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You may catch some dramatic footage on CNN or BBC this morning of a brawny Thai protest leader escaping a police sting by rappelling from a third-story hotel room. Here's video, ripped from Thai TV by the website Asian correspondent.
The escape artist is Arisman Pongruangrong and he plays the role of enforcer for Thailand's Red Shirts, who have grown increasingly defiant in the bid to drive out the government and force new elections. (For background, check out my dispatch "Who's in Control of Bangkok?" or this video shot after last Saturday's clash that left 24 dead and roughly 900 injured.)
When protest leaders make threats on stage, Arisman is often the one who carries them out.
In recent weeks, he's led a brief invasion of parliament, directed his followers to disarm government bodyguards and dumped human blood all about the prime minister's compound. Following the botched police raid on his hotel, his posse even took policemen hostage.
In fact, he's so much of a bruiser that even the movement's core leadership can't control him. Shortly before the rallies kicked off in mid-March, the Red Shirts' spokesman, Sean Boonpracong, told me and a group of reporters that they had to "take him to the woodshed" for his extremism. How did that heart-to-heart go? "He was almost sort of contrite."
Now that I've established his brawler credentials, get this: Arisman was once a Bangkok teen heartthrob who sang songs such as "Halfway to My Heart" and "My Heart is Not Insensitive." Here's a video of him in all his warbling, twirling in slow-motion, taking a romantic beach stroll goodness.
America has seen plenty of celebrity-political crossover, from Chuck Norris to Al Franken to actor-turned-President Ronald Reagan.
But this, to me, is even more strange. More like Cyndi Lauper tearing down the gate to the U.S. Capitol, dumping blood on the White House and dangling from a third-story hotel balcony to evade the cops.