Monday, May 24, 2010

The City Sees Red

It started in mid March.  A group labeled the "Red Shirts" descended upon Bangkok intent on making their voices heard.  It started quitely but still, to be cautious, we cancelled school during the first day(s) of the protest.  If you drove downtown, near the government houses, police clad in riot gear lined the streets.  Still, the protests continued peacfully.  For weeks they continued to protest, trying tactic after tactic, until finally, the violence began.

   It was April 10th.  I had one week left in Thailand and there were stlll a couple things left on my to do list, one being go to the top of the Baiyok Tower to get an ariel perspective of Bangkok.  As our taxi drove through downtown we could see truckfulls of Redshirts passing us by, headed in the direction of Central World.  We continued onto the tower and up to it's observation deck, where, we could see the never ending city stretch on for miles and miles, but it was the action directly below that seemed to catch our eye.   By the time we had once again reached the ground the street we had traveled on earlier had been closed.  Cars decked in red flags sat parked on the city streets.  In the middle of a usually busy intersection sat 5 parked taxi's, a man standing on the top shouting to the continually growing crowed of red shirts.  Instead of running away, I ran toward to demonstration, not hoping to join in, but hopeing to capture a fantastic picture.  I probably would have ventured right into the  middle of everything if my friends mother hadn't been there, asking us to just head back to the school.  That night, in another protest a few miles away near Khao San Road, a group dressed in black entered the protests and shots rang out.  In the end of it all 25 people where dead and countless more were injured.

    During the Songkran Celebrations over the following week things would settle down a bit (although many participants in Chiang Mai, where I celebrated the holiday, waved red flags and sported red shirts and bandanas) but then the protests got stronger and stronger.  By this time I had left Thailand so everything I was hearing was secondhand.   My friends continually wrote on their facebook statuses to "Pray for Thailand."  In America the events in Thailand were lucky to get an inch of space buried in a newspaper so I began to beleive things could be getting better.   So, when last Thursday the Bangkok protests took up the entire front page of the Seattle Times, I took notice.  The clashes had come to a head, and through that the red shirts had burned many buildings in Bangkok and other cities, including Central World Mall, where we had seen the protesters gathered all those many weeks ago.  Out of all the buildings burned Central World was the only one which I had visited on several occasions, so when I saw the pictures of the burned out hull of the Zen Department store and the completely collapsed center section, I teared up.  I mean gosh, I was just there a month ago!  Taking pictures at Toys R Us and watching a movie..... So many memories, so much money lost, such an institution....
(Photo Cred: The Bangkok Post.  It's a little blurry but the best I could find I was allowed to use)

     Some now beleive that the red shirts protest is nearing it's end, although curfews remain in effect around Bangkok.  The leaders have surrenedered and the others have dispersed, but will it really be over? I doubt it.  Obviously the red shirts felt strong enough about the current government to go all out this time, I'm sure they will again, and for their sake rightly so, but what would happen if they did get their way?  That's the real issue.  Journey back to late 2008 when instead of the red shirts it was the yellow shirts (or PAD) protesting for control, and in hopes to gain it they staged an Airport takeover, lasting a week and causing great detriment to the tourist industry.  In the end they got their way, motivating a red shirt protest in return.  So if the red shirts got their way wouldn't the yellow shirts only once again protest?  Causing an endless cycle?  I guess we'll see, but for the sake of my beloved Thailand I hope it gets worked out soon.

No comments: