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.
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.