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Tragic conflict in the heart of Bangkok

It was almost exactly a year ago that I reviewed the documentary film Burma VJ, a film that went on to be nominated for an Academy Award this year. The film used documentary footage and reenactments to recount the dramatic monk-led uprising of September 2007 that took place in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

I couldn’t help but think about Burma VJ today – and its footage of the Burmese government’s bloody crackdown on protesters – as I viewed these photos, from the Boston Globe’s Big Picture, photos that document the current civil unrest in Bangkok, Thailand.

From the Boston Globe: Protests Turn Deadly in Bangkok

As a student of the conflict in Burma, Bangkok used to be a city I merely traveled through. I knew precious little about it. But, over time, it has become a place I care about, most importantly where I met people who have befriended and inspired me. Just check out some early episodes of DdTv to meet some of the great folks living in the city.

Bangkok wasn’t supposed to be the place where this happened – where protesters lob molotov cocktails at buildings. Where piles of tires become blockades on busy streets – or, lit, become burning masses shielding protesters from military and police. And it is definitely not supposed to be the place where the military snipers shoot from rooftops.

But … that is precisely what Bangkok is today. Dozens are dead, journalists have been shot, bullets have been exchanged in the streets. A renegade general, shot by a sniper four days ago, succumbed to his wounds and died this morning. The whole situation is sticky, complicated and bloody. But most of all, sad.

In the age of Twitter, I’ve been reading news articles as the violence spirals out of control, but mostly I’ve been waking in the morning and finding out, via Twitter, what’s happened that day in Thailand, 12 hours ahead. Every morning my heart has grown more sad with the news. How will this all end? No one seems to know.

I don’t have intelligent analysis, but I did start a Twitter list of folks tweeting (at least partly in English) about what’s currently happening in Bangkok. Please message or @ me if you have suggestions for the list.

Friends in Bangkok, I’m thinking of you.


  1. it’s full of riots now on the streets in city center now. not only in Bangkok, but spread out to other major cities in the North and Northeast as well.

    the demonstration in the inner Bangkok went relatively peaceful over two months (there were however grenades, from unidentifiable group, many times nearby the site, few injures or died).
    but things turned very bad after the crack down on April 10, and goes even worse in previous three days where armed troops and armored vehicles are on full operation….

    everything will turn back to normal sooner or later, at the surface. shopping streets back to business. people go working, commuting, shopping, dining, …

    but the underlying conflict is still there.
    if nothing in the overall power and economic structure change fast enough in a good, distributed manner … this will happen again, as it did 18 years earlier, as it do now.

    struggles are just start, and further escalating by the facts that the lower people are now realized by their tears and fleshes that the upper people will not let the power and control go anywhere.

    • Arthur, thank you for posting. The update is moving and your insight is invaluable.

      Your point about the underlying conflict is cogent. I hope that enough people will work to make that change come, but I fear what an uphill battle that is. As an outsider, I don’t know what I can do beyond expressing that my thoughts are with you.

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