One night (not) in Bangkok
I can't remember exactly who told us the news. Maybe the manager of the backpackers' hostel in Perth, where we were spending our last night in Australia before heading to Bangkok. It was to be the final leg of our year-long post-university odyssey. Except, maybe now we weren't. Heading to Bangkok, that is.
That news? Anti-government demonstrations had led to a military crackdown and now there were people falling dead on the streets of the Thai capital. It was May 1992.
The question of whether or not it was still safe to fly to Bangkok was soon taken out of our hands. International flights were cancelled and after a few days delay in Western Australia, we made instead for Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysian coast.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, over fifty people lay dead. Hundreds more were injured. Thousands more were arrested. These were among the estimated 200,000 who had taken to the streets. It seemed to be Thailand's 'Tiananmen Square' and became known to Thais as 'Black May'. For more details, here's a wiki rundown of those events, while a terrific personal narrative and photo-diary from those days can be found at 2Bangkok.com.
Recent events in Thailand have stirred those 1992 memories. Thousands are back on the streets of Bangkok. One of the protest leaders is, as in 1992, the former Major General Chamlong Srimuang, this time trying to bring down Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.
A state of emergency has been declared and Thais' rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of the press have been curtailed. So far, army chief Anupong Paojinda has vowed not to use force against protesters, saying the only solution to this crisis is a political one. Read Amnesty's response to the state of emergency, while the BBC has a useful primer on current events here.
Let's just hope today's turmoil doesn't turn as nasty as in 1992 …
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