Thursday, January 4, 2007

Reflections on the Bangkok Bombings

One would imagine that to have experienced life in New York City, Madrid, London, or Bali in the immediate aftermath of such a day, is to have some idea of what Bangkok residents are going through. But in the case of Bangkok's 9/11, the political spin began even before all the bombs had gone off. Only the Spanish experienced such craven spin-doctoring in the immediate wake of a deadly attack. On January 1, Thai blogger Chut reflected:
I do not know if there would be a world fit for non-partisans now. At least I felt as if we are called to take a side or more among many sides. After 9/11 the rhetoric of “if you are not with us, you are against us” had echoed more than once. People borrow ideas.
Blogger Matt at Lost Boy has identified another element -- one that seems to set the Bangkok bombings apart from those other attacks. Matt writes:
After the bombings on New Year’s Eve, which we are still in the dark about, Bangkok has now descended into chaos, with bombs threats and suspicious packages sending waves of alarm across the public sector...

Paranoia is becoming the norm and little has been done to quell people’s fright. What’s most scary is that public uncertainty is being exploited by disgusting, ruthless individuals. Three bomb hoaxes were made against schools in Bangkok today.... Bomb-like objects are popping up everywhere.... It’s unclear whether or not any of the hoaxes today are related. If they are not then we are in the middle of something that seems to be escalating out of control.
The threat of chaos is what sets the Bangkok attacks apart. From news reports like this one in the Bangkok Post, one may detect a growing lack of confidence in the police:
Police have come under a barrage of criticism for alleged inefficiency and failure to ensure public safety after eight bombs hit Bangkok and Nonthaburi province on New Year's Eve.

Central Institute of Forensic Science acting director Porntip Rojanasunan lashed out at police for barring her team from collecting evidence from a bombing site in Pratunam late on Sunday night, although she had been ordered to do so by Council for National Security chairman Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.

"Our team could not get to the crime scene," she said.

If this forensic scientist had been able to "to get to the crime scene," do you suppose it possible that she might have discovered evidence incompatible with the government's pet theory -- that Thaksin supporters carried out the bombings? This need not be a matter of speculation. How many bomb site investigations were foiled by supposed police "incompetence?" The government's attitude may well be: "better the public despise the police for incompetence, than hate us for our wicked lies." The strong possibility that bombing investigations are being obstructed by the regime opens-up another can of worms. Will the police leadership continue to play this demeaning role compliantly? And for how long? Buying them off could prove costly.

At the same time, seemingly oblivious to it all, tourists have continued to go about their holiday-making almost as if nothing had happened. Newley Purnell writes today:
I can say this: My family and I traveled throughout various parts of Bangkok yesterday — from the Oriental hotel on the banks of the Chao Phraya to Emporium mall on Sukhumvit Rd. — and there was no shortage of tourists anywhere. Even the open-air Suan Lum night bazaar, which we visited two nights ago, was crowded, despite the fact that a bomb was reported to have been discovered there on new year’s eve and subsequently disposed of.
One city, different worlds.

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