope that the fourth-floor stall near the escalator, the one with the amazing selection of offbeat films, will be spared.