Friday, May 14, 2010

The temperature rises in Bangkok

As you may have heard, the Thai government clashed with the Red Shirt protesters last night and a rebel general leading one of the more rabid factions was shot. I was impressed and amused by the coolness of the New York Times story, since the reporter who wrote it was interviewing the general at the moment he got shot. This is how colorful he is permitted to wax about it:

"The reporter, who was two feet away and facing the general, heard a loud bang similar to that of a firecracker"

when clearly what he was thinking is more like: "HOLY CRAP! One second I'm talking to the guy and the next second he's got a bullet in his head! And I don't see a shooter anywhere! I hope that sniper doesn't get trigger-happy!"

Seriously, it must have been terrifying. Kudos to him for getting the story in.

 General Seh Daeng. He is reportedly in critical condition.
Asked to comment on reports that the general was shot by a sniper, a government spokesman said the government could not break the law. *Please excuse me while I snort coffee out my nose. There, that's better.*

Today feels like a crucial juncture and it's unclear which way things will go. Can the army round up the Red Shirts relatively peacefully? Will things disintegrate into hand-to-hand combat in downtown Bangkok? Will Red Shirt factions in the countryside start stirring up trouble? The protesters appear increasingly factionalized and leaderless, so it's tough to know what they'll do at any given moment.

I'm hoping very hard for a peaceful resolution, but even if that happens it's hard to see an end to this political divide. Each side has legitimate grievances and each side has some sins to answer for. Even a new round of elections seems unlikely to address the ever-growing mountain of bad feelings. Of course, civil war isn't a great answer either.

Meanwhile we are still in Chiang Mai but probably heading to Udon Thani tomorrow. Things are quiet here; the one change I can see is that the cafes around the corner from our hotel are now blaring the news on their televisions, whereas yesterday they were showing badminton.

No comments: