The Day After the Fires

Thursday evening, the second night under curfew has started.  The government has announced that these will last through the weekend.  There were very few reported incidents today apart from a brief confrontation between about 100 protesters and a few police officers up near Victory Monument, and an arson attack on another bank branch.  Relatively speaking, things are calm both here in Bangkok and in the provinces.

To be certain, no long-term fix has been found to the political situation.  But for now, at least, things are calmer.

Lines around lunchtime at the local Villa Market were twenty deep as residents of the Thong Lor neighborhood and beyond rushed to stock up on supplies.  With all the malls closed and many of the supermarkets, the Villa Markets in the mid-Sukhumvit area have been some of the few proper supermarkets that are open.  We are stocked up enough to get us through the weekend.

This afternoon, Ajarn Yai, the retired school director pictured below for whom I volunteered as an English teacher a few years ago, called and expressed her concern.  Her worry?  How bad these events will make Thailand and the Thais look in the eyes of the world.  She wants everyone to know that this isn’t Thailand and this is not how Thai people are.  So there you have it, from her lips to your screen.


One of the most useful sources of information in the past 48 hours has been Michael Yon, the freelance American writer, photograph, and former Green Beret.  With loads of war zone experience he has been reporting from Bangkok and has provided a near-continuous stream of information and updates through his Facebook page.  Hundreds of locals have started following and commenting on his feed as he has provided a unique insight both in terms of quantity and also in terms of providing his military knowledge.

Best of all, he has been very generous in giving permission to people to use his photos.  All he asks for is attribution and a link to his page.  Here are some pictures:

5-20-2010 6-54-04 PM

Northeast corner of Rama IV and Ratchadamri looking down Rama IV towards Sathorn.  Lumpini Park in the foreground with Silom subway entrance visible.  The large barricade has been removed and there is a small army of city workers who have been cleaning the park.  Still a lot of debris and damage to the pavement.

5-20-2010 6-49-02 PM

Damage to shops (possible a bank?) at Siam Square.  On the far right of the picture is Siam BTS Skytrain station.  From what I’ve heard, both the Siam and Scala cinemas were destroyed.  Many small shops were also destroyed, ruining the livelihoods of the independent owners of those businesses.

5-20-2010 6-52-57 PM

Michael and a Thai reporter he was traveling with spoke with one of those owners, who went into her shop trying to salvage inventory.  As you can see, things are pretty well destroyed here.  Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) reports that because of the damage, the buildings that house the cinemas and shops (Siam Square Sois 5 and 6) will likely need to be demolished.

5-20-2010 6-50-51 PM

Damage at Central World.  This is the front side, the Zen department store that faces Rama I road.  From what Michael reports, it looks like the damage was limited mostly to the department store and this end of the mall.  The remainder of the mall looks like it might be okay.

5-20-2010 6-44-08 PM

Same building but around the corner looking back towards Rama I Road and Siam Square.  The central structure of the department store collapsed after the fire.  BMA also says that because of the extent of damage, this structure will need to be demolished.  Now, the reports are that the BMA is saying that Central World will have to be demolished, which I would interpret as the entire mall.  However, this doesn’t seem to jive with the firsthand reports from Michael so we’ll have to wait and see what the truth is over the days and weeks to come.

The seven-story Big C superstore and mall across the street from Central World also was destroyed by fire and will need to be torn down.  The first floor or two of that is filled with small, independently-owned shops.  Anger vented at “elites” managed to do more damage to “common people” than anything else.

5-20-2010 6-54-54 PM

Finally, not from Michael’s website but floating around from various Thai bloggers, this picture that compares a clip from Resident Evil 4 to the real skyline of Bangkok yesterday.  The film shows downtown Los Angeles, the other City of Angels, on fire.  Eerie, isn’t it?


25 thoughts on “The Day After the Fires

  1. The last couple of photos are quite a comparison! I particularly feel sorry for those small shop owners in Siam Square, since I wonder most of them may not have insurance? I shopped there quite a few times, there is a good little restaurant which serves good mango dessert inside the square.

  2. Glad you are safe. Mike Yon is a good guy. I think your take on the reporting is 100% accurate. IMO, the Army was way too restrained, but they would have had a PR nightmare if they had acted more aggressively which would have just stirred up support for the anarchists and criminal elements. BTW, tell her not to worry. I’ve had a number of Thai friends over the years. They have all been decent people.

  3. This is terrifying. I hope that the physical destruction doesn’t affect the infrastructure so much that everything cannot be repaired/renewed.

  4. I feel so bad for the independent shop owners.One of my friend’s dad owned a restaurant in downtown LA when the LA riot happened. They lost everything because the dad had a stroke when he heard the news about the restaurant being trashed, and the business partners took advantage of them while the dad is in ICU.

  5. Chris — as I read the first part of this, my mind wandered to a comparison with the LA riots — your last two shots are amazing!  My thoughts were basically that people were so exhausted after the first night of fires and destruction that the next day seemed very calm . . until the sun went down again, people woke up, and it all began again — I do hope that doesn’t happen in Bangkok!  It’s interesting to me, too, that, besides the obvious banks and small shops, they seem to be targeting cinemas.  It’s sad there is so much destruction — I hope this will bring an end to the unrest, though.

  6. So much destruction and heart ache! How sad! So many lives destroyed by this madness. We have been following the news on Al Jazeera as we usually do, and have to feel sorry for the Government. One samll spark, and how destructive the entire scenario. Please stay safe, and I hope, that your supplied will last a while. I hope too, that come Monday, many more places will be open for business.

  7. This is just senseless. If the redshirts were fighting for a just cause, why set fire to all of these stores, shops and buildings. Please tell Ajarn Yai that my impression of Thailand and the Thai people are still positive.

  8. @CurryPuffy – Certainly few have insurance, Gary.  It is such a shame.@Toro69 – @ElusiveWords – I’ll be sure to send your good assurances on to Ajarn Yai.  She’ll be confused but hopefully also relieved.@Finity – I think there will be some serious construction jobs ahead and the buildings are demolished and new ones planned for and built.  The scars will be visible for at least the next two or three years.@Dezinerdreams – @Roadlesstaken – When I saw that comparison shot, my mind started racing to all the other apocolyptic movies out there, wondering which other ones Bangkok might come to resemble!  2012 anyone?@Wangium – There is a Thai expression, when the elephants fight the ants get squashed.  Seems to be universally true.@slmret – My suspicion is that there will be quite a bit more in the coming months and years.  The underlying issues have not been resolved.  One potentially good sign is that the Prime Minister seems to be indicating that once things are calm, he will upheld his end of the deal that had been accepted and then rejected at the last moment by the Red Shirts: he will call early elections before the end of this year, which is about a year before his term technically ends.  Given that the parties representing the Red Shirts have a good chance of coming out strongly in an election, I hope this addresses their original core conern for new elections.@ZSA_MD – Do you get AJ through cable or satellite?  I know many communities do not carry it in the US for not very surprising reasons.  Also, have you heard of the documentary “Control Room“?  I think you would find it especially interesting.@notjus4ne1 – It has been a crazy, stressful week.  Thank you for your concern.  Things seem to be calming down now.@yang1815 – Kind of a Thai definition of “democracy”, I guess.

  9. Tell Ajarn I say hi and that it would take a lot more than this to make me think less of the Thai people. Coming from where I do, this is a family squabble. :)And thank you to both Michael and you for the information on all that is going on. I’d heard a lot from Wit but much of the images and the text you’ve shared help to further illustrate the depth and complexity of the situation.Peace.

  10. @onmovement –  Fortunately we are now in the clean-up phase and things should be back to normal by Monday. There are still a lot of remaining tensions and injuries but life should begin to resemble the way it was up until two months ago.

  11. When listening to Public Radio this week, I thought about you and also the Thai students we have here at our university. I’m sure some of them are concerned about what is going on in their country. Glad to hear you’re alright. It is so very sad to see the destruction and violence….will anything ever change by using these tactics? People are so frustrated and angry….messes up their logic.

  12. i know things have been bad there but i never knew it’s been so devastating. guess pictures do speak a thousand words. thanks for sharing. this reminds me of how similar the situation was to indonesia back in 1997-98.

  13. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else encountering issues wioth
    your blog. It appears like some of the written text on your post are running off the screen. Can someone elsde please provide feedback aand let me know if this is happening to them as well?
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    I’ve had this happen previously. Cheers

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