Bangkok - Sunday, June 20
Thai Air flight 795 from LAX arrived 55 minutes early at 5:45 AM. Everyone excited and happy and only a little dazed. After showers and breakfast at the Bossotel we took the Skytrain to meet Megan and Matthew at Ratchaprasong — the site of the Red Shirts' two-month sit-in which culminated in the May 19 dispersal by armed troops. Most protesters had left peacefully, and many in tears, but a few hard-core militants had stayed and, throughout that night, gone on a rampage of arson, looting, and mayhem.
We visited Ratchaprasong just one day after the one-month anniversary of those awful events, and what we saw there looked very much like life as normal — with a crowded Skytrain, busy streets, and quite a few Sunday shoppers. But we also saw a once elegant fourteen-story mall gutted by fire, the Buddhist temple where six protesters seeking refuge had been shot (no one yet knows by whom), and one bullet hole in the Plexiglass guardrail just a few feet from where we stood on the elevated walkway.
Each sight was profoundly sobering, yet for me it was that one bullet hole that most took my breath away — simply because it was so close, and so immediate, to where we all were standing.
We talked a bit about the specifics of those events, and the political conflicts which had led to such violence, and noted that Thailand is probably the only country in the world where the government would have waited two months to forcibly disperse an occupation of the nation's equivalent to New York's 5th Avenue. Even then, relatively few innocent lives were lost and the strongest movement in the country now appears to be a genuinely grassroots desire for peace and unity.
We'll be talking about all this again and again throughout the month, but moving forward for now we went for drinks and snacks with Matthew and Megan at another mall across the street from the one that was burned. Then we returned to our Bossotel for massages, dinner, a little shopping and an early sleep.