A year ago today, mobs set fire to various parts of Bangkok in the wake of the breakup by the military of a 40-day long anti-government protest. Those events, along with a related confrontation in April 2010, resulted in the death of 92 people (13 of those deaths have been attributed to “action by government forces” and if I recall correctly, four journalists were killed including two foreigners.)
The fires, set in at least a dozen locations around the city, resulted in an estimated 24 billion baht in damage (about US$ 950 million) and destroyed several structures including shopping centers, a department store, and one of the city’s oldest cinemas.
As of today, there are more than 130 people identified as participants in the protests who remain jailed, charged but not tried for their crimes. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was unable to draw conclusions on many of the points it was asked to examine, including what role the military had in the deaths of protesters. The commission complained of the military not being forthcoming in providing requested evidence.
About a week ago, the Prime Minister dissolved Parliament and elections will be held 45 days from today. The only thing that seems certain is that, regardless of the outcome of this election, there will be further unrest from one side or another of the political spectrum. Whether the unrest is expressed in the same way is unclear. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.
In my coverage of the protests last spring, I received comments from various people passing by my blog, accusing me of being blatantly pro-government or blatantly pro-protesters. Of course, I have no horse in the proverbial race. I’m a foreigner living here over the long run, a person who loves Thailand and the Thai people and who wants them to be able to continue to develop as a country and not end up getting caught in the middle income trap.
I leave you with some before and after pictures borrowed from this Bangkok Post story.
The Central World shopping center at the Ratchaprasong intersection, where the protests had been centered.
The burnt-out remains of the Siam Theatre, one of the oldest single-screen cinemas in Bangkok. Today, the property sits empty, awaiting a redevelopment plan by its land-owners, Chulalongkorn University.
Along Rama IV Road, barricades of tires were set aflame and buildings were looted and burned.
Also along Rama IV Road near the Lumpini Boxing Stadium.
Related reading from my blog:
- Blog entry from last year compiling photos taken as the protests were being broken up and the city started burning.
- Blog entry from last year when I bicycled through the charred remains of the protest site.
Oh, I hope things will be still calm and peaceful when we visit! Is HRH still healthy and perky, carrying his camera around?
Has it been a year already? Those pictures are haunting and tell of so much unnecessary devastation. I remember reading about it on your blog, and marveled at how succinct your description was and how easy it was for me to visualize everything.
Well if you’re accused of being “blatantly pro-government or blatantly pro-protesters” then you must be doing something right 🙂
I was floored when you converted that to US dollars – 950 *million*? And the deaths of *92* people?! I try not to follow politics – American or otherwise, so I cannot accurately comment on any of this, but… the numbers alone, I believe, indicate that *something* (whether it be the Thai government or the people in Thailand or … probably both) is drastically, absurdly, horrifically wrong. Or… maybe it’s just a staggering example of how the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket. (Can ya tell I’m an optimist?!) Amazing stuff … in a bad way.
sigh…what a shame about the siam theatre…i read somewhere that tensions are just below the surface…
The history in the text is enlightening and the before and after pictures comparing the difference between a year ago and today is blind-blowing… It’s so hard to believe that the change is so dramatic… that if I saw it on a magazine… i’d just think it was photoshopped.
Oh wow, look at that. I remember you doing that series last year. Crazy times!
We are living in a very unsettling world. The masses are not happy and they want change and the powers to be relunctant to give an inch and remain in power.
I’m all for cooler heads. And cautious photography… was it a year ago – seems like it was yesterday!
I did not realize it had been that long ago. But the rebellion continues in different countries. Rapid communication, e.g. internet, has made more of them possible and allowed us to view them.
It’s always disheartening for me to see images like the one you put up. It really goes to show that we all have a long way to go before we achieve a lasting sense of ownership, equality, and order as a society. Sadly though, with western schisms in political thought, I’m not sure if we will ever see that day. The picture with the theater broke my heart. It reminded me of how that one giant statue of bhudda was destroyed by, I believe, fundamental extremists. It’s such a shame.
@ThePrince – The Taliban were the ones who destroyed those two statues, actually. Very sad loss. As you say, we have a long way to go as people before we lose our seemingly inate inclination for destruction.@Fatcat723 – True, although I would not equate the political upheaval in Thailand with what is happening in the “Arab Spring”, very different roots entirely. True points about the role that social media is playing, though.@murisopsis – Yeah, I learned my lesson about going out and taking pictures of the protests when a site I left was attacked by mortars about 45 minutes after my departure. Never again.@The_Eyes_Of_A_Painter – Yes, those who have power are very rarely eager to share it.@Roadlesstaken – Can you believe a year has passed already?@Devilzgaysianboi – The before and after pics are almost unbelievable. More like a movie set than reality, but sadly, they were very real.@jace1982 – They are, and not always just below the surface. Some 10,000 or so red shirt protesters blocks the same intersection yesterday to mark the anniversary. 44 days now until the election. We’ll see what happens…@Passionflwr86 – Don’t know if it is the whole world – I won’t jump off the ledge just yet – but it is a sign that people who feel that they are being locked out of opportunity by those in power will push very actively for change.@Poomsira – I like to consider myself very “pro” keeping airports, intersections, transit, and biking routes open, regardless the color of shirts who are blocking them. BTW, I sure hope that when the rail extensions are done here that we can bring regular bikes on them.@ZSA_MD – Yes, a year already. I’m glad that my coverage of it was helpful for you and I hope I never have to report on such unrest again.@CurryPuffy – I think you mean HMTK, right? HRH is the Crown Prince. He recently had a procedure done to remove some spinal fluid that was building up, hopefully decreasing the pain he has experienced and maybe helping him move around more comfortably.
A year has gone by… what did all this senseless violence achieved?
@ElusiveWords – Good question. From the red shirts’ perspective, the gov’t did call an election about five months early, which is not much of a victory. From the yellow shirts’ perspective, not much, although their group has splintered in the meantime. We’ll see what happens in 43 days during the election.