Sunday, January 19, 2014

Same Same, But Different! Pt. 15: Civil Disobedience Here (And There)

The "I have a dream" speech crowd near the Washington Monument 50+ years ago

During the decade of the 1960s - a bit over 50 years ago - the United States had its share of unrest. Not only then, mind you, but it's been the most influential and progressive time during my life, even if I was a bit young to fully grasp what was going on at the beginning of it. Some of it was difficult to watch, but there it was, anyway: beamed into our homes daily by an industry just getting the hang of the immediate impact of televised news.

An image of Victory Monument, taken a few mornings ago by a friend on his way into work

There is similar civil disobedience happening (again) in Thailand; this time perhaps more organized, and certainly more visible. As you saw on the map from last Sunday there are seven key areas that have hosted the largest "camp-ins" in the city's history, and, as human nature has shown us over time, not everyone is content to wait things out. That's when the trouble starts. Acting alone or (more than likely) at the behest of someone or some group, violence erupts. Just as it did in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama.

The famous Charles Moore photo of high school students being hit with high-pressure hoses in Birmingham in 1963

It depended on personal, regional and cultural differences how one felt about what was happening in the news - as it often does - but enough people were outraged by the 1960s images here today that changes were made. Not all of said changes were taken to heart by everyone, but things have made progress over the last half-century, I suppose.

In keeping with the "same-same, but different" thought today, over the past couple of days there has been similar uncivil disobedience in Bangkok. On the 18th it was reported that a grenade was tossed down from a building in an attempt to take out Suthep Thaugsuban one of the organizers.

A similar view of Victory Monument in Bangkok, taken by the same friend. This time he was on his way home.

Within 24 hours another grenade was tossed by the man below, said to have been caught on closed circuit TV. Aiming for a tent, he missed... and it landed on top of a coffee shop, injuring many folks nearby.

Adjusted photo from the Crime Reporter and Photographer Association of Thailand, published in the Bangkok Post 

Many embassies are advising visitors to reconsider going to Thailand at this time, especially Bangkok, but most people's vacation plans don't include wading into dangerous situations to begin with, so while some would disagree I'd suggest that with some advance planning (and some common sense while there) I personally don't see why a person couldn't have a good trip to Thailand... as things stand today. Situations can change in a heartbeat.

If you are thinking of visiting Thailand (I tend to think about it often), I'd suggest a few things: do your homework, consider steering clear of Bangkok or, if you do spend time there, use common sense and stay away from the demonstrations.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Now It Begins...Or DOES It?

Graphic from the Bangkok Post

It's nearing dawn in Bangkok on Monday the 13th of January. Without getting into a re-hash of posted news and without joining in to spew my own opinion on what may or may not happen I offer this graphic from the Bangkok Post as reference for you folks around the globe. It shows where street closures have been scheduled; many of you will recognize familiar spots on the map. 

I'll be anxiously watching the news feeds myself over the next 24 hours - at least. I suspect a while longer than that, actually. 

To my friends there: steer clear of the protest sites, if possible. There will be enough daredevils out gathering stories and photographs.