Friday, May 21, 2010

Once in a Lifetime?

It's been an intense couple of days here in Thailand. Other than going to work, I stayed inside for all of the violence here in Bangkok and plan on doing the same on the weekend, like I have a choice, the curfew isn't lifted until Sunday. I did pull out my camera at school to get a shot of the beginnings of the burning of Bangkok, and also unknowingly watched the Red Shirt leaders being flown down to Hua Hin to be processed after they surrendered.

This photo is one of two areas burning while I was at school, mid-day May 19th. Right at this point, Twitter was claiming that the Redshirt leaders had surrendered and some of their followers started torching buildings. This picture was taken when only rubber tire barricades were burning. Eventually, and through the night, there were up to 40 structures burned by protesters, many including banks who froze the accounts of many of their leaders, news outlets both television and print, shopping malls, theaters, the Thai Stock Exchange, and many other government structures.On our main road was almost the closest that the city-wide conflict got to our apartment. This intersection became a rally point, bunkers were hastily built in the morning when I went to school. By the end of the day they had been burned and extinguished by fire fighters already. Very few violent black shirts at this site. They were all busy fighting the military at Ratchaprasong and other parts of down town.This is a photo of the fringe of the Ladprao rally site. Signs facing traffic. The first sign: “Military, stop killing. Please stop shooting! We came empty handed, non-violence please.”The center sign says, “Military, please be kind to the people. Don’t kill the people with weapons of war. We came empty handed. The Red Shirts don’t have weapons. If we had weapons, you would have been dead a long time ago.”

The last sign: “Destiny will be the decider. Give us peace. (unclear) killing the people with weapons of war. We want democracy.” Okay, you take 99% of the protesters who came into the city and the "we're unarmed" part certainly holds true and most of them were seriously here for non-violent protests. But the leadership "employed" a militant group to guard their protest sites. A group hellbent on anarchy, and taking any opportunity they had to escalate the situation.

"Stop killing the people??" Tell you what...snipers shooting towards both military as well as fire fighters trying to extinguish burning buildings? Crosshairs, pull the trigger, feelin' no guilt. Idiots who defy the law, terrorizing Bangkok, firing grenades in the direction of the military?? Crosshairs, pull the trigger, job well done. Low-life scum holding their babies above rubber tire barricades taunting the military. Crosshairs, pull the trigger, you should have never been allowed to breed in the first place.

I could go on forever, and admittedly, there were plenty of people injured and even killed who perhaps didn't fit the militant profile, but when the government gives you a week to clear a site where they say they will crackdown on soon, declaring it illegal to be there, begging you to bring out your women and children, offering amnesty and free transportation back to your provinces...your defiance put you in danger and when you look back on how things unfolded, you'll see that the military and police did a damn fine job at limiting casualties, showed restraint, despite the imminent danger to their lives every second they were there, every step they too...You should respect them not blame them. Piss me the hell off...deep breath.

Rant over...Angry students got in scuffles with Reds who set up a protest stage at Ramkhamhaeng University. We live on the same road as the University, so it’s pretty close to home. Our soi is almost all students. There is a heavy Muslim population here, lots of students from the north, northeast, as well as what I call “Cowboys” from the south…tight bell bottom, big belt buckle, flannel shirt, afro wearing Thai guys from the southern provinces who love Thai country music! With their powers combined, they made the Reds abandon their Ramkhamhaeng base of operations, keeping our little area safe!

There were choppers flying in the distance throughout the evening. While monitoring Twitter, I realized that the military choppers I saw were the ones ferrying workers trapped in a burning building to safety. They made several trips back and forth through the afternoon.A little later, there were three or four choppers closer to us, that flew almost right over our apartment, almost in formation, one after another. Their flights seemed to originate in the same area as the military choppers, but heading south. Took some pictures of them, and wouldn’t you know, the news showed the same choppers landing in Hua Hin later in the evening. They carried the several Red Shirt leaders who had surrendered earlier in the afternoon. Red Shirt leaders who, during the early days of the protests, implored tens of thousands to burn the city to the ground and turn the country into a "sea of fire" if their demands weren't met...One of them wore a Ghandi shirt during his surrender. Idiot.This is probably the thing that affected me the most…7-11 closed so it could send workers home before the government imposed curfew throughout the city and 23 other provinces. I got there a couple minutes late and had to endure the quiet night without snacks!! Not right!! Theaters closed, ATMs offline, Supermarkets closed, Public transportation shutdown, local airlines cancelled all flights. One of the main Thai channels, Channel 3, had their HQ burned and remain off of the air.Waiting for the ripple effect...lower tourism...foreign investors putting their money in more stable countries. Thailand doesn't have a black eye right now, we're a bloody corpse.There are so many frightening and saddening images out on the internet, not hard to find. From Bangkok burning and then smoldering to the provincial offices in many outer provinces being torched by angry protest supporters, the images are those of chaos, anarchy and the unfortunate state of Thailand right now. I'll not be posting any of those. These pictures here are just a few of what I took from a relatively safe distance. There was a day when I would have hunted down a good photo op, but I've promised myself and the rest of my life to Pae and our future family. That tends to take some of the wreckless abandon out of a guy! Below, my favorite noodle shop working feverishly to provide noodles to people trying to beat curfew.I'm safe in Bangkok, Pae is safe in Jordan and the family in Ubon is physically well. Our feelings are hurt, our hearts are heavy and many of the images of Thais killing Thais and Thais destroying their own country brings tears to the eyes...but Thailand will recover and so will we. (This started out as a "Those responsible for for this senseless burning and killing should burn in hell" piece, but I'll let someone else make that judgement. I know I should judge the action and not the person...but WHO does this?? Deep breath...

p.s. Don't believe everything you see on U.S. media concerning this "event". I've seen the way many foreign news outlets are spinning this against the Thai government, talking about excessive force and human rights violations, etc., and it's wrong, uninformed, distant, and often very offensive (i.e. that bimbo on CNN, video removed from CNN archives already) to the Thai people who are trying to make this a better place. Deep breath Guy...Like they say, walk a mile in their shoes...

I apologize for any anger that may have come out in today's blog. I am angry, my family here in Thailand and abroad is sad and hurting emotionally. There has to be a time of mourning and healing. Chalk this up as step one of my emotional healing. Just gotta get some of this out. I guess I could burn something...but momma taught me better. Now parents here need to teach their children about what happened this week, regardless of what side they are on, they need to teach their kids about responsibility, civility, accountability, eventually leading to discussions of what the democratic process means and how it works (or is supposed to work). Something like this should never happen again...but I can't say with any level of confidence that it won't.

1 comment:

mardenheyjude said...

I don't blame you for being angry. This is a very emotional time for you. Good idea to vent your feelings. I will think of you often and pray that you will heal from this awful experience. I will also pray for Thailand. Take care and God Bless You. Love always, Auntie

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