This is just a quick post regarding recent events in my home country, Thailand. If you haven’t yet heard the news, at least 21 people have died from a motorcycle bomb placed in an important spot of Bangkok. The death toll is still rising and no lead suspect has yet been announced by officials. Here is a link to the BBC article, and CNN coverage of the event.
Of course, this kind of thing happens every day in other countries and unfortunate fatalities at the hands of twisted individuals are common and I’m sure if you have never traveled to Thailand, this is just another sad world news piece that will quickly be forgotten. Even my friends on Facebook have been rather muted about it, posting vague “#prayforBangkok” posts and hoping everyone is safe. We are hardly shell-shocked, as we have adapted to Thailand’s political instability and those once-haunting nighttime texts informing us of rallies and protests in the last few years.
However, this is more than meets the eye to this story. To quote our Prime Minister, Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s statement in the aftermath:
“There have been minor bombs or just noise, but this time they aim for innocent lives. They want to destroy our economy, our tourism….the bomb was clearly placed to cause maximum casualties.”
This is indeed a terrible occurrence, one that I think is notably different from the usual political unrest that has jarred my beautiful country. I would liken it much more to the tragic shootings that are too often part of the news in America. They are committed by people with mental illnesses, with prejudices, with lives steeped in unhappiness and a sickness of the soul.
To explain better, let me give you some background of the bomb site.
The Erawan Shrine is a sacred piece of the city and lies at the center of our bustling metropolis. It is, in a way, the very heart of Bangkok. Sitting quietly between major shopping complexes and large hotels, one might overlook the incense-laden little square if not for the throngs of visitors coming to pay respects. Despite being Thailand-born, I myself never really knew its full story until researching for this post. How many others – even those that have gone out of their way to see the gorgeous Thai dancers and place flower garlands at the shrine’s base – are unaware of its significance?
Built in 1956, the shrine was never a planned attraction. Instead, it was the government’s solution to strange incidents (worker injuries and deaths, unlikely delays in materials) that were occurring during the construction of Erawan Hotel. They were believed to be the work of angered spirits, as Ratchaprasong intersection used to be a criminal holding zone. After the completion of the shrine, the disturbances immediately ceased. Conjecture or supernatural activity? In either case, the shrine quickly became one of the most revered and adored spots in the country. So loved is Erawan Shrine that when the Shrine’s Brahma statue was attacked in 2006, the angry crowd beat the perpetrator to death in a sudden spontaneous riot in a chilling show of affection. The shrine is no stranger to blood and death it seems, and I think no mercy will be given to the one who planned this attack.
It was no accident that the busy shrine was targeted. This bomb was clearly planted in the hopes of unsettling Thais and scaring away tourists. While I hesitate to point fingers at any one faction, it is nonetheless a tried and true tactic of many dictatorships to divide the classes, keep them powerless, and most importantly, reliant upon certain political leaders for leadership and aid. For those lacking knowledge in historical events, I simply point you toward the famous Plaza Miranda bombing in the Philippines, circa 1971.
Thailand deserves so much better than this. I hope that my country can rebuild from the emotional shock and scarring that this bomb intended to create, and have this only serve as another strange fact to add to the story of Erawan Shrine.
Featured image was found here, along with other lovely photos by Johnathan Look.