A very controversial “elite” police outfit was created in Bangladesh in 2004 ostensibly to do something about the law and order breakdown. It is called the Rapid Action Battalion or RAB. Human Rights lawyers and international organisations have been worried about the number of deaths in custody and/or so-called crossfire incidents resulting out of RAB deployment. Here is a BBC report about it. The Foreign Minister Kim Howells has talked about it in parliament a few days ago. The European Parliament condemned (pdf file) it last year. Human Rights Watch January 2006  (pdf file) also talks about RAB.

My interest is elsewhere. My interest is in what they wear. They are dressed from head to toe in black. And their headgear is in the best tradition of Ninjas. And my question is why? Take a look at their web site. It is slow loading so you might want to look at a screen shot below instead
RAB web site screenshot

Does this remind you of an elite agency or do you feel, at least from the flash banner at the top, that this is a shoot-em up Nintendo game site or some sort of action man site? And the site itself is interactive (Live chat, feedback forms etc) - nothing like it exists for other government agencies in Bangladesh. And you have to ask yourself one thing - “why?” Where did the inspiration come from? Is it just bad concept design by the web agency given the job and an unsophisticated commissioning officer who okayed it? Or is there more to it? Surely the ninja bandana suggests a sustained effort in the aesthetics of this? And not just an unwitting outcome? Does this garb, and all the urban legends, help to depoliticise this creature RAB in the eyes of the citizenry? Certainly the middle classes have swallowed hook, line and sinker the crossfire stories…and in anycase, they say, the criminals would get off scot-free if they were given over to the judiciary…

Bangladesh is not unique. It seems paramilitary or elite forces need to take a beefcake approach to things. Take a gander at these South Koreans….

South Koreans