วันศุกร์ที่ 21 พฤษภาคม พ.ศ. 2553
A horrific day for Bangkok
The plumes of thick black smoke from the burning of more than 30 buildings throughout Wednesday had, by last evening, mostly disappeared from Bangkok’s skyline, leaving behind charred skeletons and a deep scar which may take years to heal, if it will ever be healed at all.
The unprecedented destruction of property – which included a high-end shopping mall and a five-star hotel – has completely shattered the myth of Thai people as peace-loving, as pronounced in the Thai national anthem. The Land of Smiles as our country has been known worldwide no longer holds true, thanks to the red-shirted rioters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, their leaders, financiers and supporters. On the surface of it, the burning spree appears to be a random act of violence by enraged red shirt protesters who may have felt betrayed by their leaders for selling them short to the government, by turning themselves in to the police to face the charges against them and declaring an end to the months-long protest.
But a closer look at the torched buildings tells a different story. The rage may have been spontaneous, but the choice of the targets of these arson attacks was very probably not. It appears that many of the targeted buildings, such as the Central World shopping mall, the Centara Grand hotel, the Loxley building, Channel 3 the various Bangkok Bank branches and the stock market may have been pre-selected and the arson planned in advance. The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) yesterday broadcast a video clip showing Natthawut Saikua, a UDD core leader, telling the red shirts at Ratchaprasong protest site to “burn them all if they [the military] seize the power, I will take full responsibility”. Whether Mr Nattawut really meant what he said when he make that fiery and provocative exhortation does not matter anymore, as the buildings have been torched.
The UDD leaders cannot deny responsibility for the burning and looting spree even though the incidents took place after their surrender. They remain guilty and deserve to be condemned in the strongest terms as do the rioters and looters for one underlying fact – that is it was the leaders themselves who poisoned the minds of the protesters with their rhetoric of hate against the government and the state, to the extent that the protesters no longer had any respect for the rule of law.
Despite all the criticism against the government and the army for the deaths and injuries as a result of the military operation to disperse the protesters, as well as criticism from those who might have felt that not enough had been done earlier to deal with the protesters, the government and the army appeared to have had no choice when faced with such deadly threats from armed elements among the protesters. It was even feared that some of the deaths were caused by unidentified gunmen. Still, there is a read need for the government to help those affected by yesterday’s senseless burning of Bangkok as well as those affected by the prolonged protest. No less urgent and important is the need for national reconciliation to address the pressing problems of the grassroots people in order to win back the trust and confidence of the supporters of the UDD. More importantly, an intensive investigation must be carried out to find out those responsible for yesterday’s mayhem, especially the people who masterminded and plotted the arson attacks and bring them to fade the full force of justice.